Anti-speeding campaign based on phony science, says safety campaigner

Ticketing ordinary motorists will have no effect on the groups who cause most road deaths, says the car review website (See attached AA report)

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson says the police anti-speeding strategy is based on the discredited theory that if you ticket mums and dads who drift over the speed limit, then criminals will stop driving recklessly.

“The facts are these: only about 20% of fatalities occur above the legal speed limit."

"Of these 20% of fatalities that occur above the speed limit, most involve either drunks, motorcyclists or young working-class males who live on the edge of the law. There is simply no evidence that rigid enforcement of speed limits for ordinary motorists have made the slightest difference to the behavior of these high risk drivers.”

Matthew-Wilson’s claims are supported by a 2009 AA summary of 300 fatal accidents, which concluded:

“…government advertising suggests you should be grateful to receive a speeding ticket because it will save your life. In fact, exceeding speed limits isn't a major issue. Police surveying has found that even the top 15% of open-road speeders average under the 110km/h ticketing threshold.”

The AA report also criticised the idea that illegal speeds by ordinary drivers were the cause of road fatalities.

“… [It is not] true that middle-New Zealand drivers creeping a few kilometres over the limit on long, empty [roads were a major factor in] the road toll…”

The AA report pointed out that a high percentage of speed-related fatalities 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 license 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 gave the example of Cameron Presland, 20, who earlier this year killed his girlfriend Danielle Kiriau, 17, and her brother Shannon, 22, while driving at 180km/h. The pair were passengers in Presland’s unwarranted, unregistered, modified vehicle that spun out of control on Dunedin's southern motorway and crashed into a pole and tree. Danielle and the girls in the rear seats were not wearing seatbelts and were thrown from the car.

Matthew-Wilson asks:

“Can anyone tell me what difference the anti-speeding campaign made to this fatality? The driver was quite clearly comfortable with breaking the law, comfortable with getting tickets and comfortable with the risks he was taking. There are plenty of police cars and speed cameras around Dunedin, but they appear to have had zero effect on this driver’s behaviour.”

“The police will quote studies showing that a drop in the average speeds will lower the road toll. This is only true when the speeding campaigns are correctly targeted, that is, at the tiny minority that actually cause most fatalities.”

Matthew-Wilson adds:

"One of the reasons the police have traditionally allowed a 10km/h tolerance for speeding campaigns is because the speedos on New Zealand vehicles are notoriously inaccurate. Many are decades old and have not been calibrated since they left the factory. Also, simply putting a larger or smaller set of wheels on your car will also mean your speedo is no longer working accurately."