Speed Obsessed Government

Last year VicRoads decided to start using South Gippsland as a proving ground for some ridiculous ideas that could potentially be expanded to the rest of rural Victoria if they proved successful, which no doubt they would, given that no one would be able to dispute the findings. What happened is that the speed limits on several of our roads were reduced from 100kmh to 80kmh and what’s bizarre about the change is that the decision was supposedly based on statistics dating back to the 1990s suggesting that these roads had an unacceptably serious accident rate (I lost the link to this reference and I think it’s now been carefully removed, but I saved a PDF copy). The thing is, the statistics that I found revealed nothing of the sort. Additionally, long-term residents who have lived 20 and more years along these very roads have no recollection of such accidents. In a relatively small community, that’s generally a far better indicator of reality (which I’ll cover later). But from much anecdotal evidence, this change has nothing to do with accident rates.

Drive to the conditions - (source: Cars Guide)

Drive to the conditions – (source: Cars Guide)

The new speed limits also raised the ire of all and sundry in the area, and even our local state member entered into the fray, disputing VicRoads claims and changes. VicRoads and the police have, for some years now, been pushing for the wholesale reduction of speed limits on all rural roads, with the purpose of reducing them to 80kmh and even as low as 60kmh on unsealed roads. To date, this has been rejected, but I now suspect that what has happened is that VicRoads has convinced the state government to allow a trial to prove that by reducing speed limits accident rates will fall. This is pretty much a no-brainier, for if everyone drives slowly, the potential for an accident will reduce. That said you’ll never completely eliminate accidents, as seems the to be the idea behind ‘Towards Zero‘, something that is utterly impossible, unless you remove all cars, motorcycles, bicycles etc from roads.

The Safe Speed component of Towards Zero is concerned with setting appropriate speed limits and travelling at safe speeds that are right for the conditions. If speed limits are set appropriately and drivers travel within those limits [my emphasis and more on this later], the effectiveness of initiatives implemented in the road or vehicle space are enhanced and help reduce road trauma.

Studies show that small increases in speed can have large increases in the level of injury or the likelihood of death. Equally though, small decreases in speed can significantly reduce the severity of injuries to the vulnerable human, or avoid the crash in the first place.

Saving time because you’re running late or need to get somewhere quicker are often cited as reasons for speeding, but the difference is usually quite negligible – especially on shorter journeys. For example, if you drop your speed from 70km/h to 60km/h over a 10km trip, you’d only get to your destination 86 seconds slower. That’s less time than it takes to boil a litre of water.

Those quotes from Towards Zero are the not so subtle driving force behind what’s happening in South Gippsland at the moment, waiting to be imposed on all of Victoria. They are being used by inner-city ‘experts’ as an excuse to push their own agenda, without any real idea of the impact on rural travellers. And I wonder if they have considered the unintended consequences of such ‘well-meaning’ ideas? Those unintended consequences are possibly more accidents as people become fatigued and lose concentration from driving long distances at very slow speeds, as well as an increase in irresponsible drivers who ignore the speed limits and decide to take risks (as they always do) and major traffic jams building on rural roads. And then there’s issues regarding more pollution and wear and tear as cars have to travel at less than optimum engine speeds.

Following a tragic accident at Cranbourne last year, some residents became very vocal and demanded that the speed limit on that particular stretch of dual lane highway be reduced and so it has, from 100kmh to 80kmh. But that’s not all, the speed limit now applies for the entire length of the South Gippsland Highway that stretches for 15 km through rural countryside, extending from Cranbourne to Tooradin in South Gippsland. But you seriously have to question what purpose this will serve but to frustrate anyone travelling along this dual lane highway. The accident occurred because the driver was well over the alcohol limit and driving at 155 kmh. Will this new speed limit prevent another such accident? No. Speed limits do not concern such drivers, as they will keep doing what they are doing, no matter what the consequences. These speed limits changes are really nothing more than virtue signalling, as the real problems can never be addressed.

South Gippsland Highway - Cranbourne to Tooradin

South Gippsland Highway – Cranbourne to Tooradin

A man who killed a mother and daughter when his car slammed into theirs as they left a parent-teacher night in Melbourne’s outer south-east, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Thomas Charles Adamson, 27, was travelling at 155 kilometres per hour and had a blood alcohol content of between 0.125 and 0.165 per cent when he smashed into the car carrying Ma Li Dai, 44, and Xinyu Yuan, 14, in August 2017

And a further example of why no matter what the speed limit, it won’t make one jot of difference to those who don’t care:

A 24-year-old man from Pooraka has had his car impounded after being caught doing a reckless burnout on a section of Adelaide’s new north-south motorway just minutes after it was officially opened to public traffic.

Police said a Holden sedan had broken down on the motorway at Ridleyton just before 12:30pm on Saturday when road workers stopped in the area to assist the driver.

But when the sedan drove off, the man decided to conduct a long burnout on the recently opened section of the busy motorway.

And while I totally agree with the dangers of mobile phone texting etc while driving and that it shouldn’t occur, but it does. And in our area I’m quite certain that it has contributed to a number of accidents (given when and where the accidents have happened), but hasn’t been reported for some reason. But what about when you’re driving on a freeway at 80-100kmh and you have to read warning notices etc on the sides of the road? Aren’t these distractions that take your eye off the road? I can well remember travelling the Princes Hwy to work every morning and trying to read illuminated signs placed on the side of the highway warning of one thing or another and rarely getting to read the sign as trucks always seemed to block the view. But it’s not just mobile phone use, as ‘Every 96 seconds a motorist is distracted by non-driving tasks, research finds‘:

How often do you get distracted — either adjusting the volume of the radio, eating, or using your phone — while you’re driving?

New research into driver behaviour, in which cameras were installed in 379 cars in New South Wales and Victoria, found that motorists were distracted 45 per cent of the time.

“That’s a huge amount of time they’re spending not 100 per cent focused on the road,” Dr Kristie Young, lead researcher and research fellow at the Monash University Accident Research Centre, said.

“It was everything from using their mobile phone, eating and drinking, talking to their passengers, talking and singing to themselves, and also things like writing in diaries as well.”

And the latest announcement says that ‘Victoria set to record lowest ever road toll, almost 20% less than 2017‘. So will this be used as evidence that the lower speed limits set are doing their job? But when you read the details, it has nothing to do with the set speed limits but road barriers.

Ms Cockfield, who is the government body’s road safety director, said a large proportion of road deaths in rural and regional areas were from single-vehicle crashes involving cars that had slammed into trees or poles. She said more than 1500 kilometres of flexible barriers had been installed on high-traffic and high-risk rural roads in recent years to stop such crashes.

“The barriers have been hit over 3000 times this year, but they catch drivers like a net and they just drive away.”

Ms Cockfield said the Hume Freeway, where there were seven deaths a year on average, had been one of the first locations bounded by the barriers. “And as far as I know, nobody has been killed on the Hume Freeway this year,” she said. “They make a difference.”

However, reducing speed limits everywhere from what they have been for decades will certainly serve one purpose and that’s to provide an opportunity for increased revenue through speed cameras and the like. It’s a known fact that speed (sorry – safety) cameras save lives, as there have never been any accidents, injuries or deaths where these cameras are located. And because last year’s road toll has gone up, we clearly need more cameras. But once technology really catches up, the Holy Grail of speed revenue will be achieved and that’s when every car on the road can be monitored 24/7/365 (1984). If you go a gnat’s hair over the speed limit, a notice will be automatically sent to the state revenuer and a speeding fine sent to you. But once technology gets even better, as in no more cash in use, you won’t even get a fine as the bill will be automatically deducted from your bank account and you won’t even know until you get a statement saying you have no money in the bank.

Update 1. I wonder if the Victorian government is following France’s example, ‘Yellow vests knock out 60% of all speed cameras in France‘:

Members of the “yellow vests” protest movement have vandalised almost 60% of France’s entire speed camera network, the interior minister has said.

Some protesters feel speed cameras are solely a revenue-generating measure which takes money from the poor.

Speed limits in France were already controversial after the government lowered the limit on many main roads from 90km/h to 80km/h (50mph) early last year.

Update 2. And if you want to know why government is so concerned about speed, it’s pretty obvious, ‘Melbourne’s 10 highest-earning speed camera locations‘, revenue just waiting to happen:

A new speed camera in the city has become one of the highest-earning in Melbourne in less than a year, new data shows.

The fixed speed camera at the intersection of King and La Trobe streets has caught out more than 33,000 people since it was switched on in early 2018.

In the past year, cameras throughout the city have generated 1,340,330 fines, adding up to almost $345 million paid by drivers who have flouted the speed limit or ignored red lights.

Update 3. With Victoria’s road toll up at the start of 2019, the TAC is once again calling for increased government control over what we buy and use. The TAC is calling for the banning of utes such as the Great Wall, claiming that young tradies drive these into trees (without any evidence to back up these claims) and in the same breath claim you can buy five-star rated cars for the same price. I wonder how much a tradie can fit into one of these five-star rated cars and whether they are able to be classed as a work vehicle. The immediate knee-jerk reaction of the TAC is to blame vehicles for the accidents. It’s like blaming ladders for accident and calling for five-star rated ladders. Perhaps if young people feature high in accident statistics, it might not be a problem with the cars, but the young people. And then someone else suggests that parents should mortgage their house to buy their kids five-star rated cars.

But with young people over-represented in road trauma statistics, it’s a practice he wants parents to reconsider.

“We really urge parents to think about that very deeply,” he says.

A new car obviously costs more money. But to Joe, safety is not just for the very wealthy.

There are five-star safety-rated cars on sale for under $20,000.

But he warns not all new cars are necessarily safe.

The TAC chief has called on the Federal Government to ban the import of new vehicles with low safety ratings — specifically referencing Chinese manufacturer Great Wall’s utes.

They cost just $19,990 brand new but come with a safety rating of two stars — the lowest of any new vehicle on Australian roads.

“Who crashes those is hardworking young tradies that go into a tree and often then have a lifelong acquired brain injury,” he says.