The speed “tolerance” triumvirate: Police, AA and now… the NZ Herald

The amount of popular backlash against the Police’s failed “no tolerance” experiment has been palpable, and we’ve seen it expressed here too.

The New Zealand Herald editorial swims upstream, as they seem to think is their job, and thinks it is too early to call the experiment a failure, in spite of no evidence to support it works.

It is never advisable to judge a policy on what will probably turn out to be a short-term abnormality. Therefore, the New Zealand First police spokesman, Ron Mark, was on thin ice when he suggested a zero-tolerance speed campaign over the Christmas-New Year period had been a “failed experiment”. The basis for his statement was a road toll which, at 17, was more than double that of the previous year. All the previous evidence, however, has indicated that a lower tolerance to speeding on holiday weekends led to improved driver behaviour.

On those grounds, it seems likely that the Christmas-New Year toll was an aberration. So, too, the provisional toll of 297 people killed on the country’s roads last year, a sharp increase from 2013’s 253 deaths. The latter was the lowest toll in 60 years, and part of a steady decline from a peak of 843 deaths in 1973. Betters cars and better roads have played a major part in this, as has a sustained campaign against drink-driving.

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.

What arrogance.  The editor is basically calling the New Zealand public liars and bad drivers.  How helpful is that?   It also ignore the empirical result:  there is no observable effect other than angry drivers and more income through fines.  

The “swimming upstream” bit out of the way, the editorial finally settles into what the public have been saying.

Strict laws and heavy penalties will never, in themselves, produce a better attitude to speeding. Nor can the police ever be visible enough to enforce such an attitude. Much of the response must involve discretionary policing that focuses on those going dangerously faster than the flow of traffic. Those exceeding the limit by a small amount but creating no danger to other road-users should warrant a warning, not a ticket. Police statistics show that while more people are being caught speeding, they are not speeding by as much. In other words, the message is getting through, except to the small minority who should be the police’s target.

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.

The problem is idiots.   And stretches of bad roading.

We all know this.  Yet the Police, AA and now the Herald all want to hold on to the no tolerance speed anyway. All it does is erode goodwill with the public for no other observable public benefit.

And the editorial is getting it between the eyes from drivers too.


Enough is enough.

No more reduced speed tolerances.


– NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.