Match speeds to risk

May 22nd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The speed limit on any road should be appropriate to its design and condition, not the subject of a default 100km/h setting. Therefore, a good case can be made for increasing the limit on many of the country’s motorways to 110km/h. And so, too, and even more strongly, can a case be made for lowering it on many of our two-lane rural roads. The latter are, after all, the scene of a high proportion of the fatal and serious crashes in New Zealand every year.

Such was not the case last weekend when 10 people died on the roads. But that did not diminish the good sense in the call by road policing chief Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff for some rural roads to have lower speed limits. He was reacting not to one bad weekend but to a problem that has been apparent for years and has not been tackled effectively.

As Mr Cliff suggests, many country roads, especially those with winding stretches, are simply not designed to be travelled at 100km/h. Many drivers do not have the skills or the required concentration to traverse them with a high degree of safety.

Best international practice, said Mr Cliff, would dictate that the limit should be 70 to 80km/h. At that speed, the chances of a crash being survivable would be much increased.

Some roads such as the Rimutaka Hill Road are very dangerous to do at 100 km/hr. Same with the road to Makara. Likewise many roads are safe for modern cars at 110 or 120 km/hr. I’m all for road speed limits being set based on the characteristics of each individual road.

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Overseas driver crash data

March 25th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

To try to find out, we compared the percentage of fatal and serious crashes where overseas drivers were at fault with the percentage of all New Zealand vehicles that were rental cars driven by tourists.

The analysis found that overseas drivers show up in crash numbers during the tourist season at about nine times the rate they show up on the road.

This is slightly useful data, but limited.

The better comparison would be crash rates per million kms travelled.

Many NZ drivers only use their car for driving to work, so drive perhaps 10 kms a day, and at relatively slow speeds which almost by default can not result in a serious or fatal accident.

On the other hand tourists may be driving 200 to 300 kms a day, on open roads.

I suspect that even if you adjust for this, the tourist crash rate would be higher. The better you know the roads you drive on, the safer you tend to be.

However I doubt it would be anything as dramatic as the 9:1 the Press has calculated.

Comparing crash rates for people driving from one end of NZ to the other, with people driving across town to work is not that useful.


Who created the vigilantes?

March 6th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

New Zealanders are not vigilantes by nature. When they start taking the law into their own hands, something is seriously wrong. A spate of accidents involving tourist drivers this summer has led to several incidents in which South Island residents have stopped drivers and confiscated their keys. The first two, at Franz Josef on Monday of last week and near Lindis Pass last month, were relatively innocuous and the vigilantes feel they did the responsible thing, handing in the keys at the nearest police station.

But the police expressed concern at where this sort of citizens’ arrest could lead and last Friday in Greymouth, their concerns were realised. A motorist signalled the visitor to pull over on the town’s Main South Rd and punched him in the face as he seized the keys of the rental car. Police said the tourist had moved to the right and moved back left in a manoeuvre that did not amount to dangerous driving.

The driver suffered bruising to his eye, his female passenger was shaken and police are seeking their assailant.

If every citizen could be trusted to act only when they had good cause and to do so with restraint, such actions could be applauded. But any unauthorised infringement of the rights of others is likely to give people of poor judgment the idea that they have a licence to do so. That is why observers of dangerous driving should confine their actions to a *555 call to the police.

While the authorities warn against vigilantism though, they must be concerned that it reflects a real problem on our roads.

Or maybe the vigilantism is because some media have spent the last few months running high profile stories about every driving accident involving a tourist, while giving almost no publicity to those that do not. Is it a surprise that after months of media scare-mongering, that some NZers become vigilantes?

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Driving test success rate by regions

March 5th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff has details of the success rate for passing the restricted licence test by region. In order they are:

  1. Otago/Southland 69%
  2. Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman 65%
  3. Northland 65%
  4. Waikato/BoP 59%
  5. Manawatu/Wanganui 57%
  6. Gisborne/Hawkes Bay 56%
  7. Canterbury/West Coast 55%
  8. Wellington/Wairarapa 54%
  9. Auckland 49%
  10. Taranaki 48%

Interesting that there is such a large variation.

I’m not sure if they record this, but it would be interesting to also see the data broken down by age, gender and ethnicity. I suspect females have a higher pass rate, but could be wrong.


Little supports zero tolerance for speeding

January 14th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little labelled the review “flakey”.

Police needed time to investigate the circumstances of each accident, before leaping to any conclusions, he said. 

“[For Woodhouse] to go onto a talk-back show and get roasted and decide you are going to do something then it looks, frankly, just a little bit flakey to me,” Little said.

“If there is a debate about whether there should be a more varied range of speed limits – some open roads can accommodate 110km per hour and some can’t – that is a separate debate and we should have that at some point.

“But I am a little bit uncomfortable about this climbing into the police for enforcing the speed limits.”

Little backed police, saying he saw no problem in  “sending a signal when you know that there are peak travel times, saying that you are going to strictly enforce the law.”

So Labour’s policy is that you should be ticketed for driving at 101km/hr in a 100 km/hr zone if it is a holiday period!

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Looks like zero tolerance to no longer be tolerated

January 13th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse announced:

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse has asked New Zealand Police to undertake a review of the public messages that underpinned the 2014/15 Summer Road Safety campaign.

“While I firmly support Police’s zero tolerance for poor driving behaviour that can lead to death and injury on our roads, I also support the application of discretion as articulated in the 4kph summer tolerance used in fixed speed cameras and the vast majority of mobile devices,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“I have received considerable public feedback that the speed tolerance message was confusing which has led to some strong public opinions.


Considerable public feedback that the public don’t like having to check their speedos every 30 seconds to check they’re not 1 km/hr over the limit.

Good to see the Government listen to the public on this. Would have been better if they had told the Police early on it was a bad idea.

“While this is very much an operational matter for Police, I will be taking a close interest in ensuring the message about road safety is clear and unambiguous.

I predict the Police will reach the same conclusion as the Minister, and decide to get rid of the zero tolerance policy. If not, then they need a bollocking.

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Herald on speed tolerance

January 7th, 2015 at 6:38 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Speed, however, has remained a vexed issue. Hence there has been a progressive lowering of the police’s tolerance, culminating in the zero tolerance policy. This has been criticised by many motorists. Some of their complaints are lame. Those who say it has resulted in them spending too much time with their eyes on their speedometers betray a fundamental lack of driving ability. Nonetheless, it is clear that the police must re-examine where they are enforcing the policy.

The Automobile Association is right when it suggests a focus on drivers doing just over the limit on safe urban motorways is not the best strategy. The scrutiny, it said, should be on speeding in higher-risk areas. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, motorways are, by and large, relatively safe, so much so that the speed limit may soon be raised to 110km/h on some of them. Secondly, there is no point in alienating generally good motorists who are caught slightly over the speed limit in such areas.


The Automobile Association was also on the right track when it suggested there should be an increased number of median barriers on highways. These, whether concrete, semi-rigid or cable, are not cheap. But they appeal as a means of curtailing the number of head-on crashes involving overseas tourists. The outcome of these impacts is generally more serious than other types of collisions. Improving the country’s roads in this manner offers the most rational response to what has become a notable problem.

I wonder what the impact on road safety would be if say 90% of the money that went on speed cameras and policing of the roads, was redirected to improving our current roads?

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No more tolerance

November 28th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Anyone exceeding the speed limit this summer can expect to be pulled over, regardless of whether there’s a 4kmh speed tolerance.

The warning comes as police move towards zero tolerance of speeding after a successful campaign last summer when fatalities dropped 22 per cent.

“Anything over the limit is speeding and anyone speeding can expect to be pulled over,” police assistant commissioner, road policing, Dave Cliff said

Yes we must target those criminals driving at 101 km/hr. Disgraceful people.

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110 km/hr makes sense

November 25th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government is warming to the idea of a 110kmh speed limit on the best roads – and has confirmed it is under serious consideration for several new motorways, including Transmission Gully.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said he would be open to discussions about raising the present 100kmh limit if the New Zealand Transport Agency felt there was a good case for it.

Ernst Zollner, the agency’s road safety director, confirmed yesterday it had been “mulling the idea for a good year at a strategic level”, after research from Monash University in Melbourne suggested it could be done without increasing the risk to motorists.

A 110kmh limit was being considered for motorways built as part of the Government’s roads of national significance programme, provided they were flat, straight, had two lanes in each direction, a median barrier and good shoulder space.

Candidates included the Transmission Gully motorway and Kapiti Expressway in the Wellington region, the Waikato Expressway, the Tauranga Eastern Link and the Northern Gateway toll road north of Auckland, Zollner said.


If we have good enough roads, such as the ones above, then 110 km/hr is a more sensible limit.

Australia and Canada have motorway limits of 110kmh, while Britain’s is 70mph, or about 113kmh.

And speed limits in the US are as high as 130 km/hr in some states. France is up to 130 km/hr, Germany has no limit.


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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.


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.


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.


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.


10 unusual driving laws

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


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.


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.


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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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.


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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