Driving License Changes

April 16th, 2010 at 5:30 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The minimum legal driving age could yet rise to 17, after the Government moved yesterday to have it raised from from 15 to 16 by the middle of next year.

The Cabinet yesterday approved the rise to 16, which is part of the Government’s 2010-20 Safer Journeys project.

The project also includes encouraging 120 hours of supervised driving for a restricted licence; learner drivers now do about 50 hours.

Young drivers could also face restrictions on how powerful their cars can be, and tougher penalties for breaching restricted licence conditions.

I think the move to 16 is sound, especially as the school leaving age is no longer 15. It also is more consistent with the general regime we have that young NZers get a partial set of rights at 16 (sex, driving, marriage with parental consent etc) and get most of their full rights at 18 (voting, drinking etc).

The 120 hours of supervised driving to get a restricted is sensible also.

Editorials 4 March 2010

March 4th, 2010 at 10:43 am by David Farrar

The Herald calls for PPPs to hasten infrastructure projects:

Finance Minister Bill English calls his National Infrastructure Plan an important step towards better infrastructure management. “Even a small improvement in this area could reap gains worth billions – making our infrastructure dollars go further and ensuring a better return for taxpayers,” he says.

The multibillion-dollar sums sprinkled throughout the plan leave no doubt about the size of the commitment. Equally, the OECD’s view that investment in infrastructure, especially transport and communications, boosts long-term economic output more than other kinds of physical investment emphasises this is a road that must be travelled.

The Government, like its predecessor, does not seem sold on fixing this by adopting the bold option of build, own, operate, transfer (Boot) schemes, even though they have been widely used in Australia. The plan is not specific, talking only of PPPs expanding “the scope for innovation in design, construction and management of new assets”.

But it also pays attention to their potential downsides. These include the “reduced flexibility due to the long-term nature of the contract, and the cost that arises from unanticipated contract variations”. The latter can, of course, be mitigated by precise framing, so the private partner is in no doubt about the risk to itself.

Far more emphasis should have been placed on the advantages of PPPs at a time when, despite the squeeze on its finances, the Government is eyeing spending $8 billion to $9.6 billion on designated roads of national significance over the next decade. These pluses include not only the reduced cost to the Crown but the economic value of private investment decisions if they have to carry a fair share of the risk.

Transmission Gully would be a fine candidate for a PPP.

The Dom Post looks at waterfront democracy:

Democracy can be a messy, expensive and lengthy business, as Wellington City Council is finding as it tries to push ahead with its plans for the waterfront. It also provides the best chance of the public ending up with with something it finds acceptable.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast’s sense of frustration at the appeals against Variation 11 is palpable. In broad terms, Waterfront Watch and the Historic Places Trust believe the variation, which allows buildings under certain heights to go ahead on part of the waterfront without any public consultation, is not stringent enough, and will mean the loss of transparency in the process. Queens Wharf Holdings, on the other hand, believes the proposed restrictions are too stringent. …

Ms Prendergast hopes a solution can be found through mediation. That, based on past experience, is unlikely. The dispute over the proper role for the waterfront has dragged on too long and the positions are too entrenched to hope with any sense of realism for a negotiated settlement. Instead, it seems inevitable that both sides will remain in their trenches, lobbing legal grenades at each other. That is not ideal, but it is the price paid for having a democracy where everyone can have their say and test their case.

It’s ridicolous that after almost two decades we still have no agreed upon plan implemented for the waterfront.

The Press looks at the proposed driving changes:

Despite clear evidence that younger drivers are over-represented in crash statistics, successive governments had for too long placed the controversial issue of the driving age in the too-hard basket.

Finally the present administration has decided to act by accepting the recommendation in the Safer Journeys discussion document to raise the age to 16. And, in another welcome move, the Government has announced that there will be a zero-alcohol limit for drivers under 20. …

And the ODT also looks at the driving changes:

Fifteen is too young to be out and about on the road in cars.

Once, of course, cars in this country were a relatively expensive commodity, owned only after years of hard work and saving.

It might be surmised that a degree of maturity and good sense would have been inculcated in the individual in that time.

There were no cheap Japanese imports, the banks operated under much stricter lending criteria, and there were no such entities as finance companies as might be recognised today; certainly none especially designed to propel young men and women, barely past puberty, into the ownership of fast cars.

Safer Journeys

March 4th, 2010 at 9:26 am by David Farrar

There is a table of probable first actions for the Government’s Safer Journeys Strategy. They are:

Raise driving age to 16.

I support this one, as I have always seen it as linked to the school leaving age.

Make the restricted licence test more difficult to encourage 120 hours of supervised driving practice.

More supervision before you drive solo sounds good to me. However 120 hours may be a bit too high. That means a (probable) parent spending two hours a day week supervising their kid for 60 weeks.

Introduce a zero drink-drive limit for drivers under 20.

I do support this one, and not just because I am over 20. I think it will be beneficial to have a clear message saying if you are under 20 you should never drive if you have been drinking alcohol. The crash statistics show too many young people don’t know when to stop, so a zero limit makes it easier for friends to intervene also.

Investigate vehicle power restrictions for young drivers.

Not so sure about this, but will be interested to see the research.

Address repeat offenders and high level offending through Compulsory alcohol interlocks and a zero drink-drive limit for offenders.

I prefer solutions that target the problem, and don’t hassle or criminalise the vast majority who are not causing a problem, so supportive of these measures for repeat offenders.

Either, lower the drink-drive limit to BAC 0.05 and introduce infringement penalties for offences between 0.05 and 0.08
Establish the level of risk posed by drivers with a BAC between 0.05 – 0.08.

I remain quite opposed to the first option, even though I note they are talking infringement not criminal penalties. Quite simply the 2007 crash statistics show just two drivers killed in car crashes had blood alcohol limits in the .05 to .08 range. I’ve seen some media reports suggesting 20 to 30 lives a year could be saved by such a change.  This is propaganda.

The second looks like a we’ll do it later version of the first option, but one can hope there is an open mind on the issue.  I certainly would like to see some good research on the risk posed by adults with a BAC of 0.05 to 0.08, but also on the prevalence of adults who drive at that level so one can have an idea of how many people a change may affect, and what the benefits will be.

Develop a classification system for the roading network

That would be useful to know which roads are safest and least safe.

Change the give way rules for turning traffic.

This will be a major change, but I think it is overdue.

In an ideal world we would also change to driving on the right hand side of the road, so tourists who come here don’t pose such a danger, and vice-versa for NZers overseas. However the transition costs would be immense.

Editorials 3 March 2010

March 3rd, 2010 at 1:01 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald wants the driving age raised even further:

This is a very conservative Government. If there was any doubt about the caution of John Key’s Cabinet it has been dispelled by its decision on the driving age.

Last year its transport officials floated the possibility of raising the age from 15 to 16 or 17 with restrictions until age 18. In January the Herald canvassed its readers on the subject.

The vast majority, 80 per cent of a Nielsen survey of 2300 people, thought the age should be at least 18. A few, 6.5 per cent, thought it should be 20. The Government’s decision: 16.

Personally I am glad the Government did not raise the age to 18 because of responses to an online survey.

I’ve always said tying it to the school leaving age is sensible,

The Dom Post says welfare is a safety net not a right

First it was Christchurch’s Harris family. Theirs is one of the homes into which the taxpayer deposits about $1000 a week in welfare benefits, and who have gained $30,000 extra in “special” benefits since 2000, because they persuaded Work and Income that they “needed” new tyres for their 2007 Chrysler saloon, and to fence a swimming pool at a property they own in the city.

Now it is Benjamin Easton, a man who cheerfully admitted last week that he was quite capable of earning, but who has chosen instead to live on the dole and rent a council flat. He was doing so, he said, so he could bring “the people’s challenge to the courts”

Benjamin will be having his say at Backbenches tonight, and of course he is also commenter here.

The Press examines South Canterbury Finance:

Since the company known today as South Canterbury Finance (SCF) made its first loan in 1926, it has grown to become one the largest finance companies in New Zealand.

Over this period it has played an important role in providing capital to businesses and individuals, especially in the South Island. Like so many other finance companies, however, SCF has struggled during the recent recession, and made a loss of $154.9 million in the second half of last year. But unlike many of these other companies, it is controlled by a millionaire in Allan Hubbard, who has the confidence and the means to produce a rescue package for SCF.

The deal announced this week is consistent with the commitment given by Hubbard last year when he said he would be prepared to use his personal wealth, which the National Business Review “rich list” put at $550m last year, to back his company. …

Hubbard is renowned not for high-living but for being a generous philanthropist and a businessman with integrity. And that integrity was visible this week in the rescue package for SCF and its 40,000 investors.

Give that man a knighthood!

The ODT is not impressed with Airways Corp:

Dunedin International Airport chief executive John McCall has every reason to be outraged after jet flights last Thursday night were diverted to Invercargill because no traffic controller was available.

Here is an essential service, supplied by the government-owned Airways Corporation, that did not deliver.

That failure not only inconvenienced 237 passengers and many of their friends and relatives, but also trashed the reputation of the airport and the city.

Diverting the passengers to Invercargill is surely cruel and inhumane punishment!

Sensible Simon

January 4th, 2010 at 11:48 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Eighty per cent of people want the legal driving age raised to 18 or higher.

A Herald-Nielsen survey of 2300 people found 74 per cent would like the driving age raised to 18. A further 6.5 per cent wanted it lifted to 20.

As far as I can tell this is not in fact a poll, but just the results of an online survey, so isn’t representative of the population. Anyway back to the substance:

But the Automobile Association says increasing the age is not going to make our roads safer.

“Simply increasing the age is just going to kill them one year later, if you raise it by one year,” said spokesman Simon Lambourne.

Some common sense from Simon.

“Supervised learner drivers are the safest drivers on our roads. When they go solo, the six months after is the greatest risk.”

Mr Lambourne supported enforcing 120 hours of supervised driving before a learner can drive alone.

120 hours might be a bit too much (not sure parent-child relationships can withstand 120 hours of driving together) but the concept of a minimum number of supervised hours before solo driving is a good one.