Journalist Makes an Age-Old, Facile Point
March 23, 2005:
Hawkes Bay Journalist Makes an Age-Old, Facile Point
Paul Taggart, in a Hawkes Bay Today editorial, wrote:
"Productive members of the community are losing their licences because the demerit points system is run with the efficiency of a Swiss watch and the ruthlessness of Guantanamo Bay; while burglars merrily burgle with impunity and murderers remain at liberty."
But if Mr Taggart believes he truly is making a valid comparison, regarding murders, perhaps he should publish the numbers of people killed over, say, each of the last 20 years by road crashes and murderers, respectively.
In all likelihood, he will find that his analogy is severely misplaced.
Even in such troubled countries as Israel, more people have been killed in road crashes than have even been killed by terrorist massacres and wars, let alone murders. 
And even here in the USA -- a country where Hollywood and the media constantly emphasize the murders, the annual road-death toll hugely outweighs murders.
New Zealand currently lies in 11th position (2003 figures) among the 30 member-countries of the OECD, with a per capita death rate of 11.48 per 100,000 members of the population. This compares with a rate of around six in the leading countries.
If some murderers "remain at liberty," Mr Taggart, so do some hit-and-run, road-crash killers. But the "huge emphasis on road safety in recent years" to which you refer has undoubtedly saved scores if not hundreds of lives.
So tell us it wasn't worth it!
March 24, 2005: Easter Road Crash Statistics for New Zealand
Only an hour after we wrote the commentary, below, about the Hawkes Bay Journalist, we received the following statistics from Land Transport New Zealand:
- Over Easter weekend 2004 there were 4 fatal crashes and 117 reported injury crashes. These crashes resulted in 4 deaths, 32 serious injuries and 138 minor injuries;
- Those four deaths were to one driver, two passengers, and one pedestrian;
- Over half of the crashes during the 2004 Easter weekend occurred on the open road;
-Inattention was the most common contributing to crashes (26%). Other contributing factors were travelling too fast for the conditions (21%), drink-driving (20%) and failure to give way (19%).
The statistics supplied also contained a list showing the number of road deaths each Easter, since 1980. And from that list one finds that between 1980 and 1994, inclusive, an average of almost 13 people were killed each year.
During the ten years from 1995-2004, however, one finds that the average is just over five deaths a year.
And even though we all know that better vehicle design and, in some places, better road design have had something to do with lower fatality rates, it is equally clear that more effective laws, increased enforcement, and in some cases, better education have also played their part.
Therefore, to those people with the same beliefs as Paul Taggart (see the next story down) we would use this Easter situation as an example and ask:
What part of this 59 per cent reduction in deaths do you think is less important than what you see as the wrongs of rigorous enforcement?
Eddie Wren, Executive Director, Drive and Stay Alive, Inc.