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Anti-speeding propaganda is everywhere, we are lead to believe that as soon as we travel 4km/h over the limit, we are more likely to be involved in an accident with the possibility of death. But this is not really the case and neither is it the largest cause of death on our roads. But of course you believe otherwise right? The Government has told you so and they must be right.

:The boy in the bubble:

If you are someone from the ‘older’ generation, you will notice this effect taking place. The large differences from when you were growing up and today, the Government has slowly but surely placed a blanket over our heads and tucked us into our beds so that we are not hurt by the big, bad world outside. It is now on the plan to make it onto our roads, the reach of full control for “our safety” is clasping it’s hands onto the way we drive and the text below will show this to you.

It is evident in everything from the “Anti-smacking bill” to the Life jackets, alcohol purchases, cycle helmets etc… where we are being rather mothered but here is something taken from the NZTA website, which purely scares me.

What would a Safe System free of death and serious injury look like?

We would enjoy a transport system where everyone expects a zero road toll. Roads and roadsides would encourage safe behaviour and be forgiving of human error by providing safety cues to users and protecting them from hazards.

Vehicle technology would communicate with the road environment and automatically adjust to appropriate speeds that respond to real-time road conditions.

Road users would understand and play their part in the system, with licensing dependent on a high level of skill. Alertness and compliance would, if necessary, be reinforced by in-vehicle technology(including alcohol and safety belt interlocks, and fatigue and speed monitoring).

Automated enforcement, including point-to-point (average speed) cameras and remote vehicle power down, could be used for high-risk road users.

Crash risk would be further reduced by advanced vehicle-to-vehicle warning systems (such as vehicle/pedestrian proximity warnings) and automatic collision avoidance technologies (including lane containment and emergency override features in the event a driver fails or is unable to respond to warnings).

If a crash is unavoidable, advanced airbags, crumple zones and head restraints would manage crash forces to levels the human body can tolerate.”

Now the text that I have made into bold is what sticks out to me.

1) Providing safety cues to users and protecting them from hazards.

While this is a good thing, especially for the unsuspecting motorist coming around a bend to find that it is also a sheep crossing, who can now slow down to a reasonable speed as well as trying to keep as much risk out of driving as possible. But what I take from this is the fact that road users will become too dependent on these cues and safety measures and they will soon come to rely on them to alert them to a potentially dangerous situation, and when the time comes and there is no sign there, the driver will be in a slight state of shock  and won’t know what to do in such a situation.

2) Automatically adjust to appropriate speeds.

So, the Government wants us to keep lower speeds so that there is a decrease in the severity of crashes on our roads. What does that mean when you are going around a corner at XXX speed and then your car/bike decides to slow down, immediately increasing the risk of crashing significantly. Or when you need to speed up to pass a car or get out of a sticky situation? Will there be a limit that needs to be reached till it comes on or does it play by ear?

Personally I don’t like the thought of having a computer do my thinking for me or having any control over me whatsoever.

3) (including alcohol and safety belt interlocks, and fatigue and speed monitoring).

Ok, I do agree with an alcohol monitoring system to gain access to your vehicle as well a some sort of fatigue test so that we don’t have idiots falling asleep at the wheel, but in saying that we should have the choice not to wear a seat-belt or leave them unclipped if we want to go for a drive. But what really gets me is the speed monitoring system,which is what is already taking place in some other countries. It is going to remove any freedom at all that we previously had and when the Police stop you for no reason in particular and then ask to search the pre-installed GPS tracker that is in your car and find that within the space of a week, you have gone over the limit X amount of times and proceed to write out fines left right and center.

4)  Emergency override features in the event a driver fails or is unable to respond to warnings.

This can be a good thing, there are two sides to the coin and while there is a positive side to this which is potentially saving the drivers life and also people around them which could also be harmed. There is also the fact that a computer is now going to be allowed full access to your car, ranging from steering, braking, acceleration and every other aspect that could be controlled and if there is a malfunction, you could be at serious risk if the car decides to do something stupid.

Another possibility of malfunction could be that the computer picks up false signals and therefore decides to react where in fact there is no danger what so ever or the driver has decided that what ever incident that is happening around them can be better avoided with another maneuver but the computer decides otherwise and then leads itself into a dangerous position.

We are now taking what control we had an putting it into a pre-determined computer system that falls in to place with what the Government thinks is best for us. Your whole life is soon going to be determined by what the Government thinks is best for you and the only way to escape it is to go and live out in a secluded mountain range and live off plants, though you will probably still have to pay a mountain tax anyway.

Instead of learning to think for ourselves and getting taught appropriate ways of dealing with situations, we are being put into diapers and placed into a harm-free environment where we are likely to turn into brain dead zombies, which is their goal I guess but nevertheless.

Speed, is it the real problem?

If you read the article I linked in the title, you will see what my view of speed is and what I think needs changing, but I will go a little more in-depth to it here as well as add some more points and information.

Some interesting statistics (Go to page 30) from the Government show that the majority of crashes and deaths are actually in the 50km/h speed limit areas. Wait a second, isn’t it at high speeds where we are likely to die? Or are they all speeding in the 50km/h zone and got injured or killed as a result? It seems unlikely to me, which brings me to the conclusion that it isn’t the really high speeds that are going to kill you, in fact they hold the lowest crash rates, but at speeds that are slow which can lead your mind to wander and then lead you on to not see that car turning or small child running out from behind that car and then it’s all over red rover.

Now, talking with people and also my flatmates I have also come up with some other thoughts about speed and it’s effect on us.

My flat mate had the idea that it’s not actually bad drivers that are causing the crashes on the road but simply for the fact that they are good drivers and have the knowledge but simply don’t bother absorbing all of the information around them and don’t drive to the conditions.

Now that is not only bad driving, but a phenomenally stupid idea.

Another one is that if you speed, you are most likely to lose control and kill yourself.

It is not really speed in itself that will cause the problem, but more so the lack of driver skill than anything. If speed was really the cause, there wouldn’t be any kind of motor sport because, hey, they are all going to die anyway.

It comes down to how well the driver can manipulate his/her vehicle and if they can use all of the information that the road provides us to keep to a safe speed.

Now when I talk about safe speeds, I am not referring to the speed limit set in place by the Government, but more so about the speeds that are safe to maintain traction, stability, line and an adequate stopping distance.

It is quite easy to safely speed throughout many roads and not cause any harm to anyone or kill yourself, but it all comes down to driver ability.

Have you tested the brakes on your car from both 50 and 100km/h to see how fast you can stop, or will you just learn it at the time? Have you tested the handling of the car, what will it take under duress in corners or a quick turn to get away from a dangerous situation?

I believe the biggest problem with the death toll in New Zealand is the ability to follow simple road rules. A Scandanavian report states that if every single road user were to follow the road rules, there would be a 50% drop in deaths. That is a large amount, but it can still be improved on. What if apart from just following the road rules, road users were seeking higher training to better their skills and were then better equipped to take on New Zealands roads when things got dicey.

Scandinavian research quote.

Advanced driver training:

Advanced driver training is a series of tests, lessons and classroom theory activities that provide the road user with a fresh look on their abilities, a wide range of new skills and the ability to drive or ride safely on every road that they come upon. We have a few training options in New Zealand, one of which is an international driver/rider training programme which follows more or less the Police Motorcycle handbook which the police use for their rider training programmes. It is called I.A.M (Institute of Advanced Motorists) and you can read more about the I.A.M here.

Riderskills Owner and Operater Phillip McDaid is the Chief Examiner for the IAM NZ and also runs courses for advanced rider skills among many other courses through his company. I have taken one of his courses for Confident Riding which is detailied in that link.

My belief is that every single road user should take at least one advanced course throughout each stage of the licensing process so as to give them the knowledge and skills to be able to use the road safely and therefore lower the road toll at the same time.

Now the courses would have to be heavily subsidised by the Government because many New Zealanders simply don’t have enough money to take such a course regularly but I think that any money spent on advanced training is well spent.

It would also deal with the speed issue at the same time, it teaches drivers/riders to adjust their speed accordingly to the road conditions and to be driving safely at every stage of their journey, to take in all of the knowledge of the surrounding environment and to be able to process that information in real time which is what a lot of drivers are hardly doing as it is.

So in addition to most people following the road rules which could drop the road toll by around 50%, with the addition of continuous advanced training, we could lower the road toll to near non-existent. It sounds a little far fetched when you think about it doesn’t it? I could imagine that it would be near impossible to drop it down that far because there are so many other factors in crashes as well but it would be a good sight closer to zero than what it is now and that is what we are aiming for isn’t it?

So in conclusion, it is not speeding that is the issue it has been made out to be. The government have been pushing the wrong message this whole time, and whether or not it has been to increase the number of speeding tickets they can issue or if it is really what they believe, we will never know for sure. But what we can know for sure is that speeding is hardly a cause for a crash, merely a factor that can play a big part. What we should be focussing on instead are the following issues:

  1. Drink driving
  2. Driver awareness and training
  3. Harder testing for licenses
  4. Harsher penalties for drunk drivers and drivers who have been in a crash of their own fault
  5. Distractions in the car (Music, cell phones, children etc…)
  6. Vehicle maintenance
  7. Complete knowledge of the road rules/standards

What would my plan be to achieve these ideas?

I think that the way to move forward would be to first take a look at our 3 stage system and it’s tests. Subjecting them to discussion from advanced riders/drivers and the NZTA and re-writing them so that they will show an actual skill level that is applicable for on the road.

Once the new tests have been introduced, bring in subsidised training from the government that is a compulsory requirement to achieve the next level of their license.

As well as having that applicable for the learning stages, it would be forced upon drivers who were at the cause of a crash (Possibly instead of a fine or with a reduced fine as well?) So that they learn why they crashed, what they could have done to prevent it and will therefore be safer drivers on the road.

Teach road users to be aware on the roads, they should be absorbing information about their surroundings, not about who had the seared Tuna salad for lunch.

Also as part of the licensing process would be basic maintenance knowledge, road users should be aware of how their car works and how to make sure all of the essential bits are functioning correctly, we as motorcyclists do it daily, from checking the Oil and water levels to checking chain tension, tyre wear, brake pad wear and anything else that we can remember to check before each ride.

Having a safe car is as important step to being a safe driver on the roads, as well as knowing the limits of your vehicle, from braking to swift direction changes which are often needed in heavy traffic.

And last but not least, a full knowledge of the road rules and how they work, possibly a re-test every now and then just to re-inforce the thought of the road rules. It could also be a part of each graduated license stage where the questions get harder and harder so as to re-enforce the idea in their heads.

Matt Wishart

Other blogs about speeding:

http://geoffjames.blogspot.co.nz/2011/01/speed-doesnt-kill-stupidity-kills.html

http://theage.drive.com.au/motor-news/speed-doesnt-kill-says-benz-20100304-pjin.html

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Today I went out to take part in a 3 hour, one on one course with Riderskills. Riderskills is a Auckland based company run by Philip McDaid who is a chief Institute of Advanced Motorcycle (IAM) instructor. He runs courses from basic handling skills to advanced courses for the more serious riders.

The course I chose was one subsidised by the Government for the month of June so I thought I had better get in quick. Since I don’t have a bike, well a road legal bike anyway, I managed to get a ride in with my flatmate. Unfortunately I was nearly 2 hours early so I had to potter around and eat some good old Wendys’ for lunch to pass the time. When they turned up at 3, Philip went and got his GT250 for me to ride on for the course which was really good of him to do.

We had a brief discussion of what I wanted to work on, which was more or less just a general overview of my riding to see if I had gotten a little rusty with my few months off. Set up the headphone and intercom and off I went with one of the other IAM instructors as Philip was taking out another rider.

Because I often practice my slow speed skills with progressing difficulty, we didn’t bother covering any of that and went straight onto the riding side of it. We started with some residential area stuff within the 50km/h zone and covering road positioning with traffic and other hazards on the road.

My residential stuff was fine minus one or two habits/rustiness I had picked up, from there we went out for a quick blat through some back roads out west through a varying road style and settings. Somehow my intercom turned into an extremely loud morse code device, so instead of hearing my instructor talking, I had to interpret a series of beeps and clicks and I gave up to focus on my riding as I saw one of those “Dickheads” behind me in a lowered Sylvia (I think) who wanted to practice some damn dodgy passing manoeuvres which left me wanting to kick his car but refrained from doing so.

We carried on through some more back roads and around the Riverhead area focussing on lines and procedures for setting up for a corner, which described in the Police Motorcycle Handbook, is named ‘IPSGA’ or Information, Position, Speed, Gear and Acceleration.

Information standing for what your senses take in as you are riding, in particular, as you are riding to a corner. What is the road surface like? Are there trees overhanging the road which could drop leaves on the outside of the corner? Are there any side streets around where drivers could pull out of? And so on and so forth.

Position describes as to where you are on the road, determined by the information that you have kept note of. So for example, tight left hand corner with gravel on the centre line, the road is not opening up so that tells us that the corner will most likely tighten up as we go around and as you come up closer you notice a dead possum on the inside of the corner before your turn in point. So you would position yourself just off the centreline so that your bike does not lose traction at all and you are able to keep to the outside of the corner to maintain visibility through the corner and also keep you in a good position for the decreasing radius corner that will be coming up.

Speed and gear are intertwined, what you are looking for there is a gear that will give you enough drive out of the corner with out giving you the need to change gears so that you can maintain a constant/positive throttle coming out of the corner. Obviously the speed will be matched with gear choice but determined by the information and position you can choose an appropriate gear and speed for the corner.

Last of all, acceleration. You want to be able to accelerate out of the corner to keep the suspension working and to aid in coming out of the turn and standing the bike back up to move onto the next corner.

After all of that we had a brief chat about my riding which the majority of was fine, and then made our way back to base camp where we dropped off my loan bike and I had some more Wendys’ and then waited for the bus which took it’s sweet time getting there.

So now here I am sitting on a bus, in my full motorcycle leathers and a helmet and getting curious looks from passengers and the bus driver himself.

Just chilling on the bus.

Off one bus and then on to the next, the driver once again giving me a smile like I had just lost my license, when in reality it was the opposite.  By the time I got off and had to catch my 3rd bus, I could not be bothered and cheated by getting a taxi.

So overall, I enjoyed the course held by Riderskills. They conduct themselves in a professional manner but also have a light side and have your best interests at heart. With a great range of courses from beginner to advanced and even scooter riders, they cater to everybody. A pleasure to train with and I look forward to the next course I get to take with them.

https://www.facebook.com/Riderskills.co.nz?sk=reviews

Matt

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