Speed limits can affect road safety: study
Strictly enforced speed limits could have a detrimental impact on road safety, new research has found, with the WA road safety commissioner questioning the validity of the study.
Researchers from The University of Western Australia used a driving simulator to test if a driver’s mental and visual abilities were affected by lowering thresholds for speed enforcement.
The study involved 84 young adults who drove under conditions where they could be fined for travelling one, six or 11 kilometres over a 50km/h speed limit.
A peripheral detection task was used to measure their mental and visual workload, and they also filled out a questionnaire expressing how difficult or demanding they found the experience of driving under different enforcement conditions.
Vanessa Bowden from the School of Psychology says the overall finding was that stricter speed enforcement may impair a driver’s ability to detect hazards, particularly on the side of the road, because they dedicate more attention to monitoring their speed.
“What we’re concerned about is if you take it too far, getting too strict with it, you’re going to start losing some of those benefits that you’re getting and possibly replace them with problems,” Dr Bowden said.
Past studies have found that people have a limited mental and visual ability while driving, which is affected when divided between tasks.
WA road safety commissioner Kim Papalia said enforcement was a critical part of the state strategy and he was confronted by the research.
“I was extraordinarily disappointed when I read the report…. It is a very narrow cohort, they have drawn conclusions that impact on statewide issues and they have looked at one narrow factor, which is enforcement,” he told 6PR radio.
On average, around 60 people are killed on WA roads each year in speed-related crashes, while a further 375 people suffer serious and life-changing injuries.
In WA, all money collected from speed infringements goes to the road trauma trust account, which is set aside for road safety programs.
Top speed traps net $25 million in fines
Top speed traps net $25 million in fines
Auckland has 12 of the top 20 speed cameras.
New Zealand’s top 20 speed traps have been revealed.
Two fixed speed cameras on the Wellington roading network – one in Porirua and the other on Ngauranga Gorge – both generated fines in excess of $1 million in the first nine months of last year.
More than 15,000 tickets were generated from the Porirua camera, totalling $1.13m in fines. The Ngauranga Gorge camera nabbed 14,200 speedsters, with total fines of $1.07m.
Twelve of the top 20 speed cameras are in the Auckland region. A camera on Great South Rd doled out more than 10,000 tickets and another on the Northwestern Motorway, between the Patiki footbridge and the Waterview Interchange, snapped 8450 motorists.
Police issued more than 390,000 speed camera tickets, totalling $25 million in fines, until September 13 – a drop of 98,760 tickets from the same period last year.
National road policing manager Superintendent Steve Greally said the drop in speed camera tickets was “very encouraging”, as it showed road safety was improving.
But speed was just one of the potential killers on the nation’s roads, he said.
“It’s not only speed that contributes to the road toll, it’s a variety of things like drugs, alcohol and cellphones,” he said.
The drop in issued tickets also led to a $5.9m drop in revenue.
The figures – released to the Herald on Sunday under the Official Information Act – do not include motorists who were caught driving in excess of 50km/h over the speed limit. Those offences are dealt with via the court system.
All fixed speed camera sites have been assessed as being at high risk of speed-related crashes.
Greally said the success of the cameras wasn’t judged on fines generated, but on making the roads safer.
“A reduction in infringements is a great thing. It’s never, ever, about the money,” he said.
“We’re the ones who have to inform families that loved ones are dead. I’ve never met a cop who enjoys that.”
Despite the drop in speed camera tickets, more people are dying on the roads.
The provisional road toll for 2015 is 321, the highest since 2010.
The holiday road toll stands at eight. Eleven people died during last year’s Christmas-New Year break.
Traffic safety campaigner and editor of car review website dogandlemon.com Clive Matthew-Wilson said the speed camera figures showed the risk of a fine wasn’t deterring dangerous driving.
He wanted police to rethink road safety measures.
“This huge number of tickets suggest the cameras are a failure,” he said.
“The police have a deliberate policy of positioning cameras without warning.
“These cameras tend to catch motorists who are often simply travelling at the same speed as the motorists around them, without intentionally breaking the law,” he said.
“These same motorists would have probably slowed down anyway if they had been warned first, so nothing has been gained.”
New generation of digital speed cameras activated in Auckland
A third new-generation digital speed camera has been activated in Auckland today.
The fixed speed camera went live in Otahuhu, Great South Rd, replacing an existing camera at the site which used older technology.
The new cameras use a dual radar system allowing them to monitor up to six lanes of traffic flowing in both directions.
Last June, police announced Auckland would receive six of the first 12 next-generation cameras being rolled out nationwide.
The $10m project will see 56 new digital cameras activated across the country in sites assessed as having a high risk of speed-related crashes.
The network is due to be fully operational by April 2016.
The first camera became operational in Ngauranga Gorge, Wellington, in July 2014.
Counties Manukau Road Policing Manager Inspector Alison Brand said there had been 15 crashes in the vicinity of the Great South Rd site in the past 10 years.
Although none had been fatal, three were serious and 12 were minor or non-injury crashes.
“This is a lower crash rate than the other Auckland sites selected for speed cameras, yet the road is considered high risk due to the high volume of traffic travelling this road each day,” Ms Brand said.
“I have no doubt this camera has helped us to manage speed on this road and reduce speed-related crashes, and the upgraded camera will continue to do so.”
New Speed Camera Sites Revealed
Wellington and Auckland will be the first cities to get new-generation fixed speed cameras as part of a national rollout at sites with the highest risk of speed-related crashes.
The $10 million project will see 56 digital cameras in place across the country by the end of next year.
Wellington cameras will be the first to be installed at crash hot spots in Ngauranga, Thorndon, Aotea, Wanuiomata and two Lower Hutt sites.
In Auckland, they will be installed in Great South Rd in Otahuhu, two locations in Totara Park, in Tamaki Drive in Parnell and locations in Henderson Valley and Kelston.
Assistant road policing commissioner Dave Cliff said the initial rollout in Auckland and Wellington was a milestone after police announced plans last July to modernise and expand its fixed speed camera network. The current network is almost 20 years old and uses outdated wet-film technology.
The initial 12 sites are a mix of existing and new locations.
“Announcing the first sites that will receive the new advanced cameras represents an exciting step forward as we work with our road-safety partners to save lives and prevent serious injuries on our roads, particularly in those places where the evidence tells us there is a high risk of speed-related crashes,” Cliff said.
“We have consulted with people in those communities directly affected by placement of the cameras, who were all resoundingly supportive of having them in their neighbourhoods to improve road safety.”
NZ Transport Agency road safety director Ernst Zollner said the rollout would be welcomed by most New Zealanders.
“We know that a clear majority of Kiwis support the efforts of police to save lives and prevent serious injuries by enforcing speed limits,” he said.
“We are aiming to bring the road toll down by making every part of our transport system safer – vehicles, roads and roadsides, speeds and road users.”
The first new camera will be installed for testing at Wellington’s Ngauranga Gorge next week, eventually replacing a camera used at the site since last September.
The new camera will undergo a rigorous testing and a calibration process before going live next month.
Police will use mobile cameras and other enforcement while the camera is being tested.
The current Ngauranga Gorge camera is of a newer generation but there have been technological advances since it was installed last year.
“It also makes sense that we start the camera upgrade process with the same second-generation technology that will ultimately be rolled out across the rest of the country,” Cliff said.
“This provides us with a consistent baseline from which to test the equipment across a range of conditions and gather useful information that will help inform the rest of the rollout process.”
Police will publish the locations for the remaining cameras as soon as they are confirmed and community consultation and engineering assessments have been carried out.
Cliff said camera placement would be an open process, with sites selected solely on robust scientific evidence.
“Police do not receive any money collected from speeding fines, which goes to government funds,” he said.
“However, any fine issued is nothing when compared with the devastating social, human and economic cost of a crash to our communities.”
There are about 140 sites around the country identified as having a high risk of speed-related crashes.
Speed blitz saw more tickets
A reduced speed tolerance on New Zealand roads in December and January caused a massive increase in numbers of fines but a minor increase in revenue.
The number of deaths also dropped.
An analysis of the police numbers collected during the two-month clampdown is a strong argument against those that say it doubles as a revenue-collecting mechanism.
As part of the multi-agency Safer Summer campaign, police strictly enforced a 4km/h reduced speed threshold between December 1, 2013, and January 31, 2014.
It was the longest period the lower tolerance has been in place since being introduced for all holiday periods in 2010, and was accompanied by a national media and advertising campaign.
The total number of speeding drivers caught by both officers and cameras in the Waikato region surged 63 per cent to 26,294 compared to the corresponding months in 2012/2013. However, the associated revenue increase was subdued, rising 15 per cent to $1,174,520.
There were anomalies within Waikato’s three sub areas.
Speed camera notices increased in the west from 2796 to 9900 with a rise in revenue from $156,380 to $477,230.
Yet motorists in the east were caught on camera more often and paid less: in 2012/2013 police issued 5698 fines worth $311,320 but in 2013/2014 the number of tickets rose to 5927 and revenue fell to $200,000.
National manager road policing, Superintendent Carey Griffiths, said while police issued more tickets most were for lower level speeding.
Ticket numbers from 45 mobile speed cameras over December and January shows that per hour of operation, notices issued for speeds of more than 110kmh fell by 48-60 per cent, compared to the same period during the three previous years. The significant majority of notices issued were for those breaking the speed limit by 5-10kmh.
Analysis of vehicle mean speeds at survey sites also fell by a statistically significant 0.5-1.5kmh, compared to the same period in the previous four years.
“This doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you multiply it over millions of journeys it makes a big difference.
“This is backed by international evidence, which tells us that for every kilometre per hour that we reduce mean speeds, there is a corresponding four per cent reduction in fatalities, which is huge,” Griffiths said.
The reduction in road deaths from 57 to 42 was welcome.
“Although 42 lives lost is nothing to celebrate, it is heartening that this was the lowest number ever recorded for those two months, and 15 less than the same period for the previous year,” Griffiths said.