Coroner recommendations

February 18th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Eric Crampton blogs a list of recent Coronial recommendations, including:

The problem we have is Coroners only look at how to reduce deaths. They seem to often miss any requirement for balance such as whether their recommendations are practical or affordable – or if they may have undesirable consequences.

Lucy at Cycling Auckland takes issue with the last recommendation:

The made two recommendations, both of which I feel quite strongly would not help to improve safety. Irritatingly, neither of them seem very relevant to the actual accident he investigated.

First, as mentioned in the media, he recommended that the wearing of hi viz should be made mandatory for all cyclists because he saw it as a “no-brainer.” He doesn’t present any evidence to support this view.

This recommendation seems oddly unrelated to the case, given that the crash happened at 5.20 pm when it was just getting dark and Stephen Fitzgerald was wearing both reflective hi viz stripes and functioning lights.

So it is not even relevant to this case – but the Coroner just thought it was a good idea. It isn’t.

The problem with both of these recommendations, in my opinion, is that while they would probably make individual cyclists safer if they followed them (although it’s arguable in the case of hi viz, because there is some evidence that drivers give cyclists more space when they look less experienced) overall they make cycling less attractive.

This is particularly true of the hi viz recommendation. Even riders such as myself, who have very little interest in fashion, would probably be put off by a permanent requirement to wear hi viz.

Because I don’t particularly want to walk around the supermarket or go to work in hi viz, such a law would require me to permanently wear a hi viz vest over my normal clothes. This would not only be hot in summer but also would be annoying to carry around when I reached my destination.

Obviously, of course, riders who actually care about how they look while riding – such as teenage girls or the Frocks on Bikes types – would quite likely choose not to ride at all if hi viz was mandatory.

I’ve yet to see a single person support the Coroner’s recommendation.

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31 Responses to “Coroner recommendations”

  1. tvb (4,422 comments) says:

    Coroners do not have one damn clue on what is the proper public policy response to a safety issue. But let them make fools of themselves. Their main role is to get to the facts on what caused a death. A wise Coroner will leave it there. But vanity takes over and some wade into what could be done next. I do not favour a law change preventing it. But Coroners who wade into public policy issues can expect robust comment and criticism.

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  2. Chuck Bird (4,884 comments) says:

    What qualifications do these clowns need?

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  3. MT_Tinman (3,187 comments) says:

    “but the Coroner just thought it was a good idea. It isn’t.”

    Yes, it is!

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  4. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    example please of one coRner who has reduced one death

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  5. Sector 7g (242 comments) says:

    I repeat…..Sadly, this is what New Zealand has become. New Zealand has only just begun to see the results of having two parties that ignore personal responsibility. It is what it is now and you will never turn it back. Enjoy it. Sadly, people like DPF and his party faithful had their chance to change things, but failed. Sleep in the bed you made.

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  6. Viking2 (11,471 comments) says:

    well Gerry (Minister of Transport),will be well used to wearing them by now so odds on the Nats. will get to making them mandatory.

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  7. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    High visibility vests are sufficient and required when riding at night

    And all farmhouses – with children (under 12-14) required to be fenced off.

    Coroners seem to need a tad of moderating.

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  8. wreck1080 (3,917 comments) says:

    Scary thing is that bored govt departments need something to justify their existence and i imagine the number of new rules introduced is part of their performance review. Coroners reports give them ammunition to pass unnecessary laws.

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  9. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    The problem with both of these recommendations, in my opinion, is that while they would probably make individual cyclists safer if they followed them (although it’s arguable in the case of hi viz, because there is some evidence that drivers give cyclists more space when they look less experienced) overall they make cycling less attractive.

    Her solution is for all cyclists to behave like the inexperienced.. so that drivers give them a very wide berth? With logic like that motorists, of which I am one, are within their rights to bitch about cyclists and their representatives.

    As for making cycling attractive, if the inconvenience of wearing appropriate clothing keeps some off the roads then we’re all better off.

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  10. Chuck Bird (4,884 comments) says:

    I just checked and coroners need to be lawyers first. I think a degree of common sense would be a better prerequisite than a law degree.

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  11. Manolo (13,780 comments) says:

    Coroner reccomends fewer, less stupid coroners. That’s something I would embrace.

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  12. Chuck Bird (4,884 comments) says:

    I heard of a guy who had an accident because he was perving on an attractive cyclist. What next will they recommend next – they dress like Muslim women under the hi Viz clothing?

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  13. graham (2,335 comments) says:

    As both a driver and a cyclist, I find some drivers to be occasionally dangerous and cause accidents. Therefore, using krazykiwi’s logic, can we please ask the coroner to start imposing inconvenient regulations on all car drivers, so that we keep some off the roads? Then we’ll all be better off.

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  14. alex Masterley (1,517 comments) says:

    Chuck,

    The office of coroner is a judicial office with a judicial oath so a legal training is a pre-requisite.

    Also the act imposes an obligation on a coroner to make recomendations, even if they are not listened to.

    Having appeared as counsel in the odd coroners court hearing, it never ceases to amaze me how coroners cope with an exclusive diet of death and the many and varied ways it occurs.

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  15. burt (8,271 comments) says:

    Coroner recommends releasing details of suicide… No… Jolly Jim wouldn’t have it !

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  16. edhunter (547 comments) says:

    The world of “The Matrix” coming soon to a town near you.

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  17. Sector 7g (242 comments) says:

    Hang on…Are these Coroner recommendations or Nationals election platform for 2014?

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  18. James Stephenson (2,180 comments) says:

    Also the act imposes an obligation on a coroner to make recomendations,

    Ahh, so they have to come up with some recommendations, rather than may make recommendations, that explains the quite a lot about the idiocy of some of the stuff that’s recommended…”fuck, I’ve gotta say something…I know!…high viz…”

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  19. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    “The problem we have is Coroners only look at how to reduce deaths. They seem to often miss any requirement for balance such as whether their recommendations are practical or affordable – or if they may have undesirable consequences.”

    Does it matter? It’s not their job to decide whether recommendations should be implemented into law. That’s for politicians and the public to decide. Apparently, according to Alex Masterley above they have an obligation under law to make recommendations – this probably explains why they make them.

    I don’t really see the problem. If I am working on an IT project and go to the security guys and ask for feedback they will tell me all the things I could do to make the process as secure as possible – that is what I expect them to do. Some of these recommendations might not happen because they are not practical within the constraints of the project budget or might have unintended impacts in other areas. That’s cool – as long as the business owner understands and accepts the risks of not doing those things then we can drop them.

    Maybe it’s much better to get all options and recommendations on the table and get the relevant decision maker to exclude anything they don’t deem practical or desirable rather than get a single party to try and make that decision on behalf of everybody.

    DPF – Failing that, how about you talk to one of your National Party MP buddies to write up a private members bill removing from legislation the requirement on Coroners to make recommendations and they might make fewer of them. The MP who introduces it could even go for the position of “Minister Responsible for Political Correctness” or did we get rid of that made up job title with Don Brash?

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  20. Auberon (873 comments) says:

    Aside from the fact that the coroner’s recommendation wasn’t pertinent in the Steve Fitzgerald case – he WAS wearing hi viz and the trucker driver was prosecuted, so the law worked – I happen to know it devestated his family. The ensuing coverage naturally gave the impression Steve was somehow at fault. Absolutely shocking.

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  21. Pete George (23,567 comments) says:

    We only hear of a few over the top few recomendations out of the many.

    But they can create pressure situations. When a Coroner advised that a warning sign be put up when someone jumped into the Clutha and drowned the local management group felt compelled to cover their butts and put one up even though they said they doubted it would do any good. River drownnings tend to mostly be in different locations and in different situations.

    And signs often do diddly squat, it was common for teenagers to jump off the Deadman Point bridge at Cromwell despite warning signs, and there was still a rope swing there last month.

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  22. ChrisM (103 comments) says:

    The coroners seem to be having a contest to see who can make the silliest suggestion. What happened to the old days when they just ruled on the cause of death? Didn’t the previous government change the law, first to get rid of the Auckland coroner ( Stephen Osborne ) who upset people by saying basically that the dead person did something stupid, then later follow it up with getting rid of part time coroners for just a few full time ones. From old cuttings, here is one of Osborne’s recommendations:
    Coroner Stephen Osborne commented that she might still be alive if she had observed the terms of her restricted license which included not driving between 10pm and 5am.

    Nowadays they would blame the police for not stopping her.

    I note that Wellington’s mayor, who was wearing all the right stuff and lights as well, still got knocked off. And she doesn’t think much of the coroner either.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/8312803/Mayor-wants-driver-to-pay-for-bike-repairs

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  23. UrbanNeocolonialist (288 comments) says:

    All safety measures come at a cost. And those costs should be estimated and accounted for before any change or recommendation is made.

    Slow traffic nationally by 1km/hr and you increase the average time people spend in their cars by a few hours per year – say 10million human hours or about 25 human lifetimes in the shitter, actually worse than that because it tends to be cutting into free time. Would increasing speed limits by 10km/hr kill another 200 people per year? I highly doubt it.

    If you require changes that cost everyone in NZ an extra $100 per year on elf and safety (probably conservative) then that sucks about $400million – which is about 1-200 deaths at typical $2-4million cost to save an extra life in the health system.

    Changes to rules regarding testing of water in school pools 10 years ago in the name of the most holy health and safety saw most school pools close and a generation of children now coming through in many cases can no longer swim – lives saved=probably none, but will the arseholes who made that decision take responsibility for increased drownings in future?

    Nobody can pretend that the extreme level of cones/barriers and other devices deployed in road works is cost effective. About 6 injuries a year for an additional cost that is probably in the $100’s of millions.

    Every extra piece of safety equipment or modification also requires manufacturing and maintenance activities to create them. Those activities have a certain non-negligible amount of danger and death associated with them (eg driving to work to create them, commercial drivers, mining etc), so in many cases the requirement to have such additional gear will actually kill more people than it saves.

    Health and safety also sucks the joy out of life by restricting and reducing our freedoms and absorbing more of our time in non-productive activities. We need to stop listening to the dickheads pushing the safety at all costs mantra, roll it back to more sane levels of 20-30 years back. Life is a risky activity that no one gets out of alive, deal with it.

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  24. Chuck Bird (4,884 comments) says:

    Also the act imposes an obligation on a coroner to make recomendations, even if they are not listened to.

    Alex, this only confirms what many of us know – the law is an ass.

    Did the legislators ever hear of the saying “shit happens”?

    I do not think a law degree is the be all and end all for a coroner any more than for a judge.

    There are some pretty hopeless and inadequacy trained judges.

    If you had been on the receiving like I have in the civil court you might see things differently.

    The system is corrupt. I make a complaint about a High Court Judge to the Judicial Complaints Commissioner. It get forwarded to the Judge and he comes with story about what happened in Court that was not true. The Judicial Complaints Commissioner takes the Judges version of events and that is meant to the end of the story.

    I pay my filing fees and the Judge cannot be bothered putting his direction in writing and it costs me 70 grand because he is lazy and/or incompetent. The fact that many Judge do not like people representing themselves probable played a factor.

    I know there are some bloody good judges but also arrogant, unfair and a few corrupt ones.

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  25. Jim (398 comments) says:

    Sector 7g (3:13 pm) has a good point. We’re heading down a path of blaming mistakes made by people on a lack of regulation. Bad luck, incompetence, stupidity, carelessness are no longer the cause of anything. The fault is always tracked down to the lack of a rule preventing the wrong behaviour.

    With leaky homes it was the fault of a law change relaxing regulation. As if somehow some changes on paper caused 100’s of years of construction wisdom to evaporate.

    Yet it seems clear that legislation can not overcome ignorance. Over the weekend we read of a couple whose toddler received a skull fracture and bleeding to the brain while at a childcare centre but were not told of it because “They [caregivers] don’t know the procedure.” and “face a bewildering array of legislation to comply with”. Excuse me but wtf?

    What happened to exercising sound, responsible personal judgement?

    This is all in harmony with these braindead coroner recommendations. Wishing to legislate away accidents and aberrations.

    How well have rules worked in other areas? Boating…. ever heard of anyone drowning because they didn’t have the required safety gear?

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  26. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    Alex, this only confirms what many of us know – the law is an ass.

    It’s not so much that the law is an ass as that politicians and the media call equate legislation with law. Law is a relationship between cause and effect, legislation is public policy which may or may not be consistent with law. Also, parliament misrepresents the nature of common law by excluding the aspects of common law which are beyond its control.

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  27. Steve (North Shore) (4,563 comments) says:

    Has anyone ever heard of a Coroner dying from an accidental death? They don’t have time to die, they are busy recommending rules and laws.
    Common Sense is not a gift, it’s a punishment, because you have to deal with all of those who don’t have it – and that goes for Coroners who definately don’t have it

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  28. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    Perhaps the reason that Coroners have a problem with common sense is that it is in conflict with their oath.

    I mean, isn’t it common sense that the head of state of a country should actually live in that country, so that their interests are more or less aligned with the interests of the people who live there?

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  29. orewa1 (410 comments) says:

    All coroners should be fitted with gags to prevent silly utterances being promulgated. Get real guys!

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  30. Crampton (215 comments) says:

    The problem is in the Act. And National could fix that.

    The Act tells Coroners that they have to provide recommendations about things that could have prevented death in similar circumstances; it doesn’t ask them to weigh costs and benefits of that regulation. And that’s all fine – it should be Parliament or the bureaus that figure that stuff out. Some of the coroners seem to think that their recommendations ought be the final word rather than a policy input – they ought to be smacked back, or we ought to change the Act.

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  31. Chuck Bird (4,884 comments) says:

    It there want coroners that come up with practical recommendations they should be engineers not lawyers.

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