Smartphones while driving

May 25th, 2016 at 1:14 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

For years the government has fought to keep cellphones away from drivers, but now it wants to put mobiles back into motoring.

The government will review transport law this year with an eye to ensuring drivers can use smartphones to access safety information.

The aim is to make driving safer, but in reality it could be like letting addicts have their favourite drug within easy reach, a road safety group says.

So whichever group is talking hysterically like that we can ignore.

Ministry of Transport spokeswoman Fran Lovell said the smartphone initiative was one of four “key actions” to cut deaths and serious injuries.

“Smartphones have the ability to interact with the driver without the driver having to physically operate them.

“For example, they can give audible feedback to prompt safer speed or correct lane use.”

She said the transport agencies believed smartphones were the best way to give real-time safety information to road users.

I use Google Maps all the time when driving. It advises me the fastest route and how to avoid congestion. It also indicates where traffic is slow.

Caroline Perry, director for road safety charity Brake, said phones should be switched off, or on silent and completely out of reach.

I don’t think anyone switches their phone off when they get in the car.

The decision to embrace smartphones comes after warnings about their use from the very agencies involved in the review.

A Ministry of Transport report released last September, titled Diverted Attention, said distracted drivers – including drivers on cellphones – accounted for about 12 per cent of all crashes in 2014.

Note that they don’t say what proportion of the 12% were distracted by cellphones.

Vision tests for licenses

April 25th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Blink and you won’t miss it – eyesight tests could be dropped from driver’s licence renewals under proposals that aim to push licensing online.

The Ministry of Transport has proposed a one-off vision test for drivers when they first apply. For renewals, people would simply have to declare they can see properly.

Eyesight testing for licence renewals has been controversial. The majority of people who fail the tests are later told by their optometrists that their vision is fine for driving.

Studies done for the ministry have found there are few safety benefits from frequent eye tests, and a discussion paper said the changes could save up to $13.7 million over the next two decades, mainly through cutting time spent travelling to licensing agents.

The studies found people who failed vision tests and were forced to wear glasses were no safer on the roads than before they failed. People with undiagnosed eyesight problems were at no more risk of crashing.

“The studies, which suggest there is no discernible road safety benefit from the current frequency of vision testing, are one input into the decision-making process,” ministry communications team leader Lesley Reidy said.

Most people with bad vision know it, and get glasses. You certainly can be unaware your eyesight has deteriorated, but it has to be pretty bad for it to affect your driving. As they say, the research is that the vision tests do not improve road safety.

However, optometrist Jack Crawford questioned those studies, and said vision safety should not be sacrificed for a more convenient system, “especially when the science behind it isn’t that strong”.

Hmmn, who makes money from vision tests?


* The proposal would require people renewing their licences to declare they are not aware their vision has deteriorated since their last renewal, or that any deterioration is being managed by glasses or contact lenses.

* This would not apply for commercial licences, and people over 75 who would still need vision checks through the medical fitness process.

Keeping them for over 75s is sensible.

Drink drive limits

November 10th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have been accused of “scaring” motorists over the lower drink-driving limit, with suggestions people should avoid even a sip of the hard stuff.

Hospitality New Zealand has published a “rule of thumb” drinking-then-driving guide that will soon be placed in most bars and pubs in the country.

The guide, which has approval from government science agency ESR, recommends no more than three standard drinks over two hours for men, and two standard drinks over two hours for women.

It comes with caveats, such as how much and what types of foods you have been eating, and your size.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson said the organisation was forced to act after police and the New Zealand Transport Agency dragged their heels over publicising how much can be drunk under the new limit, instead suggesting no-one should drink at all.

“Police should be enforcing the limit, not scaring people into drinking less than that,” he said.

“Clearly you can have a couple, and the public needs some clarity about that.”

Robertson hits out a one particular NZTA television advertisement, in which a woman is found over the limit after a couple of drinks at dinner.

“They are saying you have two drinks and you’re over, but our evidence is that just not accurate.”

I do wish the Police would focus on being the criminal Police not the moral Police.

The drink-driving limit was cut from 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg at the beginning of December 2014.

Since then, thousands of people have been caught driving below the old limit, accounting for nearly a third of all drink-driving offences.

The change has also coincided with a 14 per cent drop in the number of people caught with high levels – proof, police say, that the change is saving lives.

That isn’t proof the change is saving lives. That is proof that fewer people are caught with higher levels. It could well be saving lives but to know that one has to look at fatal crash data to see if the number involving alcohol has gone up or down.

In 2014 31 out of 171 dead drivers had blood alcohol over the legal limit. So it will be interesting to see what the 2015 data is, when complete. I hope it will be lower.

Tougher penalties for fleeing drivers

October 26th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Govt has announced:

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse and Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss today announced stronger penalties for fleeing drivers and those who withhold information on fleeing drivers.

“Failure to stop when required by a police officer represents a calculated and deliberate attempt by offenders to evade punishment. They deliberately put the public at risk and too often their actions result in serious consequences,” Mr Woodhouse says.

There are around 2300 fleeing driver incidents every year and in 2014/15 this resulted in 460 crashes, which averages more than one a day.

And the blame for these crashes are with those fleeing, not the Police.

Changes announced today to amend the Land Transport Act 1998 and Sentencing Act 2002 will increase existing mandatory driver licence disqualification periods for failure to stop offences to six months for the first offence, 12 months for the second, and 24 months for third and subsequent offences.

Mandatory vehicle confiscation for second and subsequent failure to stop offences within a four year period will also be introduced, and courts will be given the ability to confiscate an offender’s vehicle for any first offences.


Sounds good.

An e-mail audio device for driving

September 23rd, 2015 at 2:29 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Kiwi company has developed an app that allows drivers to listen to emails at the wheel. Beweb created the free Speaking Email app after director Mike Nelson got frustrated at being unable to safely read emails on his commute from Auckland’s North Shore to the city.

And though he admits drivers shouldn’t have any distractions, he said banning cellphones while driving wasn’t working. Rather than expecting drivers to ignore their phones, apps should be designed with a “safe-driving” mode.

Sounds like a great app. especially if it could do more than just read out e-mails but also do direct messages, maybe even tweets.

National manager of road policing, Superintendent Steve Greally, said anything that took a person’s attention away from the road was a safety risk.

“If someone is concentrating on an email, they are not likely to be giving their full attention to driving.”

True. So we should ban playing music in the car, listening to talkback radio or having passengers as they may talk to you.

A cycling passing law?

September 3rd, 2015 at 6:33 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government is considering a law that would require overtaking drivers to give cyclists up to 1.5 metres of space. 

Associate transport minister Craig Foss has asked officials to look at enforcing a buffer zone. They’ll also examine whether trucks should have “side-under run” devices, which prevent pedestrians and cyclists from slipping under wheels.

The proposals were recommended late last year by the Cycling Safety Panel. A dozen cyclists were killed on New Zealand roads in the past two years.

Ten experts on the panel, including Olympic cycling gold medallist Sarah Ulmer suggested a minimum passing distance of 1-metre where speed limits are 60kmh, and 1.5 metres on faster roads.

This is already law – with fines of up to NZ$400 – in Queensland, Australia.

This sounds pretty sensible to me.

The one area where it could be challenging is some of the steep roads around Wellington, where there simply isn’t room to have 1.5 metres space to pass. Most motorists don’t mind slowing down to cyclist speed until it is safe to pass, when the cyclist speed is 25 km/hr. But when the cyclist speed is 5 km/hr, then you can get some large buildups of traffic behind them.

110 km/hr is sensible for good roads

August 21st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Drivers’ appetite for a 110kmh speed limit is ramping up.

An AA report on attitudes to speed found the number of members who want to increase the open road speed limit to 110kmh has reached a strong majority.

Support for increasing the speed limit on top-rated motorways has risen steadily since 2013, from 44 per cent of members to 71 per cent.

The report was compiled from a number of AA member surveys and polls over the past four years.

A 110kmh limit has been considered for more than a year for motorways built as part of the Government’s Roads of National Significance programme.

The roads that could qualify would be flat, straight, have at least two lanes in each direction, a median barrier and good shoulder space.

They seem like sensible criteria.

The proposed 110kmh speed limit was about as fast as many people could imagine themselves driving, the report found.

AA asked members how fast they would go if there were no speed limits. Men would go as fast as 115kmh, while woman peaked at 105kmh. 

Depends. On a good road with a good car, I find 120 km/hr is a pretty good speed


Fixing Councils’ blunder

July 22nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Up to 25 councils may have forgotten to set speed limits on their roads, meaning tens of thousands of tickets could be invalid.

The Government moved urgently last night to fix the blunder, rushing through a law change to validate the speed limits and any tickets issued since 2004. …

Under law changes made more than 10 years ago, councils were given responsibility for setting speed limits on all roads except those with 100km/h limits.

These included roads outside schools where the speed limit dropped to 20km/h and stretches of highway where drivers were forced to slow down as they passed through townships.

Councils had to review their speed limits every five years or they expired.

So why did 25 Councils not realise this? Surely they must have some system for monitoring regulations that need to be reviewed and renewed?

Not a slur

July 9th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Wellington teenager issued with a motoring ticket from the future has had to fight for five months to avoid paying it in the here and now.

Jack Foot, 19, admits he was in breach of his restricted licence when he was pinged with a $100 fine in Taranaki St for having an unauthorised passenger in his car on January 22.

But the police officer who issued the ticket dated it for October 22, 2015 – which Foot argued should make it invalid.

So there is no doubt he broke the law. The officer just made a date error.

Not yes that may invalidate the ticket, but this doesn’t mean he didn’t break the law, so the sense of indignation below is unwarranted:

But Kate Foot said the apology and waiver was just a start, and she and her son expected more.

“We want the police to co-ordinate the return of Jack’s licence so we are not inconvenienced any more. We expect them to make sure there is no permanent scar on his driving record because, if he wants to get a heavy vehicle driver licence, a slur will put an end to that.

“And since he hasn’t been able to drive since police took his licence away, are they going to give him any reparation?”    

A slur is unwarranted. It is not a slur when he was breaking the law. If he wants a heavy driver licence, then he should not keep racking up demerits. That is his third demerit by the age of 19 which suggests he has a casual regard for the road safety laws.

As for reparation – well no.

Driver merit points

July 7th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Nothing annoys generally well-behaved drivers quite so much as having the traffic rulebook thrown at them for a minor transgression. It offends their notion of fairness and, in the process, erodes their support for the police. The police, for their part, have little option but to issue tickets. Successive governments’ emphasis on lowering the road toll has dictated a low-tolerance approach. It is welcome, therefore, that a way around this unsatisfactory state of affairs may soon surface in the shape of merit points.

The concept will be studied in research about to be initiated by the Transport Agency. It will be part of an analysis of the impact of demerit points since their introduction 22 years ago. The research will ask if they have achieved better driver compliance, whether a merit-based system would be more effective, or whether the two should operate in tandem. Merit points would be gained for the time a motorist has been driving without receiving a ticket. Or they may operate as in Victoria, where tickets can be waived if a driver’s good record is deemed to warrant just a warning.

I think it would be a good thing if Police were once again allowed to use discretion when it comes to ticketing.

Why not ban normal watches also?

July 5th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Road safety campaigners are calling for a ban on the use of wearable technology, including smartwatches, by drivers.

Smartwatches from high-tech giants Samsung, Sony, Motorola and LG – which can be used for calls, texts and calendar notifications – are for sale in New Zealand. Apple is releasing its Apple Watch here later this year.

Laws banning drivers’ use of phones – with an $80 fine and 20 demerit points – do not cover the use of wearable technology.

Caroline Perry, of road safety charity Brake, said the law should be widened, stating motorists using smart technology on their watches while driving should face the same sanctions.

“A second’s inattention at the wheel can result in tragedy,” she said.

Yes it can.

And that second can be looking at the time on a normal watch.

It can be having a drink of water.

It can be checking your makeup in the rear view mirror.

It can be tuning the radio.

So stop advocating for things to be banned while driving, and focus on a general law about distractions.

A New Zealand Police spokesman confirmed the use of wearable technology was not captured by current mobile phone laws.

There were no plans to alter legislation to include the new gadgets, but motorists could potentially be charged with careless driving if they were distracted by using a smartwatch.


Why we don’t test foreign drivers

June 10th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

More than 30,000 signatures was not enough to persuade the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee to listen to Sean and Cody Roberts’ petition calling for compulsory drivers test for foreign drivers.

The Geraldine youngsters, 10 and 9 respectively, collated the petition after their father, Grant Roberts was killed  in 2012 by a Chinese tourist who had been in New Zealand for less than 48 hours. Grant was travelling on a motorcycle through the Lindis Pass when he was killed.

The petition was started because the pair believed their father would still be alive had the driver completed a competency test. The brothers asked for Parliament to consider a change to legislation, so that every foreign driver was to be competency tested before being able to get behind the wheel of a rental vehicle.

The roads would be safer if every foreign driver was required to sit a competence test. Likewise they would safer if every NZ driver had to annually sit a competence test. And they would be safer if no one under the age of 25 was allowed to drive.

The test is how much impact any change would make on road safety, and what would be the impact in other areas.

If people knew that NZ was the only country in the world where tourists are not allowed to drive, unless they sit a competency test, then we’d have a lot fewer tourists.

The Select Committee heard and received evidence from the New Zealand Automobile Association, the Tourist Industry Association New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand and petitioners Sean and Cody Roberts.

However it rejected compulsory testing, noting New Zealand was a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic 1949 which prevented administration of a competency based test to foreign drivers.

Which makes the whole issue rather moot.

Regular driver testing

May 29th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Southland driving instructor is calling for regular re-testing of drivers in a bid to improve road safety, but the Ministry of Transport has ruled out introducing the measure.

DriveTech director Brian Frew said the thought of a person driving for several decades without being required to demonstrate their ability to drive under vastly different conditions was alarming.

Frew, who has more than 45 years of experience in the automotive industry and instructs car and truck drivers, said it was “little wonder” there were so many crashes under the present system.

“My opinions are just opinions, but I think that every 10 years, people should update their road knowledge,” Frew said.

“Maybe they should even do a practical test, but they should at least have to show that they know the theory of the road rules.”

Road rules, road conditions and vehicles were constantly changing and some drivers may not have looked at the road code for more than 50 years because they were not required to, he said.


I agree. Just because you passed a test once when you were 16, doesn’t mean you should not be tested again for 50 years. I think re-testing every ten years would be a sensible thing to do.

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.

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?

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!

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.

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?

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.