A 110 km/hr speed limit

August 11th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Motorists are calling for a major rethink of speed limits – including raising the top limit to 110kmh on the safest motorways.

The Automobile Association, which represents 1.3 million drivers, says a move to 110kmh should become a priority after this year’s election.

It also wants limits reduced on highways that are not equipped to handle 100kmh traffic, such as the steep and winding Rimutaka Hill Road.

AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said too many “inconsistencies” had crept into New Zealand’s speed zones, which was confusing well-intentioned drivers and seeing them get caught for speeding.

The association wanted fair, consistent and predictable speed limits across the board.

If some motorways had been designed for 110kmh traffic, then the limit should reflect that, he said.

But it should apply only to flat, straight stretches of motorway with two lanes in each direction, a median barrier and good shoulder space. “It won’t be an enormous amount of roads,” Noon said.

I agree. 110 km/hr is a common speed limit overseas for well designed motorways. The speed limit should reflect the road conditions.

National road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths would not be drawn on whether speed limits should go up or down, but said they needed to reflect the risk and functions of a particular road.

Agreed.

Featherston man Nick Burt, who drives the Rimutaka Hill Road about four times a week, favoured scaling back the speed limit there to 80kmh.

You’re crazy if you drive that road at 100 km/hr. I agree it should be lower, as should the road to Makara.

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Fewer WoF checks

January 27th, 2013 at 3:10 pm by David Farrar

Simon Bridges has announced:

Changes to New Zealand’s warrant of fitness system, which will see annual inspections for cars registered after 2000, will save motorists time and money and will also focus on road safety, says Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges.

The key changes to the warrant of fitness system (WoF) include:

  • An initial inspection for new cars, followed by annual inspections once  vehicles are three years old

  • Annual inspections for vehicles three years and older and first registered on or after 1 January 2000

  • Six-monthly inspections for vehicles first registered before 1 January 2000

Excellent. I find the six month WOF checks on relatively new cars a silly hassle and a waste of time and money.

The Motor Trade Assn will of course be unhappy, because they own a chain of testing stations. But mechanical defects are implicated in only 2.5% of vehicle crashes and are the sole cause in only 0.4% – experts have said the impact on safety will be minimal.

Ministry of Transport research shows that the package of changes will benefit motorists and businesses by $159 million a year, and by at least $1.8 billion over 30 years.  This includes savings in inspection and compliance costs, justice and enforcement costs, and time spent by motorists getting their WoF.

Mr Bridges says these savings will have a flow-on benefit for the wider economy.

The MTA have also said there will be 2,000 jobs lost due to this decision. Now of course that is a nonsense figure, but even if it was true their argument is flawed. The purpose of WOF checks is not to create jobs for garages, If that was the purpose, we’d have monthly WOF checks.

An economy does better when people get to voluntarily choose what they spend their money on. The annual saving of $160 million will benefit other areas of the economy.

The debate should be about balancing risk and cost.  I think this new regime is a far better balance than the old one.

The AA (which unlike the MTA has no commercial interests involved in the decision) has pointed out:

New Zealand has the most frequent vehicle safety inspection in the world. No other country requires cars aged 6 years or older (most of our fleet) to be tested twice a year.

Some countries have an annual inspection, and many only every two years. Others, like much of Australia and the United States, have no regular inspection at all.

Most vehicles in New Zealand are tested every 6000km. In Britain they’re tested every 19,000km, and in Germany vehicles travel about 32,000km between inspections.

Yet despite these differences in inspection frequency the number of crashes caused by vehicle faults in New Zealand is about the same as other countries at about 2.5 per cent – or less than half a per cent where it is the sole cause.

This suggests that inspection frequency is not a silver bullet.

The question is, can we have a less-frequent test without increasing crash rates, and the international evidence suggests we can.

This is a good example of the Government acting in the public interest, and refusing to bow to a scare campaign by vested interests. We need more decisions like this.

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AA on WOF checks

October 15th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Mike Stockdale from the AA writes in the Dom Post:

As part of the reform of the vehicle licensing and Warrant of Fitness systems, the Government is looking at changing the frequency of the safety inspection. Changing the WOF system is a big decision that will affect us all, so it’s important it’s made on the basis of unbiased facts and evidence.

Let’s put things in perspective. New Zealand has the most frequent vehicle safety inspection in the world. No other country requires cars aged 6 years or older (most of our fleet) to be tested twice a year.

A key point.

Some countries have an annual inspection, and many only every two years. Others, like much of Australia and the United States, have no regular inspection at all.

Most vehicles in New Zealand are tested every 6000km. In Britain they’re tested every 19,000km, and in Germany vehicles travel about 32,000km between inspections.

Personally if inspections are to be regular, I think distance is more sensible than time.

Yet despite these differences in inspection frequency the number of crashes caused by vehicle faults in New Zealand is about the same as other countries at about 2.5 per cent – or less than half a per cent where it is the sole cause.

So we are paying extra for no benefit.

The Automobile Association believes some of the focus on vehicle safety should shift away from the majority of compliant motorists to the minority who choose to ignore our laws and put other lives at risk, and focusing more on factors that most contribute to crashes – tyres, brakes and lighting. When it comes to vehicle faults contributing to crashes, the main cause is worn tyres and our current six-monthly test isn’t preventing that.

We need to be smarter about how we ensure vehicle safety is maintained and enforced, rather than only relying on a WOF check once or twice a year.

We need to encourage more motorists to get in the habit of regularly checking their tyres and vehicle condition themselves. If drivers in other countries can, so can we.

Absolutely. The WOF checks can give a false confidence.

The international evidence suggests road safety will actually improve if we follow their example and reduce inspection frequency while beefing up driver education and roadside enforcement of unsafe vehicles.

In the last few decades the quality of the New Zealand fleet has vastly improved from the days when Kiwis routinely drove elderly and worn-out vehicles on unsafe roads, when our road toll was three times what it is today, and when a twice-yearly test made sense. Since then vehicle technology and safety have progressed, but the frequency of the WOF test hasn’t changed to suit. Maybe it’s time it did.

I’ve seen no evidence in favour of the status quo – just a scare campaign.

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Signs for speed cameras

September 20th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Mike Noon from the AA writes in the Herald:

The AA is one of the leading road safety campaigners in New Zealand, we support the use of speed cameras and do not condone speeding. But let’s take a step back for a moment and consider what is the ultimate aim of the cameras? The answer is obviously getting drivers to slow down.

Fixed speed cameras (the ones mounted on permanent poles) are placed in safety black-spots where there has been a history of speed-related crashes. …

The fact that some of these cameras are still issuing thousands of tickets shows the current approach isn’t succeeding and that speeds are not being managed.

Having signs alerting drivers that there is a speed camera area or camera operating ahead will ensure more drivers slow down in these black-spots, and this has to be a good thing.

The other key point in this debate is that the AA is only calling for signs ahead of fixed speed cameras. We support the continued use of mobile cameras without signage, such as vans on the side of the road.

So if a driver chooses to slow down for a signposted fixed camera and then speed back up again, they can be caught by the anytime, anywhere mobile cameras, and of course they can be caught by police officers on patrol. Our call is not about helping drivers to avoid tickets, it’s about getting drivers to slow down and to check their speed, especially in high-risk areas.

Having signs alerting drivers to a fixed speed camera is done in Australia, Britain, and most other countries we compare ourselves to for road safety best practice.

I think the AA makes incredibly valid points, and the Police and Government should reconsider their policy. Otherwise the suspicion will remain that revenue is more important than safety.

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I love the AA!

September 16th, 2008 at 8:56 pm by David Farrar

A tyre blew out today on Aotea Quay. Pulled into the BP station and called the AA. They were there within 15 minutes and all changed within 5 minutes.

AA membership is the best “insurance” you can have. I don’t use them often but they are great for when you do need them.

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GST on Petrol

April 23rd, 2008 at 8:48 am by David Farrar

The AA has called for GST to be removed on the excise portion of petrol, reports the Herald.

AA spokesman Mark Stockdale last night urged the Government to consider removing GST on petrol excise tax, a move it says could cut prices by more than 5c a litre. …

But a statement from Finance Minister Michael Cullen’s office last night said the Government would not change the GST system, “as creating exemptions would add extra compliance costs for businesses which would be passed on to consumers”.

A one-off change to GST would have had no effect against the “global forces” driving petrol prices.

“If the New Zealand Government had changed GST rules along these lines 12 months ago, no one would have even noticed as the benefits would have been wiped out almost immediately by the global rise in oil prices,” the statement said.

I’m with Dr Cullen on this one. First of all I think an absolute strength of GST is that is is near universal for all goods and services. The moment you start varying out a few exemptions, you then end up in an endless litany of moral judgements on what should or should not have GST on it. In Australia you have (or had) GST on your bread if it has sultanas in it, but no GST if no sultanas.

Cullen is also right that piddling about with stuff that will knock 5c a litre off only, when retail prices have almost doubled in the last few years, will not even be noticed.

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