Posts Tagged ‘Road toll’

From a young age we are told that speeding is a big no-no, there are signs that hang high above the road telling us that speeding kills and the penalties for speeding can be generally quite ruthless. But is speeding the real problem or are we barking up the wrong tree? 

With the introduction of a 4km/h tolerance for speeding brought in for all public holidays throughout New Zealand, it has now sparked me to write a small piece on if we are focussing our efforts on the wrong campaign.

Now, in general, speeding can be dangerous and it can very quickly go wrong considering the speed difference of everyone around you. But, when we start to focus on fines for a mere 4km/h over the limit, are we getting a little pedantic or do you think it would actually make a difference in the road toll?

New Zealand Police have been praised with the lowest death tolls’ for the current year in history, funnily enough it is also when they rolled out the new tolerance and have now been laying praise on the tolerance instead of other factors such as higher driver awareness (from having police out left, right and center.) A lower rate of road users travelling on the road and also weather conditions for the recent public holidays which has been shocking for the whole summer, so drivers would be driving to the conditions instead of being in La-La land for most of the journey. 

One point I must make is that all drivers should be concentrating on the road and the changing conditions first and foremost, cars around them and other possibility’s such as small children, pets or objects.

But every public holiday it seems that all we are doing is spending more time looking at our speedometers than concentrating on anything else around us, simply because those who the government send out to gather revenue will gladly pull us over and fine us with a large smile on their faces and a pat on the back congratulating themselves for one less person who was going to die a horrible fiery death from being a few Km/s over the limit. Yes, the impending death that we are all going to face because we were focussing on our riding/driving more has now passed and we are $80 out of pocket.

In a country like Germany where you have the Autobahn and an unlimited speed limit there are a surprising lack of crashes. But hang on a second, increased speed means we are going to die? Why isn’t everyone there dead or severely injured?

It is because the one thing that speeding does do is bring upon a large increase in self awareness and an awareness of what is going on around you. At those speeds, you cannot just drive on auto-pilot like the majority of drivers do in our country. When you are tootling along at 50 – 100km/h many drivers simply decide to turn off and go with the flow, it isn’t a speed that really makes you sit up and take notice of your surroundings.

But when you are travelling at 120,130,140 or 240km/h your life depends on you making the right decisions at every moment. Hence why people travelling along at 100km/h down a one way motorway can then go on to have a 6 car pile up. (Honestly, how on Earth does that happen?) Apart from not following road rules where it states that you must keep enough space between you so as to safely stop with out hitting anybody, they are just not paying any attention to what is around them. Speeding, 167

Now in response to the high death toll, the powers that be decide to keep on lowering the speed limit on each road as they see fit, and I can imagine it will continually decrease until we are moving at walking pace and still getting fined.

So is speeding really the problem? I believe that it is but not at the approach that we tend to look at it. When you have drivers going 160km/h and the rest are going 100km/h there is a large room for error there and that is where the crashes are happening, but when you start to pull drivers over for 4km/h over the limit and then pat yourself on the back saying you did a good job, it just comes off as pathetic and a huge waste of taxpayer money on funding the time and media for such a pathetic and worthless cause.

We do need to focus on speeding, put at the people who are doing it dangerously, such as through public areas populated by children and other road users. Through back roads where there is not another soul around for miles (Apart from police) it shouldn’t be as policed and maybe a larger tolerance applied?




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Photo taken from stuff.co.nzNew Zealand’s roads have been referred to as “The killing fields”, In 2010 our death toll sat at 375 deaths, with 2007 being our hardest hitting year within the last 5 years, at a whopping 421 deaths on our roads.
The New Zealand Transport Agency claims that out of those deaths, around 170 are speed related with the rest being blamed on dangerous roads, driver inattention and alcohol and drug related incidents.

Studies show that high risk (Drivers convicted of a driving related offence, including drink driving, dangerous driving or speeding as a few examples.) drivers along with young drivers between the ages of 20 – 24 years old who are at fault in a crash, account for 58% of all serious crashes on New Zealand roads.
Taking into account the governments assessment on the roads, detailing such areas as a stretch of state highway between Parnell and Western Springs which has seen 20 serious crashes and the lives of 2 people over the past 5 years.

There are many other roads considered to be “dangerous” that are scattered throughout New Zealand, although the majority of them are in the Greater Auckland region.

Why is it that these roads are labelled as dangerous, and that there is such a high number of crashes on these particular stretches of road? Why is it, that so many crashes can be blamed on these dangerous roads and yet the government only looks to fix the immediate cause, instead of looking at the root of the problem?
You could say that pot-holes and blind corners could attribute to it, that no median barriers could also be a cause. You could also go so far as to say that the road surface isn’t the correct type for tyres, and you could also say that environmental conditions such as black ice or off camber corners are to blame. But all that really points to is a lack of driver awareness and/or ability.
No matter where you are, there will never be a perfect road surface to drive on, there will never be full visibility throughout all of the corners and livestock and other factors will always come into play.

What really stands out is the ability of road users to adapt to an ever-changing environment. As a motorcyclist, I am subject to a much larger possibility of hitting something that will cause me to fall off, whether it be a possum, pot hole or slick of diesel, I have to constantly adjust my riding accordingly to the road conditions so as to not come to a potentially fatal end.
I believe the cause of this problem is first of all the driver licensing system as at present, recently the government have changed the license test for people looking to sit the restricted test into an hour-long driving session with a much harder criteria to pass the test which is at least a start into educating drivers/riders on the skills needed to operate a motor vehicle on New Zealand roads.

Once passed you are then allowed onto the road, where there are a plethora of potential hazards along every stretch of road. It comes down to a matter of luck and trial and error, where as if you were taught the skills actually needed to ride on the road, there would be a significantly lower accident rate among road users and a large drop in the current road toll.

I believe another contributing factor to the large accident rate is the ability for a learner and restricted driver to drive any kind of car they like, which is usually a souped up Skyline or a car of relative style, where the power available to the still new driver is far above that of their ability and that is witnessed in the number of high-speed accidents where you have many who lose control of their vehicle and either flatten a pedestrian or wrap themselves around a power pole adding either 1 to 5 numbers to the death toll.

Back onto road conditions, what I have detailed should give you a small understanding on first of all, why young drivers are in the highest death toll statistics and why road conditions shouldn’t be to blame, but the driver’s ability to adapt and change their driving style to the conditions.
It does involve actually looking at the road and surroundings, and assessing them as you drive along the road. Looking for potential hazards and changing road conditions which will mean that drivers can’t be fiddling with radios, cell phones, cigarettes and those screaming children in the back. Making sure you are well rested and awake is also a crucial factor in being able to drive at 100% of your ability.

The governments plan for the future of many roads is to make them as easy and care free to drive on as humanly possible, now that may sound like a good idea at first and it may very well stunt the rise of fatalities on our roads. But all that will do is dull our senses even more untill we are driving on auto pilot, where at the time of any danger or hazard arises, we simply don’t have the tuned reactions to be able to deal with the situation properly and safely.

Which leads to the question, are we playing the blame game when it comes to the large number of lives lost on our roads and simply looking for a quick fix and something to lay the blame on? I have not seen any one actually come up with the idea that the standard of driving in New Zealand is rather sub-standard and that nothing is being done to prevent that. We are often presented with the saying “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you!” Now when you think about it, is there any reason that this should be a valid excuse? You are operating a large, powerful machine on public roads with young children, elderly and animals nearby, then there is also the majority of other road users who are sharing this space with you, if the driver is not paying attention enough to prevent a collision, then what else could they be doing?

Now about the condition of the roads, I will admit that the company that takes care of the repairs and construction of New Zealand roads, often do a poor job. The roads are constantly being repaired in spaces of up to every 6 months in some cases, if we spent the money in one large go and rebuilt the roads with a top quality surface, then we would be looking at a “safer” road, which needs less repairing, which would in turn reduce the queues that pop up all across the country due to repairs.

So is the New Zealand government simply playing the blame game? dealing to the easier and quicker yet less efficient method? It certainly seems so, and it is a chilling thought to think about how much our government really cares about our safety and driving standards, where they now focus on going a mere 5km/h over the posted speed limit where many speedos have a 10% inaccuracy which equates to roughly 10km/h over or under the limit, is that really making our roads dangerous or should be looking at other causes as to our death toll?

Matt Wishart

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