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Haden Rant Comments
Frank Haden (Sunday Star-Times columnist) Fast & Safe Response

NZ Sunday Star-Times:

Only idiots hate anytime speed cameras
30 May 2004
By FRANK HADEN

Few things make me despair more than fools mouthing off about the inalienable right of drivers to put other road users in danger without interference from the police. You hear this crap everywhere. Macho dummies say it is an infringement of civil liberties to have policemen parked up with cameras "anywhere, anytime". The campaign is immoral anyway, they say, because the police are there to rake in revenue from infringement notices.

No.  It is immoral because:

  • it doesn't benefit road safety and the claims that it does are false, 
  • huge resources are being wasted on methods that don't work, 
  • decent citizens driving safely are being treated as criminals and in some cases are losing their licences and even their livelihoods for no reason,
  • some journalists and politicians feel empowered to abuse decent and responsible people on the basis of false claims from authorities we should be entitled to trust.
And now we have the same rubbish invited on to network television in prime time. Some fellow with high-sounding qualifications but undirectional arguments was taken seriously on a recent Sunday programme. His words were gravely listened to and respectfully discussed, as he helped undermine police camera efforts to cut the road toll.

Misdirected effort is pointless and wasteful.  The hidden camera trial showed no benefit.  Pointing this out is constructive and allows resources to be redirected to activities that do work.

 

The kindly treatment he received should never have been allowed. He should have faced aggressive, fault-finding interviewing on his statistical analysis claims.

TVNZ were more objective.  They submitted my statistical analysis claims to three professional statisticians in New Zealand and Australia.  All three rejected LTSA's conclusion that the Hidden Camera Trial showed any road safety benefit.

 

Instead, the programme left viewers with the woolly impression that the police have somehow overstepped the mark with cameras hidden behind trees and bushes. The fact the cameras are all in clear view got left out.

The police and LTSA tried to get the Government to approve hidden cameras at the end of 2003 but the Government rejected that move after public opposition.  The Sunday programme investigated the evidence provided by LTSA in support of their push for hidden cameras.

 

Stripped of all the garbage about statistical analysis, the record speaks for itself. The road toll is coming down. A couple of decades ago, though there were far fewer cars around, road deaths were spiralling out of control toward 1000 a year. Now look at them: 460 or so. Comparisons with Victoria, a state across the Tasman with similar cars, drivers and roads, are illuminating. As I noted on a recent trip through the state, getting tough with speeding drivers has drastically reduced their average road speeds. It has also cut their road deaths to 1 per 10,000 vehicles compared with our 1.6 deaths. This 1.6 per 10,000 was Victoria's kill rate only 10 years ago. If we could match Victoria's road speed and kill-rate reduction, we would be running at only 280 deaths a year instead of 460. That's a statistic, 180 lives saved, that really counts. It doesn't need any peer review.

For the actual comparisons of values and trends, see the charts under "Facts & Myths"- road toll.  Victoria's rate has been static for a decade despite their evangelical advocacy of rigid enforcement policies.

 

Most of the objection to the effective "anywhere, anytime" speed camera campaign comes from people who are happy for police to pounce on hoons, boy racers and other young drivers who have always been considered fair game for traffic police. Now the more respectable, more affluent drivers find they are in the gun, and they don't like it. The "anytime" campaign's satisfying effectiveness is shown by the non-appearance of any upsurge in infringement notices. The cameras are having the opposite effect to that forecast by the complainers: they are reducing average road speeds, not producing more tickets. Road deaths have come down for a variety of reasons: better medical care, safer cars and highways, helicopter rescues and seat belts and so on. But the main reason is there's less speeding. Though higher penalties imposed on drivers who defy the limits have a lot to do with it, it's the enforcement that does the job.

A cascade of assertions without evidence, some just silly, some plainly false.  Infringements and fines are up substantially, 30% this year and 25% more next year e.g: Dominion Post 1 June 04NZ Herald 1 June 04.

 

If you're into statistics, listen to a few of mine. As recently as five years ago, when travelling at 100km/h on the highway or motorway I would be overtaken every couple of minutes or so by clowns who knew better than I what speed we should be doing.

Don't you just love that arrogance - imagine someone knowing better than Frank what speed they should be travelling at?  Heavens above, they'll be wanting to live their own life next!

 

I still get overtaken on the same stretches of highway and motorway, but less often. Today's overtaking frequency is down to every 10 minutes or so. And the people overtaking me are travelling noticeably more slowly than they did five years ago. About 110km/h, on average, compared with at least 120km/h in 1998. There are still a minority overtaking at more than 120, and these are the fatal accidents waiting to happen. It's the same story, in miniature, in 50km/h zones.

If you don't like the facts, or can't be bothered digging them out, just invent your own statistics.  It may be journalism, Frank, but it sure isn't science.

For the facts on average speeds, see the "Facts & Myths" section of this website.

 

I am a trained reporter. I don't need a statistical analysis expert to tell me this means average speeds have come down. End of story, or it should be.

Most trained reporters are functionally innumerate wordsmiths - a major reason bureaucrats and politicians so often get away with murdering the facts.

 

But the macho loudmouths still rabbit on about their driving skills, their fast reactions, the experience they say keeps them out of trouble without the need for police cameras. They say today's improved tyres, steering, suspension systems and brakes ensure cars can travel safely at 160km/h. The cars are designed for it, and motorways are safe at any speed. Drivers should be free to make up their own minds about their speed.

Nice.  Frank calls someone else a macho loudmouth. Twice.  You have to wonder about this man's self-image.

New Zealand is full of winding roads which can only be negotiated safely far below the speed limit.  Drivers make up their own minds about speed on these.  Why can't they do the same elsewhere?

 

The police, they say, should find another way to raise money. This revenue-gathering lie has achieved remarkable success in spite of the facts. The money raised from speeding infringement penalties wisely goes to the government, not to the police. There can be no sensible argument with that, since the penalties revenue enables the government to recoup considerably less than half the $200 million a year it spends on making roads safer.

Rigid enforcement policies benefit traffic police bureaucrats through continuously increasing budgets, staffing, resources and powers.  Technology companies benefit from sales of equipment and services.  There is no money for bureaucrats in promoting liberty for Joe Citizen. 

ABC of Tabloid Journalism 101

Passed with Distinction: Abuse and Bluster
Failed to Achieve: Content