Police Minister reacts to public speed tolerance backlash

Here’s the statement he released

via Twitter

via Twitter

Reading between the lines, the tolerance will… after an ‘internal review’ be moved back to 4 km/h, which is, in all honesty, a sensible move.  It allows for small variances on speedometers, it allows for reaction time when the road suddenly dips down, and it allows drivers to stop worrying about getting speeding tickets for accidentally drifting one kilometer over the limit.

I have no problem with Police issuing a caution when people are caught in the 1-4 km/h over the limit zone, but it is entirely sensible to allow for real-life pragmatism where 100 and 101 really aren’t the difference between life and death in an accident.

To be pushing that message and turning drivers into bad people has been a huge disaster in terms of loss of goodwill for traffic policing in general.

It’s going to take some time to recover from this.


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  • Builder

    The tolerance used to be 9 or 10k. Was this a deliberate tactic to make us happy with 4k? Still hard to overtake safely if you can only go 4k over.

    • Bob D

      Bingo, got it in one.

    • igp

      Exactly. It was always 10% (so 10 kph in a 100 zone). Then they brought in a temporary 4 kph tolerance for holidays, and now they have made this zero. And they extended the period. And none of this has helped in dropping the road toll. So what is the non-holiday tolerance now, Zero, 4, or 10% ? I like a quote I heard today, “this is like arresting shoplifters and expecting it to cut bank robberies”.

  • Cadwallader

    I think that with the additional speed fines collected this Christmas Little Angry ought be petitioning the government to grant us all a tax credit. Then he could wear his Christmas Elf hat with pride….he’d still look ridiculous though.

    • taurangaruru

      “grant us all a tax credit” – not likely, he is more likely to give it to the poverty stricken downtrodden masses, after all he is all for a fair & equal society isn’t he?

      • Cadwallader

        It was sarcasm on my part. But it would be interesting to learn where the additional $$$$$ will end up. School lunches for Angry’s starving millions?

        • Imogen B

          Well they have tried to convince us that the appalling road toll over the Christmas break was due to the fall in petrol prices making travel more affordable for some drivers … Does that mean the families of the starving millions?

          • Cadwallader

            Excuses excuses. Other than insisting we all drive less frequently these guys do not have a road safety strategy. Blaming cheap petrol for more cars on the road hence a higher death toll seems to me to be an admission from them that all other road safety issues are inept failures. What a mess dreamt up by bureaucrats to garnish $$$$.

  • cows4me

    The police continually claim to do their job properly they requirer strong public support. How has this policy encouraged public support for police? It’s a disaster, a total PR failure. One wonders if the extra revenue generate by this shakedown can replace the goodwill lost by the force. Police need public support but their leaders seem hell bent on isolating front line staff by turning them against the public.

  • Sooty

    How many of the Police flat foot division will have to suffer a beating, with the publics intolerance to the Police revenue collection division.

  • R&BAvenger

    Strictly speaking from a performance standard point of view, exceeding 100kmh by even 1kmh is speeding/breaking the limit.
    From a practical point of view speedo’s are not 100% accurate (depending on the age of the vehicle) so there is the need to calibrate speed cameras/radars to take into account this factor also.
    On balance the Police should have focused on the practical application of the law, rather than specificity, that focus has caused them PR damage. It has also caused damage by influencing the wrong sort of behaviour by drivers – too monitor their speedo too closely, rather than mostly focussing outside the car and glancing at the speedo occasionally.
    The biggest factor is not speed per se, but drivers. Drivers making poor driving decisions i.e. ;
    Not driving for the conditions (This encompasses driving too fast/slowly and tailgating
    Overtaking in a dangerous manner
    Driving when fatigued/drunk/drugged
    Not stopping when requested to by the police
    There are probably others that can be added to this list, but the problem is drivers, driver training and poor decision making.
    Focussing on speed only is a part of that picture and gives rise to complaints about ‘revenue gathering’.
    I think driverless cars are the future and the sooner in place, the sooner the accident rate will fall.
    The idea of a zero road toll while we have drivers in charge of vehicles is by and large a nonsense. people make mistakes and errors of judgement happen. Accidents happen. The police and authorities can only do so much.

    • Cadwallader

      They direct us to “drive to the conditions.” Isn’t a passing lane a “condition?”

      • R&BAvenger

        I think you’re right about that. More clarity around the passing lanes is needed perhaps?
        Multiple vehicles attempting passing manoeuvres within the passing lanes was my experience during the holidays.
        The worst was when I was slowing down approaching the 50kmh sign entering Amberley. The loon behind me did a wild overtaking manoeuvre resulting in him passing me, cutting in front, just as he passed the 50kmh sign and jamming on his brakes so he didn’t hit the guy in front.
        A totally unnecessary and pointless action. A prime example of the poor decision making by drivers I was taking about above.

        • Cadwallader

          It is worse when there’s a cop at the end of a passing lane waving a speed-camera.

          • Or when they have coned off the passing lanes so they no longer exist. Brilliant traffic strategy!

          • peterwn

            Passing lanes hold up traffic when roads are very busy – that is why they are coned off. This is what traffic engineers have found. Presumably because traffic slows down when two lanes of traffic merge and this sets the overall speed.

          • igp

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    • peterwn

      “From a practical point of view speedo’s are not 100% accurate”. Herein lies part of the problem. Another part of the problem is you can forget the speed limit pertaining to the area (eg SH2 from the Bombay Hills turnoff has a mixture of 80, 90 and 100kph open road limits).

      While police speed detectors have improved in accuracy during the last 60 years and thanks to digital electronics are almost perfectly accurate calibration-wise, there has been no improvement in car speedos over that period – they basically measure the rpm of one of the wheels or the drive shaft.

      One feature of any new car I buy would be an accurate speedo, a means of detecting the prevailing speed limit and a discrete overspeed alarm. I will not hold my breath although a GPS device may offer these features apart from indicating variable speed limits.

      • El Diablo

        My in-car GPS system tells me the speed I’m driving and I believe it is a lot more accurate than the car speedo. It also has all the speed limits programmed into the maps and flashes an exclamation mark if I go over the limit by more than 10kmh.

        • jonno1

          For some time I’ve been puzzled that modern cars don’t use their always-on GPS to feed the speedo. The only theory I’ve come up with is that some jurisdictions (don’t know if NZ is one) may require a mechanical or at least a hard-wired linkage to the speedo, so the manufacturers stick with this.
          Another example of bureaucratic stupidity in similar vein: in some US states Segways are banned because they don’t have mechanical brakes. Hello! The electronic braking of the Segway is phenomenal (it works a bit like your F&P washing machine: instant stopping/reversal of the motors). Applying a mechanical brake would – well, you can imagine the result. NZ law can’t quite figure out Segways, so just ignores them.

  • TSD

    I really do hope the police come out with a Mea Culpa on this. I’ve always supported them and their efforts to serve us while they deal with scum commiting crimes and a vicious media.
    But in this they are wrong and they have damaged their standing, and that translates to more difficulty for them to do their job in general. No gain for road safety, big loss for overall effectiveness.
    They can recover, they just need to express humility and admit they made a mistake. We all make mistakes, we will understand.

  • Valid Point

    Comments below and indeed, CS’s reaction to the speed limit issue are a bit of an over-reaction on the whole. The intent of the new speeding limit (and drinking limit) was to protect lives. Yes, it was poorly communicated, yes it was probably a mistake on their part but clearly they’re learning and will amend accordingly.

    I don’t need a ‘mea cupla’ or apology from our Police. I think on the whole they do an amazing, thankless role trying to protect us. They’ll always have my support.

    • TSD

      I also continue to support them, those who serve us deserve our respect. But an apology is always a good thing when you’ve made a mistake. It wasn’t poorly communicate though, it was quite specific that they would be stopping people, it just wasn’t wise.

    • ” .. on the whole they do an amazing, thankless role …”
      Yes, the police you see do. It’s the clowns that polish chairs in head office that we have issues with.

  • Justsayn

    When they lowered the tolerance to 4km/h for holiday periods they said it was to save lives. When the road toll was lower in the first few of those periods they said it was because of the lower tolerance – it worked they said.

    The reduction didn’t last, despite the continued policy. They didn’t say it was a one-off effect so we’ll forget this. Instead they lowered the tolerance again. This time even more people died that than had under the 4km/h tolerance.

    Surely, if the policy makers claim the first reduction in tolerance caused the initially lower road toll, then the later decrease caused the higher road toll? If there is a correlation it must work both times. I think the reality is that the road toll has very little, if anything, to do with the speed tolerance, but that tolerance does impact directly on speed camera revenue.

    • Kopua Cowboy

      Logic and critical thinking is obviously not a strong point in those who set policy

      • Yes, it truly seems as though they get promoted to the level of their incompetency as enforcement officers.

  • EveryWhichWayButLeft

    You know they are really taking the proverbial when a go-cart crash is included in the road toll…

    “Speed is believed to be a factor and as Ninety Mile Beach is a highway the death would be included on the region’s road toll”

    People can see right through this and it just further undermines police credibility around the road toll message.


    • ex-JAFA

      Someone keeling over while weeding the verge in front of their house should also be included in the road toll by the same logic. The verge is legally part of the road, and the old lady’s dicky ticker added a death.

  • andrew carrot

    Does the need for awareness of the effect speed can have on the survivability of a crash extend to drivers who do u-turns on highways, drive through red lights or crash railway crossings (for some reason, a popular driving habit in Canterbury)?

  • Hedgehog

    To be frank, this is tosh. A wishy-washy response to a large backlash from motorists, calling out an ill conceived and idiotic attempt at a road safety campaign.

    We are expected to use common sense and drive to the conditions, and rightly so, if it’s poring with rain, it may not be wise to drive at 100k, 60k maybe optimum. Yet when we drive on a highway designed for 110k, at 110k with no other traffic present and clear weather there is no discretion.

    The police need to have discretion back at the front line, and the number of tickets issued, not used as a performance measure.

  • Mountie

    As a professional driver, the biggest change I see is how, a number of drivers are now petrified to drive close to the 100k limit. They wander along at 80/90k until you get a chance to pass them and immediately they will speed up and follow you at 100k.
    I guess when pictures like this are all over the internet you can’t blame them.

  • Just a thought …

    Ahhh , better be careful as the ” backpedallng” could exceed the 1 kph tolerance level …….

  • sheppy

    Perhaps once the increased speeding fine revenue is known for the 2 month revenue collection period they can work out how much revenue each extra life lost has earned in fines.
    Truly shocking incompetence and whoever came up with this should lose their job without a massive taxpayer funded payout!

    • Bob D

      Yes, it’s interesting that the government is very quick to fund studies to show “how many deaths result from every 1km/h over the limit”, but are strangely silent on this point.

      Let’s see a study initiated on how many deaths resulted per km/h reduced tolerance, and then per dollar earned. Won’t look good, I suspect.

      • sheppy

        It needs a study that includes such things as the increasing number of cars with Multiple Airbags, ABS and Stability Control, especially as hire car fleets have those unfamiliar with NZ road conditions driving them and their cars are usually the youngest on the road. Many hire cars with will have had additional safety features from around the time they ramped up the revenue raising potentially helping the statistics.
        I suspect the reduced threshold / zero tolerance / extension of the threshold to a 2 month long period will be proven to have had no benefit in the long term apart from several million in fines added to the governments coffers. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a speed limit or that it shouldn’t be enforced however there is a lot more to road safety than several lucrative unmarked camera vans parked up alongside SH1 especially in the age of well engineered cars.

  • Just a thought …

    Every “bell curve” has a point where the continued persuit along the same rational starts to result in a negative effect……… I suggest this has been reached……

  • Hardie Martin

    The whole sorry saga hasn’t been helped by people responding emotionally about the ‘concentration on revenue gathering at the expense of attending real crime’. This is utter tosh and does not stand up to the reality of what is going on out there. I often monitor police communications and can assure you that the dedicated T cars are spending the majority of thier time responding to calls of dangerous or drunk driving. The I cars spend the great majority of thier time attending domestic violence incidents, disorders, burglaries under way etc. T cars will often come off traffic duties to assist with crime ‘under way’ as this is a priority.

    The worst aspect of this has been the claims, in particular by one of WinstonFirsts monkeys, that Police are not responding to burglaries. If you come home from holiday and find that your unalarmed home was burgled a few days back then expecting an immediate response and criticising Police for not dropping everything and responding when the likelihood fo finding fingerprints, other forensics and your property is long gone is just plain unrealistic.

    I asked a few days back and will ask again. Has anyone been actually pinged for exceeding the speed limit by 1kph? Can you scan the ticket and show us all?

    • Just a thought …

      It isn’t the getting “pinged’ that is the issue it is the mindset it creates. People are now not driving to the conditions and road quality but purely to the speed limit ( or below because we don’t know if our speedo is accurate ) and this is causing frustrations to others………………. hence passing etc that would not normally need to happen………..

      edit. clarity

      • Hardie Martin

        I guess you could be right. It’s a little known fact that 50% of the population are below average intelligence.

        • Just a thought …

          Good point, but lets not set the bar to the lowest common denominator or there really would be no point in getting out of bed in the morning………

          • OneTrack

            Too late.

    • peterwn

      ‘concentration on revenue gathering at the expense of attending real crime’
      – which is not how traffic policing funding operates nor does infringement revenue flow into Police coffers – it goes straight into the Consolidated Fund.

      The trouble is recognising such arrangements gets in the way of the ‘story’.

  • Police Credibility. Winner, Oxymoron of the Year, 2014!

    • Just a thought …

      What you say is sad but true……
      what the Police need to realise is it is not the

      Police vs the general public and the bad guys
      the police AND the general public vs the bad guys

      and when they realise this then maybe things will change………………

      edit . sp

  • peterwn

    Nichole Machiavelli would be proud on two fronts.
    1. A conspiracy theorist might suggest that the cops introduced the 1kph tolerance to take attention away from the new drink drive limits. Nichole would be proud.
    2. Mike Woodhouse can also exploit the situation by warning the police off, hanging them out to dry and then proclaiming this as part of a caring National government.

    The Minister of Revenue could strong arm IRD to do a few simple things so the Government could claim some kudos:
    1. Stop filing of tax returns being a prerequisite to payment of charity rebates. It seems that all such taxpayers are being penalised just because one or two taxpayers claimed a rebate for donations that exceeded income. The responsible Minister could then claim some kudos for this.
    2. Apply a few quick fixes to address Stuart Nash’s concern re over-taxing. This could include giving taxpayers some discretion to select PAYE and RWT deduction rates.
    In both cases taxpayers who abuse this can have the privilege withdrawn and pay any outstanding tax or overclaimed rebate plus the ‘higher’ interest rate (8.4%).

    • You don’t file a personal tax return for charitable donations. You file an IR526, which is independent of having to file a tax return (or not). While they want to know your IRD number, you can receive the tax credit even if only on RWT/PAYE.

      • peterwn

        However if you are recorded as a IR3 filer, they hold back your IR526 refund until you file your IR3, even if you generally receive IR3 tax refunds. If IRD has changed their stance on this I would be interested to know.

  • murrayirwin

    In my opinion – all roads have a natural ‘rhythm’ – that being the speed that probably 99% of the driving population would normally adopt while travelling that particular piece of road. In Holland the speed limit on Motorways is 100km/h. In Germany on autobahns as near identical as they can be to Dutch roads, there is no limit. The average speed on Dutch roads? 123km’h. On the German roads? 127km/h. People know what speed it is right to travel at. Some roads in NZ it might be 80km/h, others 120 km/h. but we have a blanket speed limit of 100. So lay off the otherwise law abiding motorist travelling at 110 – as long as that is appropriate to the rhythm of the road.

    • Sailor Sam

      Sorry mate, the speed limit on motorways in Holland and Belgium can be as high as 130kph, but away from built up areas. Drove in those countries during July and August last year. But as I was driving a Fiat 500, not game to go that fast. And you don’t see trucks in the “fast” lane on multiple lane roads.

      • murrayirwin

        yeah – they have changed it since I lived there – and have sensibly made it so that law abiding people are not criminalised.

  • Teko Flaps

    Although the whole speed tolerance was a flop and many died for various reasons-on a personal level I thought the driving was the best I’ve seen on my travels. Apart from the trucks-they always stink up the roads with their aggression.

  • Spiker

    I drive a ute with a trailer most working days. Speed limit for me is 90km. To safely protect myself from getting speeding tickets I’ve modified my speed to 80km on the speedo maximum.

    I get the feeling this upsets some of my fellow motorists & I drive as considerately as possible, pulling to the left when safe to. I’m thinking I might make up a sign to go on the back of the trailer saying “Don’t like my speed? Write to the Police minister.”

  • Shane M

    A classic example of the hegelian dialectic.
    A 4kms tolerance was the goal all along. Now the police can be seen to be listening to the publics concerns by going back to the more desirable position, and the public feel they had a small win. Well played.

    • Mark

      Same as the stunt pulled over Motorcycle rego,”we” think we got off lightly. When the real discussion should have been do we keep ACC.

      • I.M Bach

        ACC was supposed to be in financial trouble at the time. Nick Smith pulled the wool something fierce there.

  • Geoff

    I have a real problem with not being able to overtake without exceeding the speed limit. I would have thought the less time in the on-coming traffic lane the better. Motor magazines often quote the 80 to 120 acceleration times ( time in danger). Not much use now, may as well fit governors to all cars so the can’t go faster than 100kph.

  • Sailor Sam

    if every driver sticks to the speed limit, there is no need to overtake.
    been driving in OZ last 4 weeks, both in cities (Brisbne and Melbourne) and country roads in Qld and Victoria.
    it has been stress free, unlike driving in NZ.

    • Spiker

      Unfortunately not all of us can drive at the same speed limit at others (see my post below) therefore hindering the flow. Others can’t safely pass without risking a ticket. That causes stress and that’s the result of the police policy.

    • jonesboy70

      Driven in Aussie a lot and agree however most of the highways are well built, 2 or 3 lanes each way and it’s easy to go with the flow. How many 2 way roads did you drive on? There are still idiots over there creating crashes like here , see their road fatality numbers , just like ours (% of population)

      • Sailor Sam

        Most secondary roads (B and C roads) are single lane each way, been doing a lot of driving on them, not just on freeways.
        Have seen nobody speeding on any roads, no crazy overtaking, no tail gating no stupid lane changing either.
        The big difference is that trucks, cars and trailers have the same speed limit as cars. There is also much more use of double centre lines, also contributing to less stupid overtaking.

    • armotur

      Unfortunately SS Life is never that simple. Some are more comfortable at speeds below the limit, some are not. I guess that’s because we are human not programmed robots.

  • MrBarrington

    Sensible move by Woodhouse…. they’ve realsied that picking people’s pockets for 2km over the limit is a bad idea compared with stopping the bad drives (and the slow drivers most of all)….

  • kloyd0306

    The recent holiday road toll has thrown serious doubt on speed being the problem.

    And as for the latest TV PSA, showing a woman driver slowly and barley exceeding the limit, attempts to suggest that 51 kph vs 49 kph would stop the pedestrian from crossing the street without looking.

    The police an the ad agency that concocted this ad are struggling for any credibility

    • Canucktoo

      Agree – this gets my craw every time I see it! The stupid teenage girl is at fault – we were taught not to do this stuff as primary school kids.

  • armotur

    If he was any sort of smart guy he would have realised this was a disaster waiting to happen for Police, him and the National Party when he was briefed about the Summer road safety plans. Clearly is is not smart.

    This mess is a measure of the quality thinking of those three groups. The NZ Public has measured and noted this appalling, cynical, bullying behaviour by Police and the dismal late response by the Minister and the Government.

    Not a good look all round!

  • TreeCrusher

    Is it just me or was this an orchestrated attempt to permanently lower the tolerance from 10 km/hr to 4 km/hr with public buy in? We were all up in arms about it going from 10 to 4, then they said no tolerance at all and suddenly everyone is happy with 4. Chances are the cops won’t actually pull people up for 106 or 107, but it means they can set all their new digital speed cameras to 105 and watch the money roll in. I would say the cops are laughing that the oldest negotiation trick in the book worked so easily.

  • HSV325

    Got home to a speed camera ticket today from SH 27 on 17 December clocked at 105k in a 100k zone. $30.00! It will cost them that to chase it after I drag out paying it till the last minute.

    • Imogen B

      Don’t forget to request the photo just to check it was you.
      Then ask when the speed camera was calibrated just to check you were actually speeding.
      Then you need to know if the person who did the calibration held a current certification to do so just to check it was done right.
      That should give you enough time to accumulate enough 10c pieces to drop into the court to pay the fine, remembering that if you pay by credit card there is an additional fee and if you pay too late there will be court costs added.

    • I.M Bach

      I would plead not guilty, wait for the court date, go for an adjournment, all of that and Imogen B’s advice. You’ll probably get court costs but man it’s fun.