No social licence for slow speeds

A large pothole on a main road has damaged tyres on multiple vehicles:

New Zealand’s bad road conditions have struck again after a massive pothole in the Bay of Plenty caused carnage for drivers.

The pothole has taken out several tyres on State Highway 29 over the Kaimai Range.

Social media users issued a warning to other drivers, posting a video showing over a dozen vehicles pulled over with possible wrecked tyres.

Another person said over 30 cars hit the pothole and were piled up on the side of the road. . . 

Are there no orange cones to spare for this pothole? If so is it because scores of them are  lining roads where there is no sign of damage or work being done?

It comes after what has been dubbed a ‘pothole crisis’ with drivers, road safety campaigners and AA calling for the roads to be fixed.

AA road safety spokesperson Dylan Thomsen told Newshub an analysis from 2020 estimated the Government needed to spend $900 million more over the next three years to catch up on the work needed. 

“Our roads are in the worst condition that many people have ever seen.

Instead of fixing the roads, Waka Kotahi is wasting millions of dollars on propaganda advertising that is no more than bureaucratic back-patting in an attempt to convince us of their wonderfulness and that their aim to get to a zero road toll is a good idea.

One of their strategies is to lower speed limits which is unlikely to reduce serious accidents:

A proposal to dramatically lower the speed limit on most of the nation’s highways is unlikely to significantly lower the road toll, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner. says:

“Few drivers have a problem with a lower speed limit in high risk areas. But this proposal is aimed at lowering the speed limit from 100kp/h to 80kp/h, even on long, straight, relatively safe highways. This is madness and is likely to produce a major backlash from all sectors of society.”

Matthew-Wilson adds that the police consistently use doubtful science to justify impractical speed enforcement.

“Despite what the police claim, speed is the primary cause of just 15% of fatal crashes, according to Ministry of Transport research.”

“Another inconvenient truth is that the police are targeting the wrong drivers. As a matter of scientific fact, few ordinary motorists cause speed-related fatalities. Instead, almost all speed-related fatalities are caused by a small group of yobbos and reckless motorcyclists, and they’re often blotto when they crash. Yobbos and blotto drivers don’t read speed signs, rarely think of consequences and are effectively immune to road safety messages.”

Matthew-Wilson’s claims are supported by a 2009 AA summary of 300 fatal accidents, which concluded:

“. . . government advertising suggests you should be grateful to receive a speeding ticket because it will save your life. In fact, exceeding speed limits isn’t a major issue…[Nor is it] true that middle-New Zealand drivers creeping a few kilometres over the limit on long, empty [roads were a major factor in] the road toll…”

The AA report confirmed that a high percentage of speed-related fatalities were:

“caused by people who don’t care about any kind of rules. These are men who speed, drink, don’t wear safety belts, have no valid license or WoF – who are basically renegades. They usually end up wrapped around a tree, but they can also overtake across a yellow line and take out other motorists as well.”

Matthew-Wilson gave the example of Jeremy Thompson, 28, who caused a head-on crash near Waverly that killed seven people in 2018. Thompson had been smoking synthetic cannabis and was driving erratically before the crash.

“Perhaps the police could explain how lowering the speed limit would have prevented this crash?”

“The cops also tell us we need to reduce average speeds. But the average speed isn’t the speed that the average driver travels at; the average speed rises and falls with the number of crazy drivers travelling at crazy speeds. Clearly, the police should be targeting the crazy drivers, not the families driving home from holiday.”

“The police say that 90% of the country’s roads are unsafe. Unsafe compared to what? That’s a convenient made-up figure designed to hide that reality that a decade of heavy speed enforcement has utterly failed to significantly reduce speed-related road deaths.”

The condition of far too many roads is sub-standard as the drivers whose tyres were damaged can attest.

But the solution to that isn’t blanket speed reductions, it’s fixing pot holes and doing other work to improve the roads.

“ I’m a big fan of fixing unsafe roads, but the fact that the government has been incredibly slack about sorting out our roading system isn’t an excuse to lower the speed limit. It’s a wakeup call for the government to stop mucking about and instead sort out the safety of our roads. Done properly, we can quickly make our old highways safe for a fraction of the cost of building new highways ”

Matthew-Wilson adds that this proposal to lower the speed limit originally came from the Greens and is primarily intended to make life more difficult for car owners.

Yet another stupid Green policy based on ideology rather than data.

“The Greens approached me to support this strategy. I have been a lifetime supporter of green causes, but I said no. It’s hypercritical to make life more difficult for people who genuinely need vehicles, unless the government first provides these drivers with realistic alternatives to driving

Matthew-Wilson is also frustrated that both the police and the government ignore simple, affordable and effective ways of substantially reducing the road toll.

Cars with Daytime Running Lights on are up to 25% less likely to end up in fatal daytime collisions, yet this simple lifesaving technology isn’t even on the government’s agenda. What’s gone wrong with our government?”

There’s plenty wrong with our government, including the wasting money on advertising and attempts to slow traffic instead of improving roads.

The Taxpayers’ Union reckons that speed limits would have to be reduced to 10 kph to achieve zero road deaths.

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is urging the Government to divert all of the marketing and communications budget for its Road To Zero campaign to projects that make New Zealand’s roads physically more safe. The campaign is costing $197 million including $85 million on advertising.

“The Government’s Road To Zero campaign is sadly an expensive exercise in wishful thinking which ultimately sets itself up for failure,” Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says.

“Now that fancy TV ads and Michael-Wood-sized red zeroes haven’t reduced the road toll, the Government is looking to reduce maximum speed limits all over the country to 80km/h. It seems the Government is willing to do practically anything except fix the actual roads.”

“With this current approach, the Government will need to reduce the maximum speed limit to about 10km/h in order to get the road toll down to zero. Although increased road rage could hamper that.”

It wouldn’t just be road rage that would sabotage zero road toll efforts.

Inattention through boredom would also be a problem.

Besides driving slowly can kill people too as driveway deaths show.

“In an ideal world there would be no road deaths and we should be mitigating risks where possible. However, our taxes should be spent strategically in ways that make a material difference, like fixing dangerous roads, not on big budget campaigns promoting unattainable goals.

The government has overlooked a critical component in its campaign to reduce speed limits – social licence.

There is none for slower speeds.

Last year the speed limit in most of Wanaka was reduced to 40 kph.

If the Queenstown Lakes District Council, which imposed the 10 kph reduction, had data to back up its decision to do this, it hasn’t been widely publicised and from my experience it hasn’t had a marked impact on the speed people drive.

It will have increased fines for speeding but it hasn’t noticeably reduced speeds.

When I drive at the regulated 40 kph, cars following me catch up and the distance between me and those in front increases which shows I’m the only one obeying the limit.

Several stretches in the Lewis Pass and the entire road between Nelson and Blenheim have 80 kph limits.

I drove those last year with a passenger who is prone to car sickness which gave me an incentive to travel at less than 100 kph.

There were places where that would be sensible even without worrying about potential nausea, but there were others where it wasn’t necessary and the vehicles that passed me obviously knew that.

There is no social licence for slower speeds on most roads. All it will achieve is disgruntled drivers, more congestion and longer travelling times which will add costs to businesses and that will add fuel to inflation.

It will also divert police from more important work, including targeting the really dangerous drivers driving dangerously.

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