Are police taking the wrong approach to reducing fatal accidents on NZ roads?
Opposition to police speeding rules mount as activists question if police strategies for lowering the road toll are effective.
The death toll on New Zealand’s roads has climbed to a staggering 17 this holiday period; more than double last year's total.
Road safety campaigner and car review website dogandlemon.com editor Clive Matthew-Wilson says the police strategy for trying to lower the road toll by ticketing ordinary motorists hasn't worked, because ordinary motorists were never really the problem.
He says police need to leave ordinary drivers alone and concentrate on the groups causing the most accidents.
“The police blame speed and alcohol as a strong factor in many fatalitie, but it’s not ordinary motorists who are speeding and driving drunk; it’s a tiny minority who are largely alienated from mainstream life.”
A 2009 AA summary of 300 fatal crashes states exceeding speed limits isn't a major issue. Police surveying has found that even the top 15% of open-road speeders average under 110km/h.
Mr Matthew-Wilson questions how ticketing otherwise law abiding families who have drifted a few kilometres over the speed limit will stop high-risk drivers.
“That's a bit like trying to stop bank robberies by targeting shoplifting."
Mr Matthew-Wilson is by no means alone in his campaign.
An online petition to end the zero tolerance national speed campaign has already gathered more than 10,000 signatures.
Alex Wills is the man behind the petition and says he’s tired of police wasting resources over policing speed to absurd lengths, to the detriment of ordinary drivers being caught out on technicalities.
“We are tired of hearing police representatives in the media justifying these measures with statements designed to elicit emotion over logic. We are also tired of hearing statistics quoted which are clearly mathematically unsound.”
He says the petition calls for safety-centric road policing, locally tailored to the hazards of the day.
Mr Matthew-Wilson says there are a number of key steps thatwould “dramatically lower the road toll.”
“We must also try to prevent high-risk drivers getting behind the wheels of cars and keep large trucks to a minimum. That’s the way to ensure a safe future for all the people using our roads.”
He says that in the 1980s, the Auckland Harbour Bridge used to see one serious road accident every week.
“After a concrete barrier was installed down the middle, the serious accidents stopped immediately. There wasn’t one less hoon or drunk driver, yet the accidents stopped simply because the road was changed in a way that prevented mistakes from becoming fatalities.”
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