Should he have kept his license?

August 28th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Hamilton man has kept his licence after being sentenced for speeding – driving his Mazda RX7 at 181kmh – with his two siblings in the passenger seats.

Greg Mario Prendergast, 27, was caught by police exceeding the 80kmh speed limit by 101kmh on Avalon Drive on December 18, last year.

He was sentenced on a charge of operating a vehicle in an unnecessary exhibition of speed or acceleration after earlier pleading guilty in the Hamilton District Court yesterday.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Steven Bell said aggravating the situation was the fact his two siblings – a brother aged 25 and a sister aged 15 – were in the car with him.

He urged Judge Rosemary Riddell to issue a disqualification from driving.

“We can’t condone those speeds … he’s the second person to be caught out there doing those speeds.”

He also had other driving convictions, including drink-driving, sustained loss of traction and driving while disqualified.

My first reaction was outrage that he has kept his licence, despite driving 101 km over the limit was a 15 year old in the car. His previous convictions make it worse.

However, Prendergast’s counsel Gina Jenkins successfully argued for him to be able to keep his licence.

Jenkins said her client had successfully completed the Right Track Programme, which gives driving offenders the chance to see the consequences of their actions, and needed his for work.

If he couldn’t keep his licence, he would also lose his job, she said.

Prendergast didn’t qualify for a limited licence.

Jenkins said disqualification from driving would also affect his family as Prendergast was the sole bread winner for his wife and three children. He had also sold the RX7.

Judge Riddell said she felt the police had focused purely on Prendergast’s actions at the time and not the work he had done since.

Judge Riddell was also impressed at his speech upon graduating the Right Track course in which he said prior to this incident he’d never thought about the possibility of crashing, and “the clearer the road, the faster I would go”.

“It’s clear from your speech that it has been brought home to you of just what speed can do,” Judge Riddell said.

It’s a line call, but I can see why they didn’t want him losing his job. I hope he takes the chance the Judge has given him. My view is that he gets caught doing dangerous driving again, then he should face losing his liberty, not just his license.

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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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Driving tests for tourists will never happen

July 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse says he will not rule out making tourists sit a driving test before letting them get behind the wheel on New Zealand roads.

But for now, road safety authorities will focus on improving driving in the Queenstown region, where the rate of crashes involving foreign drivers is disproportionately high.

Speaking at the National Party annual conference in Wellington yesterday, Mr Woodhouse said stricter measures for overseas visitors such as making them sit a test before hiring a rental car were being considered.

The minister was responding to a 31,000-signature petition presented to him last week by 10-year-old Sean Roberts, from Geraldine.

Sean proposed driving tests for foreigners after his father was killed by a visiting student motorist when he was riding a motorbike on the Lindis Pass, near Wanaka, in 2012.

Driving tests for tourists will never happen. I know of no country on earth that does this. It would kill a lot of tourism dead. Who would come to a country where there is a risk you might be not allowed to drive?

What I would support is testing New Zealanders more than once in forty years. Just because you passed a test at 16 does not mean at 30 you still remember it all.

I think we should have to resit our practical tests say every ten years.

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Safe Wellington

March 27th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

NZTA have published a list of the top 100 high risk intersections.

Wellington’s most dangerous intersection is only at 32 nationally – SH1 and Victoria Street at the Inner City Bypass.

Next at 43 is corner of Courtenay Place and Taranaki Street.

86 is corner of Ghuznee Street and Cuba Street.

Overall pretty good for a major city.

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I suspect they don’t live in rural areas

March 16th, 2014 at 5:44 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Several groups including the Salvation Army and Alcohol Healthwatch said that New Zealand should set a long-term goal of banning any drinking before driving.

Which may work for people who live close to bars, but would mean people in country areas could never go out to dinner and have a wine with dinner.

Personally I think it is silly to say that it should be a criminal offence to drive after having a glass of wine with dinner.

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Should tourists have to get a drivers licence?

March 13th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

South Canterbury nine-year-old Sean Roberts is fighting to have New Zealand law changed, preventing tourists from driving on our roads without passing a driving test.

His motive is to save other families from the anguish he suffered after a tourist crashed into his dad, Grant Roberts, killing him, in November 2012.

The 43-year-old was on his motorbike. He was returning from the Burt Munro Challenge in Invercargill in a convoy of bikes.

They were travelling north when Roberts and Dennis Michael Pederson, 54, of Tauranga, collided with a southbound Nissan vehicle on State Highway 8, in the Lindis Pass. Both men died at the scene.

Chinese student Kejia Zheng, 20, was disqualified from driving for two years and ordered to pay $10,000 in emotional harm payments for causing the death of the two men and injuring two other people in the crash.

Zheng, who had arrived in New Zealand only the day before the crash, hit gravel on the side of the road and over-corrected, causing the crash.

It’s good to see young Sean trying to make a difference and advocate to try and prevent what happened to his family, happening again.

However I’m not sure that it would be practical to ban tourists from driving without a NZ licence. The likely impact would be a massive drop in tourists coming to NZ. We’d be the only country in the world that requires someone with a valid overseas licence, to sit an exam or test to be able to drive as a tourist.

If we did this, it is quite possible other countries would impose the same requirement on NZers.

So I understand the intent, but I don’t think a change is practical.

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10 unusual driving laws

March 8th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports on 10 unusual driving laws.

  1. Don’t eat while driving in Cyprus
  2. BYOB (bring your own breathalyser) in France
  3. Keep your car clean in Russia
  4. Don’t run out of fuel on Germany’s Autobahn
  5. Use your headlights 24 hours a day in Sweden
  6. Don’t shake your fist at other drivers in Cyprus
  7. Carry an extra pair of glasses while driving in Spain
  8. Don’t ride with a drunk driver in Japan
  9. Don’t drive blindfolded in Alabama
  10. Have a beer while driving in Costa Rica

The no blindfolded driving is my favourite.

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Should the Government ban sexy pedestrians?

March 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Are sexy pedestrians just too distracting? Or are your kids driving you mad at the wheel?

You’re not alone. They are among the top distractions found in a UK survey of 1500 drivers by IAM and Vision Critical.

Children (29 per cent), changing the stereo (27 per cent), back-seat drivers (26 per cent), the satnav (15 per cent) and attractive pedestrians, drivers or passengers (14 per cent) were rated the things which most took attention away from the road.

The Government banned the use of non hands-free cellphones in cars because they were deemed a distraction. Logically they should also ban sexy pedestrians from sidewalks in case they too cause car crashes.

This might seem unfair to sexy pedestrians, but just as one can still use a cellphone if it is hands-free, they would still be allowed out in public so long as they are covered up.

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Cycling safety

January 13th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Having had friends suffer some horrific injuries while cycling, I’ve been reluctant to buy a bike for use around Wellington, as we have so few cycle lanes and pretty narrow roads.

You shudder when you read reports of collisions between vehicles and bikes, because the vehicle driver merely gets a nasty shock while the cyclist can get broken bones, maimed or killed.

But some cyclists can do more to be safer. The Herald reports:

Cyclists accounted for 60 per cent of red-light runners surveyed at four Auckland intersections, the city’s transport authority has revealed.

Car drivers were responsible for 37 per cent of 360 red-light breaches observed by Auckland Transport, and buses, trucks and one motorcycle made up the balance.

The survey was taken nine months ago, and used by Auckland Transport to formulate safety messages aimed at encouraging all road users to obey red lights, but was not publicised at the time.

Cyclists are 2% of road users so making up 60% of red light runners is a massive over-representation.

She referred to a presentation by a senior Auckland Transport official which won an accolade at an engineering conference, noting many instances of red-light running by cyclists were left-hand turns or motivated by riders wanting to get a head-start on other vehicles for safety reasons.

“Overall, cyclists’ red-light running is a relatively infrequent and safe behaviour,” corridor and centre plans team leader Daniel Newcombe said in the presentation.

Among recommendations he made to the Institution of Professional Engineers’ transport group conference was for cyclists to be allowed to turn left on red lights, while treating the manoeuvre as a “give way” and assessing the risk to pedestrians.

The trouble with doing that is noted here:

Police believe John Tangiia, 37, was probably freewheeling down Parnell Rise on Tuesday before turning left into Stanley St and colliding with a truck which appeared to have a green light while crossing the intersection from The Strand.

Personally I think turn left on red if safe is worth investigating as a law change for all road users, not just cyclists.

Despite the concern about last week’s death, which remains under police investigation, he noted a 64 per cent reduction in serious cycling injuries in Auckland in 2012 compared with 2011 – from 51 to 18.

Always good to have some hard data. Wellington had 33 serious injuries which reinforces to me how cycle unfriendly most of Wellington is.

The Ministry of Transport has some interesting data on cycling injuries. In terms of Police reported crashes with injuries the numbers have been basically declining from a recent high of 895 in 2008 to 783 in 2011. The low point was 559 in 2000 and it increased most of the eight years in between. If we go further back it was 1054 in 1990 and declines for ten years in a row until 2000.

Of course the better data would be number of injuries per x hours spent cycling.

MOT reports that cyclists had fault in just 37% of crashes and primary fault in just 23%.

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Almost three million views

January 10th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

This road safety ad by the NZ Transport Agency has gone viral with almost three million views. An excellent ad, and much better use of resources than their billboard campaign to remind people that they share the road with others.

It’s had 2.9 million views online in less than a week, so has obviously struck a chord.

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Unpaid speeding fines

November 15th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Drivers who refuse to pay speeding fines will have their licence confiscated – sometimes on the side of the road – and possibly lose their car under changes due in months.

From February, the Justice Ministry will ramp up efforts to recoup more than $200 million in outstanding traffic fines, most for speeding.

It will issue Driver Licence Stop Orders as a last resort to people who repeatedly ignore warning notices or court orders.

Any person found driving in breach of one of the orders will have their car impounded for 28 days.

Associate Justice Minister Chester Borrows said in some cases people would have to surrender their licence on the side of the road if police detected an order was in place.

He said the measure would apply only to people who ignored repeated 28-day deadlines for fines.

“You’ve got about four months from the time you’ve been stopped and given a ticket to pay. That’s not bad, and that’s interest-free credit.”

I don’t think that is unreasonable.

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Should be jailed

October 2nd, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A former Christchurch man with more than 158 convictions, including 11 for driving while disqualified, drove at more than three times the speed limit in a residential area while children played, a court has heard.

Howard David Braithwaite, 41, who recently moved to Nelson, has been sentenced in the Nelson District Court for dangerous driving and for driving while disqualified for the 12th time.

Police said that about 9am on January 12, they received calls from residents of Dunns Ave, near the Pines Beach, north of Christchurch.

Braithwaite was driving an unregistered, unwarranted Holden about 100kmh in a 30kmh zone. He drove around the small streets at that speed, skidding at every corner.

Lucky to not be facing manslaughter.

Residents were on the footpath, and several children were playing near the road, police said.

One resident followed Braithwaite in an attempt to get him to stop, but he braked the car suddenly, and the resident collided into the rear of the car.

Police found Braithwaite at his house a short time afterwards. He had changed his shirt in an attempt to confuse them regarding his identity and told them he had been home at the time of the offending.

He failed a breath test, but passed a subsequent evidential test.

Not sure if it is better or worse than he was not totally pissed.

Judge Richard Russell said Braithwaite had 15 pages of previous convictions, accumulated between 1989 and 2012.

Among these were 11 previous convictions for driving while disqualified, 20 convictions for other driving offences, and more than 80 other convictions.

It was by “a very fine margin indeed” that he had decided on home detention, Judge Russell said.

He sentenced Braithwaite to six months home detention, 150 hours of community work, and disqualified him from driving for 18 months.

I’d be thinking a lifetime disqualification from driving and 18 months inside! How long until he kills someone?

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Blazed

September 18th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The latest road safety video has had 450,000 views on You Tube.

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Should you need a license to buy a car?

April 14th, 2013 at 9:08 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A top police officer is calling for unlicensed drivers to be banned from buying vehicles after a horror motorcycle death last week.

Nazareth Joshua Taulagaua, 28, died a week ago when he smashed his motorcycle into a stone wall in the Auckland suburb of Mt Roskill.

Taulagaua owned a powerful, 800cc Honda VFR 800F.

Road policing manager for Auckland, Inspector Gavin Macdonald, said speed was a factor but it was also significant Taulagaua did not have a motorcycle licence.

Macdonald said there needed to be a change in the law which let Taulagaua buy a motorcycle 140cc more powerful than he could buy on a learner or restricted licence.

“I suspect there’d be a lot of motorcycle riders who don’t have a licence and I don’t think you should be able to buy a vehicle, car or motorcycle, if you don’t have a licence.

On the surface, seems a good idea.

Ministry of Transport spokesman Brenden Crocker said a law change had been considered.

“The main reason for not recommending legislative change has been because such a requirement could disadvantage people who want to own a car so as to maintain their mobility but may be unable to drive, for example, the elderly or infirm who may get someone else to drive for them.

“Arguably this situation is less applicable to motorcycle ownership, however it is the safety and competence of drivers and riders that is the paramount issue.”

I think you could work around the problem cited, by having some sort of exemption regime.

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The Press on open road speed limits

April 1st, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

For as long as many people can remember, the open-road speed limit for driving in this country has not changed. It has not increased significantly since the late 1960s when it was raised, under the old imperial system, from 55 miles per hour to 60mph – the equivalent of 96kmh, so not significantly different than the 100kmh that applies today on highways and motorways.

Umm, that is missing out a big chunk of history. The open road limit may have been 60 miles per hours, but in 1973 due to oil shocks, it dropped to 80 km/hr or 50 miles/hr.

It was only in 1986 it went to 100 km/hr.

So far from the open road limit rarely changing, the changes have been:

  • 1962 – from 50 mph to 55 mph
  • 1969 – from 55 mph to 60 mph
  • 1973 – from 60 mph to 50 mph or 80 kmh
  • 1986 – from 80 kmh to 100 kmh

Consider the cars that Kiwis were driving when the speed limit was last raised.

There is a world of difference between the engineering and safety standards of 21st-century cars and the likes of the Morris Minor, the original Mini, the Ford Cortina, the Holden Kingswood, the Rover 2000 and the Hillman Imp. Road engineering, too, has improved during those decades. Seen in this context, a proposal to raise the limit by only 10kmh on a relatively small number of top roads can be seen as very modest.

The difference in car safety and engineering is massive.

The speed limit is a maximum, not a target, and the rules – so often observed mainly in the breach – state that people should drive at a speed under the limit that is appropriate to the road, traffic, weather and other conditions.

If the speed limit is increased on engineered motorways, this should not be taken as an indication to drive at 110km on the open road or rural highways, where a 110kmh speed limit would not be appropriate.

Yep – drive the the conditions. Sometimes that will be 110 km/h and sometimes 70 km/h.

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A stupid editorial

March 30th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The HoS Herald editorial:

You have to hand it to the National Road Safety Committee. These public servants don’t conceal their view that the Cabinet needs to lower blood-alcohol limits for drivers. While the politicians wait, inexplicably, for research on safety gains of lowering the adult alcohol limit from 80 to 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, the committee pulls no punches.

The HoS and Herald has been running a campaign for over a year demanding the Government do what it says, and not complete its research. To have a hysterical editorial saying that it is inexplicable they are waiting for research speaks for itself.

They also mischaracterise what the research is. It is not research into whether there would be safety gains from lowering the blood alcohol limit to 50. You don’t need research to tell you that. There would also be safety gains from lowering it to zero. There would be safety gains from dropping the speed limit to 20 km/hr.

What the hysterical HoS demands the Government  not find out is how much of an impact a lower limit would have, and what the cost would be – ie how many people legally drive at an 50 to 80 level, and would be criminalised for doing so in the future.

If you claim there is no need to know this data, then why is 50 the right level to go to? Why not 60? Why not 40?

Its latest Safer Journeys report says: “Any level of alcohol increases driving errors, and affects alertness, skill and judgments … we need the adult legal breath-alcohol concentration limits to better reflect the risk that alcohol poses to all road users and communities.”

Of course any level of alcohol increases risk. Just as any level of speed increases risk.

The committee has leapfrogged the research project – an excuse for inaction by former Transport Minister Steven Joyce – and suggested a new solution: variable limits for types of drivers. While those under 20 already face a zero limit, the committee proposes new levels “lower than the default” for those with drink-drive convictions, commercial licences, in different adult age bands and with existing demerit points.

Not a bad idea. Worth considering.

It is worth looking at the blood alcohol levels in over 25 year old drivers who are fatally injured. In 2011 it was:

  • None – 36
  • 0 to 30 – 68
  • 31 to 50 – 3
  • 51 – 80 – 2
  • 81 to 100 – 2
  • 100 to 150 – 3
  • 150 to 250 – 20
  • 250+ 15

I’m yet to be convinced drivers in the 51 to 80 range are the problem.

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A good Coroner’s recommendation

February 20th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has backed a coroner’s call to make prisoners serve their driving bans after they are freed, not while they are still in jail.

Coroner Garry Evans’ recommendation is contained in his report into the death of a young woman in a car crash caused by a paroled criminal who was on a witness protection programme at the time.

Debbie Ashton, 20, died when repeat driving offender Jonathan Barclay, a former P addict, smashed into her car while speeding and drunk, near Nelson in December 2006.

Barclay has twice served out driving bans while in prison for more serious offending. Both times he has gone on to crash into other people.

Seems like a no brainer to me.

In a statement last night, Mr Brownlee said he had asked officials from the justice and transport ministries to look into the recommendation. Any change would require an amendment to legislation, which meant it would have to be put before Parliament.

Will the Greens oppose it as they could argue it punishes the criminal twice?

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Herald on WOF changes

January 29th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The reaction of motor industry lobbyists suggests the Government’s changes to the warrant of fitness system are as radical as they are ill-considered. Far from it. The new rules are the least extreme of the options that were considered, and remain more stringent than those in many comparable countries. They also represent a reasonable balance between safety, the prime consideration, and cost savings. In sum, the Government has acted appropriately in responding to the great improvements in vehicle safety since six-monthly inspections were introduced in the 1930s.

It is a good point that the rules actually remain more stringent than most countries.

Change, however, is necessary. There is no reason New Zealand motorists should have to endure more frequent warrant of fitness checks than their counterparts overseas. Once, in the days of high import costs, this country’s car fleet was noticeably aged and, therefore, more prone to defects that could result in serious accidents. But two things have happened. First, our fleet now bears a far greater resemblance to those overseas in terms of age. Second, cars have become far more reliable. Frequent inspections are not a panacea. The number of accidents linked to vehicle faults here is the same as in other countries at about 2.5 per cent – or 0.5 per cent where they are the only cause. Liquor and speed are far greater factors.

This is the key point. Our problems are that NZ roads are generally pretty crappy and people driving too fast for the conditions. The accident rate due to car defects is extremely low.

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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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Speed limits

January 17th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Jamie Morton at NZ Herald reports:

A quarter of us are driving above the speed limit on the open road.

The Ministry of Transport’s 2012 Speed Survey, released exclusively to the Herald, shows the percentage of motorists exceeding the speed limit on the open road dropped from 31 per cent in 2011 to 25 per cent last year.

That would appear to be a good thing.

More relevant is where the speeding has occurred  There are some open roads where 110 km/hr is safe as houses and some where going over 70 km/hr is certifiable.

But while drivers may be easing off the throttle, police and officials have no plans to slow down their war against speeding.

Of course not.

Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the Government would this year push ahead with new anti-speeding initiatives he could not yet reveal.

I hope they are well targeted, such as focusing on areas with high accident rates.

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Five year limit on learner and restricted licenses

January 11th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Sam Boyer at Dom Post reports:

A time limit restricting novice drivers from holding their learner and restricted licences for too long is set to be introduced.

The Government plans to change the law by 2015 so that learner and restricted drivers will be obliged to gain their full licence within five years, or be forced to resit tests, Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced yesterday.

At present, drivers can remain on their learner or restricted licences indefinitely, having to update their licence card only once a decade.

Currently, 37 per cent of learner drivers have held their licences for more than six years, as well as 32 per cent of restricted drivers. Three drivers in the country have held their learner licences for 25 years or more.

“The Government intends to limit learner and restricted licence periods to five years to encourage drivers to move through the . . . system,” Mr Bridges said.

“The [system] never intended drivers to stay on a learner or restricted licence indefinitely. What these drivers need to do is demonstrate their skills and competence and graduate to a full licence in a reasonable time.”

Seems reasonable to me. You don’t want people staying on a learner license for ever.

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Compulsory helmets for quad bikes

January 7th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The industry guidelines are not, of course, a legal requirement. That, in itself, may be reinforcing a cavalier attitude. Coroners, in voicing their safety concerns, have suggested the likes of full or partial roll bars and laps belts, as well as making the guidelines a matter of legal compulsion. The practicality and impact of roll bars have been disputed by farmers. They may have a point, but the circumstances of the Hawkes Bay accident reinforce the case for the compulsory use of safety helmets and preventing those under 15 from riding them.

Ashlee Petrowski’s plight should prompt the Government to investigate whether the industry guidelines should become mandatory. Such an intrusive step should not be taken lightly. Quad bikes are a vital tool on farms. But accidents will continue as long as there is a lax attitude towards safety. Last year’s toll indicates that education programmes have not been a total success in altering attitudes and dangerous practices.

Recklessness remains a concern. So, too, does the impact of stress and fatigue from working long hours, which the police have identified as a cause of some quad-bike crashes. Whatever the reason, there seems, increasingly, to be little reason for rural areas to be exempt from urban safety standards.

Applying the rules of the road, to private land is a huge intrusion. And as awful as the injuries are to young Ashlee, I’m sorry but can you just imagine farmers being forced to drive around their own properties wearing helmets. Will never ever happen!

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Tourist road crashes

January 3rd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports with a headline:

Road risks in spotlight as tourists tally 400 crashes

Sounds bad. But in the story:

Overseas drivers were involved in more than 400 crashes on New Zealand roads last year, and failure to keep left, poor handling and fatigue the leading causes of deadly crashes.

The number is down on previous years – in line with a wider trend of a reducing death toll on New Zealand roads – but the number of foreign drivers involved in multi-victim crashes has prompted calls for tourists to make themselves familiar with the country’s “unique driving challenges”.

Three American tourists were killed in a crash near Turangi in May, and four Argentines died in a head-on crash in July in the central North Island.

 So the concern is over a crash in May and a crash in July. Now all avoidable crashes are lamentable, but are two multi-victim crashes involving foreign drivers significant? What I would like to know is how many multi-victim crashes there are a year, and what the rate of such crashes is per number of drivers (local and foreign) or even better per number of kms driven.

Downward trend
Overseas drivers and accidents

2012: 406 accidents, 15 fatal

2011: 559 accidents, 15 fatal

2010: 617 accidents, 20 fatal

2009: 704 accidents, 21 fatal

A reduction in accidents from 704 to 406 would seem to be a cause for celebration. Now the article said this is in line with an overall reduction in the road toll. But are they dropping at the same rate. Let’s look at the number of overall crashes.

The number of accidents by tourists dropped 42% over three years. The number of total accidents from 2009 to 2011 (2012 data not yet out but the road toll suggests not lower than 2011) dropped from 11,125 to 9,804 or 11.8%.

Another way to look at it is in 2009, foreign drivers were involved in 6.3% of road crashes, dropping to 5.7% in 2011 and if total crashes in 2012 is same as 2011, dropping further to 4.1%.

What I’d find interesting again is what proportion of drivers are foreign or tourists? If it is more than 4.1% then that may suggest they are safer drivers than NZers!

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Let’s ban chips in cars!

December 18th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Cassandra Mason at NZ Herald reports:

A young man who was killed when his car left the road and crashed into a tree was eating chips and dip at the time of the crash, a coroner has found.

I expect the Government to now ban the eating of chips in cars. Or maybe it was the dip?

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More on WOF checks

December 13th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Clive Matthew-Wilson writes at Stuff:

The proposed changes to the vehicle licensing laws are a case in point. According to the Government, most of the changes involve stretching out the period between warrants of fitness (WOFs) from six to 12 months.

Sounds good. The government geeks assured us there would be no safety compromises as a result. Beware of geeks bearing gifts.

No, they never said there would be no compromise. They said the benefits probably do not exceed the costs.

Despite a glowing endorsement of the Government’s plans by the AA (which is the beneficiary of several lucrative government contracts), the best independent research suggests the average motorist will save very little and might lose a lot.

A ridiculous attack on the AA. The AA has battled Governments on many many issues they disagree with.  To suggest they are not impartial is a classic attacking the man, not the ball. Add to that the mischaracterisation of what the Government has said, and he is off to a bad start.

A recent independent report by Australia’s Monash University, contradicts many of the claims by the Government and the AA.

The report concluded that extending the WOF period from six to 12 months is likely to increase the road death toll by between 1.3 deaths and 25.6 deaths per year. Monash also predicts injury accidents might increase by between 16 and 325 per year.

Not the selective cherry-picking. He overlooks the actual conclusion from Monash. The report is here.

In terms of the cost-effectiveness of the New Zealand WoF scheme as a whole, we placed the known costs of the scheme to the motorist as one side of the cost-benefit equation and then estimated the necessary benefits to equal these costs, represented by Figure 10. The benefits started to exceed the costs only when the drop in crash rate associated with the scheme reached 12%. This is evidently quite a demandingly high level of injury reduction. It is unlikely from the literature and from the rate of fault detection in the NZ WoF scheme that 12% of crashes can even be considered to be caused by mechanical defects, let alone able to be prevented by periodic inspection and repairs.

So Monash said that six monthly WOF checks are only cost effective if they reduce the crash rate by 12%.

Now recall that mechanical defects are implicated in only 2.5% of vehicle crashes and are the sole cause in only 0.4% and you see that there is no way the six monthly checks reduce the road toll by 12%.

So Monash concluded:

Despite these safety benefits estimated, the costs to the motorist of the 6-monthly inspections over and above the annual inspections were estimated to be considerable. This means that the 6-monthly inspections compared to annual inspections were not considered to be cost-effective.

But Matthew-Wilson said:

The Monash report found: “[changing the period for WOFs from six months to 12 months is] not considered to be cost effective”. In other words, there will be little or no saving from the changes.

That is the exact opposite of what they found. Go read the report for yourself.

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