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Replacing Police With Speed Cameras Will Not Improve Road Safety

The proposed introduction of mass speed cameras is an attempt to replace police with technology, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says a high police presence is essential for road safety.

“The simple fact is, the police don’t have enough resources to do their job properly. Instead of maintaining a high public presence on our roads, police are constantly called away to incidents such as domestic violence. This lack of police presence on our roads is one of the reasons our road toll is higher. “

“Waka Kotahi has convinced the government that replacing police with speed cameras will solve the problem. I don’t believe this strategy is going to work.”

“A large percentage of fatal accidents occur on rural roads and the drivers are blotto. Installing cameras on our main highways is not going to affect the majority of offenders.”

“Also, Waka Kotahi’s strategy is designed to slow down the average driver, but the average driver is not the problem. The majority of crashes (at least 66%) do not involve speeding, legal or otherwise : a study by the Ministry of Transport states that: 'speed [alone contributes to just] 11% of fatal crashes.”.

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“One fatal combination is speeding and drugs together; nearly a quarter of the road toll involves drivers who are speeding while blotto. Sadly, blotto drivers tend to ignore both speed signs and speed cameras.”

"Some studies have guessed that about 34% of fatal accidents involve inappropriate speed, but these speeds are not necessarily illegal and cameras can only enforce illegal speeds."

“Reckless speeding by idiots is a huge problem on our roads, but these idiots aren’t going to be stopped by a speed camera.”

A 2009 AA analysis of fatal accidents stated:

“government advertising suggests you should be grateful to receive a speeding ticket because it will save your life. In fact, exceeding speed limits aren’t a major issue...Nor is it true that middle-New Zealand drivers creeping a few kilometres over the limit on long empty straights dominate the road toll..."

The AA analysis highlighted that many fatal accidents were caused by: "people who don’t care about any kind of rules. These are men who speed, drink, don’t wear safety belts, have no valid licence or WoF – who are basically renegades. They usually end up wrapped around a tree, but they can also overtake across a yellow line and take out other motorists as well. "

Matthew-Wilson believes automated systems that simply send out tickets are “useless for the highest risk offenders”.

“Over 40% of fatal accidents are caused by people who are already disqualified or don’t have a license. Many of these drivers have had a lifetime of offending and often cause multiple accidents before they kill themselves."

“Almost every study ever done has concluded that the threat of fines and disqualification have zero effect on the groups most likely to cause fatal accidents.You send these guys a ticket, they add it to the pile. You disqualify their license, they drive anyway. You send them to prison, they join gangs then offend soon after getting out."

Matthew-Wilson says there are cheaper and more effective ways of reducing inappropriate speeding. “Speed advisory signs are highly effective at lowering speeds in high risk zones, and they don’t alienate motorists. The fact is, most drivers will slow down if you remind them that they’re going too fast. Matthew-Wilson believes speed cameras that issue tickets should be restricted to high-risk zones, such as outside schools and old folks’ homes. However, he says, motorists should be warned with signs first.

In place of a mass rollout of automated speed cameras, Matthew-Wilson believes the police should instead adopt a hands-on approach to high risk behaviour. “We know that a large percentage of fatal accidents involve people who aren’t wearing seatbelts. So the police should start impounding cars where seatbelts aren't being worn."

Matthew-Wilson adds the speed argument often distracts from other, equally important issues.

"Overseas studies suggest 26% of all traffic crashes involve drivers using cellphones. Young drivers are now regularly using social media while driving."

For this reason, Matthew-Wilson wants the police to permanently seize cellphones used by the drivers of moving vehicles.

“First offence you lose your cellphone. Second offence you lose your cellphone and your cellphone number. Third offence you lose your cellphone and your number, plus your car is impounded for seven days.”

Matthew-Wilson also rejected the idea that educating drivers would make any difference.

“The science is quite clear: asking people to drive safely is an expensive waste of time. It’s time to refocus on what works.”

• Release ends. For further information, please contact Clive Matthew-Wilson on 021 051 6670

• Clive Matthew-Wilson has been actively campaigning on road safety and consumer issues for 25 years. Mentored by engineer Chris Coxon (former technical chair and founding member of the Australian New Car Assessment Program – ANCAP), Matthew-Wilson was the first person to publish crash test results in New Zealand. His research into seatbelt upgrades was awarded by the Australian Police Journal. Matthew-Wilson is a strong supporter of pedestrians’ and cyclists’ rights and has helped shape many major road safety policies in New Zealand.

Clive Matthew-Wilson was the founder of

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