Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Economy

Road Safety: Inaction by our local and state politicians and relevant authorities … (1)

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Welcome to 2016. Unfortunately, some of our fellow travellers from 2015 will not be with us this year. No death is easy for those left behind and many are taken too early. In a series of articles for Tasmanian Times I will endeavour to highlight what I perceive to be preventable trauma on our roads through excessive speed, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, irresponsible behaviours or sheer negligence. I will further detail the inaction by our local and state politicians and relevant authorities to achieve simple legislative and administrative changes to improve road safety.

When this first article was drafted on 2 January 2016 the following news item was extracted to highlight driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, irresponsible driving and the over-representation of males and motorcyclists in road death statistics.

Two teenage motorbike riders caught high-range speeding

Mercury January 2, 2016 10:38am

TWO teenage motorcycle riders (one a L-plater on drugs) have been caught in separate incidents speeding at 164 km/h and 149 km/h, police say.

A learner rider, 17, was clocked at 164 km/h in a 100 km/h zone on Brinktop Rd, Penna, near Hobart’s Midway Point, at 6pm on New Year’s Day, police said today.

He was exceeding the restrictions of his licence by 74km/h and returned a positive test for cannabis, police said.

It was the day after the Minister’s Press Release on the 2015 Road Toll stated, “As the Minister in charge of road safety, I am disappointed with the 2015 figures and recommit the Hodgman Liberal Government to increasing our road safety effort in the coming years,” Mr Hidding said. In 2016 we will be developing the 10-year safety strategy, and all measures to combat the road toll will be taken into consideration, including the review to all penalties. If harsher penalties are needed, they will be considered. Mr Hidding said of particular concern to the Government was the number of serious crashes involving motorcycles, which accounted for 33 per cent of fatalities and serious injuries despite making up just 4 per cent of Tasmania’s vehicle fleet.”

On 3 January 2016, the Mercury reported the following,

Two men on a motorcycle killed in a collision with a 4WD in Tasmania

Mercury January 3, 2016 11:52am

TWO young men on a motorcycle have been killed in an “easily avoidable” collision with a four-wheel-drive in Launceston, police say.

The first road toll deaths of the new year happened when a rider and pillion passenger on the wrong side of the road collided with a Toyota Hilux about 8pm yesterday on the East Tamar Highway, near the Mowbray Connector, police said. The four-wheel-drive’s passengers escaped without serious injury, police said. Police were calling for witnesses to the crash.

Acting Sergeant Nathan Slater told reporters in Launceston that last night’s fatal motorcycle crash “could’ve been easily avoided with a little bit more attention. It’s a sad way to end (Tasmania Police’s 11-day road safety blitz Operation Crossroads) and now the friends and family of those males are left to pick up the pieces,” he said.

Mr Hidding stated in his Press Release “all measures to combat the road toll will be taken into consideration, including the review to all penalties.” However, when we corresponded with Mr Hidding’s office on the issue of speed zones exceeding the quality of specific rural roads and inconsistencies between council boundaries in the Huon-Kingborough region Mr Hidding responded on 16 November 2015 by stating,

Speed limits are set to maintain a reasonable balance between safety and mobility. Speed limits that are artificially low attract poor levels of compliance and tend to undermine the credibility of our speed zoning system. To ensure consistency, all new or modified speed limits in Tasmania need to be approved by the Transport Commissioner, Mr Shane Gregory. I am advised that you met with Mr Gregory a few weeks ago to discuss your perspectives on the speed limits in the Huon/Kingborough region.

In September 2012, the Tasmanian Government launched the Non-Urban Road Network Strategy that considered the safety benefits associated with reducing the speed limit on most rural roads from 100 km/h to 90 km/h. The subject was widely discussed in the community and it was apparent that there was little mainstream support for a wholesale reduction in rural speed limits.

On this basis, there is no mandate for a widespread reduction of speed limits in the Huon/Kingborough region. However, the Transport Commissioner would be happy to review the speed limit on specific sections of road, such as the Huon Road between Neika and Longley.

This road is owned and managed by the Kingborough Council (the Council) and requests to lower its speed limit should be addressed to the Council in the first instance.

Hidding has failed even before the starter’s gun has sounded …

After twelve months of our conducting meetings with the Department of State Growth, Huon Valley Council, Kingborough Council and other stakeholder bodies it is back to square one!

Little credibility can be given to Mr Hidding’s promise to consider “all measures to combat the road toll.” He has failed even before the starter’s gun has sounded.

I will further note Mr Hidding’s intention to review all penalties. In August 2013 a cyclist from Huonville was killed by an unlicensed driver with four prior DUI convictions who claimed to be only doing 75-80 kph along the last remaining five kilometers of 100 kph speed zoning between Huonville and Cygnet. The crime only carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and a $1300 fine. At the time it was claimed no action could be taken as the case was to be considered by the Coroner. The Coroner ultimately decided the police report was satisfactory and no further action would be taken.

No legislative change has ever been attempted by Rene Hidding Minister for Police or the Hodgman government since August 2013.

Michael Lee McCulloch handed suspended term for causing the death of cyclist Craig Saunders by negligent driving

Mercury September 12, 2014

AN unlicensed driver who failed to see a cyclist wearing high-visibility clothing in daylight on a straight stretch of road has been given a suspended jail term for killing the man. The sentence was condemned as inadequate by the state’s peak cycling body.

Michael Lee McCulloch, 50, was last week found guilty of causing the death of another person by negligent driving. McCulloch pleaded guilty to driving while not the holder of a driver’s licence.

Hobart Magistrates Court heard McCulloch did not swerve or brake before he drove his ute at 80km/h into Pelverata man Craig Saunders, 57, on the road between Huonville and Cygnet on the morning of August 5 last year. Mr Saunders died on the way to hospital.

McCulloch said he didn’t see Mr Saunders or his riding companion Steve Barrett in the seconds before the collision. His claim the sun was in his eyes was rejected by Deputy Chief Magistrate Michael Daley.

During sentencing yesterday, Mr Daley noted McCulloch was unlicensed at the time and that he had a poor driving record, including four convictions for drink-driving.

Victim impact statements from Mr Saunders’s partner and children were tendered to the court. Mr Barrett, who was riding with Mr Saunders at the time, told the court he continued to be plagued with memories of the crash and pleaded with motorists to take more care. “Cyclists are fragile, with little protection. We just ask for respect and a few moments of a driver’s time. If this was forthcoming, fewer people would have to go through the ordeal we have all just experienced,” he said.

Mr Daley said the cyclists would have been visible to McCulloch for up to 12 seconds before the crash and no blame could be attached to Mr Saunders. “If the defendant has been keeping a proper lookout he would have seen him,” he said. “Cyclists simply were not on Mr McCulloch’s radar.” The magistrate said a jail term was the only appropriate penalty in the case. “I must send a message to the community that inattentive driving — and inattentive driving in the case of cyclists — is to be taken seriously,” he said.

Defence lawyer Steve Chopping said his client wished to apologise to Mr Saunders’s family. “He will have the death of Mr Saunders on his conscience for the rest of his life,” Mr Chopping said.

The magistrate sentenced McCulloch to four months’ jail, but suspended the sentence on condition he not commit another offence punishable by a prison term for three years. The father-of-four was ordered to perform 150 hours of community service and disqualified from driving for 18 months. The crime carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and a $1300 fine.

Bicycle Tasmania’s Emma Pharo said tougher penalties would provide greater protection for cyclists. “Given he was found guilty and there was no obvious reason he shouldn’t have seen the riders, this seems to be a very light sentence,” Ms Pharo said. “There needs to be disincentives for drivers who aren’t careful.

“In serious offences like this one, some drivers should be disqualified for life.”

Is the Minister ignoring Departmental advice?

The police are well aware of fatalities on our rural roads being higher than urban areas and being exacerbated by 100kph speed zones (see Mercury article below).

Jim Cox of the Tasmanian Road Safety Advisory Council has stated, “The human body is not designed to withstand impact at 100km/h or more.”

Mr Rutherford (DIER) stated to an Estimates Committee in 2013, “We have been looking at this in terms of the standards that were developed, based on safe system principles for assessing which roads are safe to maintain at 100 kilometres an hour. The optimal model, developed by the independent ARRB, would, if applied without change to Tasmania, have meant that very few sections of Tasmania’s non-urban network would maintain a 100-kilometre speed limit.”

Shocking fatality figures spur police to switch focus from cities with a rural roads speed blitz

Mercury November 13, 2015

RURAL-road revheads have been put on notice after a shocking month in the backblocks of southern Tasmania. Last month, more than 1050 motorists were fined, mainly for speeding, on country roads.

Tasmania Police Inspector John Ward has cautioned ¬motorists who think an escape to the country means escaping detection. “Some of these county-road drivers tend to think they won’t see a police officer so they increase their speed or use their phone or they might not put their seat belt on,” southern Tasmania’s top road officer said. “If they think that, they are going to get a rude shock – because I’ve got people patrolling the country roads every day. That’s over and above the country police stations.”

Tasmania Police’s switched focus to rural roads has been based on troubling statistics. Of the state’s 33 fatal crashes this year, 19 have been on twisting country roads. In the past five years, 41 per cent of road fatalities and injuries have occurred in 100km/h zones (typically rural roads) being a higher proportion than any other speed zone.

Rural regions have their fair share of drink drivers, too. The recent Police Crackdown on Drink Drivers (Mercury 25 December 2015) reported, “Tasmania Police are reporting an increase in motorists caught drink-driving, not wearing seatbelts and using mobile phones this Christmas.

Through the Operation Crossroads statewide traffic crackdown, police have already charged 26 people with drink driving offences – up from 10 in the same period last year.” This is only the tip of the iceberg. On a regular walk along 6-8 kilometres through Ranelagh to Huonville we collect roadside litter. There is always a high proportion of beer and spirit cans. On 29 December 2015 we collected five cascade draught cans, one pale ale, three Bourbon and coke, one gin and tonic and one whisky and dry. This represents just six days of litter during a police media blitz. Some drivers on our rural roads are not just driving under the influence of alcohol but are actively drinking as they drive.

Returning to the original article where two motorcyclists were caught speeding with one under the influence of cannabis, I can only conclude we have taught our children well.

Postscript 4 January 2016 – The two motorcycling fatalities were males aged 17 and 31. The 17 year old driver was unlicensed on an unregistered trail bike. Drug paraphernalia was found nearby and alcohol has not been ruled out as a contributing factor. The ABC reported a review of motorcyclist license requirements which is clearly an inadequate response as the rider was unlicensed. Penalties for a range of offences need to increase as a matter of priority with confiscation and disposal of vehicles for the most serious offences needed. Exactly this then happened to a Bridgewater rider clocked at 160kph doing a wheelie on his motorcycle in an 80kph zone on 6 January 2016.

*All about Mark Temby: Too many accidents have resulted in political promises, deflections and no action. Too many opportunities to reduce speed limits foregone. The government claims to listen to the community expressing concern over fatalities and serious injuries too often being tourists, motorcyclists and our youth. The government has the Tasmanian Road Safety Advisory Council developing the “Towards Zero” strategy for 2017-26 but ignores its advice to reduce speeds on our rural roads. I intend to hold Minister Hidding, Premier Hodgman and the government to account for promised improvements to our rural roads and act as a constant reminder of their inaction. It may require an insurance company or coronial inquiry to hold the state government culpable before it awakens from its apathy.

• Andrew in Comments: Thanks for a very topical article Mark. I spend a lot of my time on Tasmanian roads and would like to offer the following observations and suggestions for improving road safety …

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Simon Warriner

    January 17, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    Interesting question Pete.

    My experience is that conversations on UHF are shorter, require less concentration and are less distracting. They are also often related to information that makes the involved driver safer.

    Phone conversations most often relate to matters unrelated to the task of driving and thus split ones concentration.

  2. Pete Godfrey

    January 17, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    #10 yes Leonard, maybe the charges for using a mobile phone should be different. If texting then the charge should definitely be much heavier.
    I have often wondered how using a Radio transmitter such as truck drivers do is different. They actually have to pick up the microphone and push a button to speak, so how is it different to holding a phone to your ear?
    As the current crop of drivers appear to include many who are eminently distractable, I worry when seeing so many of them on the phone while driving.
    Maybe our attention spans are heading the way of the goldfish, a quick visit to a supermarket will confirm that a lot of people cannot even shop and manage to maintain a semblance of situational awareness.

  3. Leonard Colquhoun

    January 17, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Have a problem with mobile phone use while driving being singled out for criminalisation. But in so doing, I’m not arguing that such concurrent use is harmless. The essence of this matter is that they can become a very dangerous driver distraction, and no reasonable people would disagree with that.

    But so can any and every in-car button, touchpad, toggle and app: adjusting the aircon or the radio tuning, glancing at the GPS or an on-windshield display, any of these distractions can be fatal in the blink of an eye or a turn of the head.

    What’s more, there does not seem to have been a spike in driving deaths since mobile phones became near universal. Besides, skill at driving and mobiling would follow a Bell Curve showing that probably 80 to 90% of us could do both at the same time with a hands-free phone in normal traffic, road and weather conditions, little different from talking to someone in the back seat.

    The crux: drivers doing unsafe, foolish, careless, reckless, inattentive and irresponsible mobiling while driving should be charged with unsafe / careless / reckless / irresponsible driving without due regard to traffic, road and weather conditions, not just with generic mobiling while driving.

  4. Carol Rea

    January 16, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    #7 Andrew your 4th point continues to make me grind my teeth. If someone drives whilst unlicenced what does a further period of disqualification do? It is not a deterrent.
    It’s not like we are living in the top end and need to cover 100 of km.
    There needs to be more community discussion and political will about real deterrents. Or perhaps there would be a better outcome if we concentrated on learnings if you do offend. Re-connecting to community – widening people’s concept of where they fit and giving them a purpose rather than a penalty.
    Time doing community service could be a positive experience- things that are not necessarily related to driving – they could pick their project.
    Or – maybe even – suggest their own!!!
    We need to reconnect people who seem to have lost their sense of responsibility to community .

  5. Adam Willby

    January 15, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. You can blame the roads, the speed limits, the wildlife or a number of things but the quintessential problem is the loose nut behind the steering wheel.

    There are things the govt can do but at the end of the day if a speed limit is set at 60 and someone wants to drive at 90 then that’s the drivers choice.

    I would be happy to see a driver get X amount of points when they get their license and then that’s it. When they run out then that’s it. Drink drivers should be treated the same. Once you lose it it’s gone and it doesn’t come back. It’s time drivers started taking responsibility for their actions.

    Now the next issue will be unlicensed drivers. No big deal the car they were in at the time of the offence is towed to the auction yard. The funds gained from the auction go to driver education programs. The person loses the car and the assets value. If it’s a work car then the boss will need to buy it back and recoup the cost from the driver.

    Now some might think this is extreme but it’s time the fools using our roads as race tracks woke up to themselves. I also agree with Linda (#3) that the term accident is used too broadly. Driving 20kmh over the speed limit is no accident but instead is a wilful and blatant disregard for the law that most of us follow. This driver shouldn’t be allowed to claim insurance due to their negligent behaviour. The spin off of this results in the rest of us paying through the nose for insurance premiums.

    Time to rid the roads of the selfish few who have bugger all respect for the rest of us.

  6. Andrew

    January 15, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Thanks for a very topical article Mark. I spend a lot of my time on Tasmanian roads and would like to offer the following observations and suggestions for improving road safety:

    1. I do not agree that Tasmanians are impatient, bad drivers or any different from drivers in other states. I have found that the majority of drivers that I share the road with drive safely. I also see some poor driving, but I have seen that in other states. I almost got cleaned up by a speeding car in Melbourne a few months ago.

    2. In my opinion, the speed limits are too high for the road conditions in Tasmania. 100 or 110 kph limits should only apply to dual carriageways in good condition with a physical barrier to prevent vehicles from straying into oncoming traffic. All other highways and rural roads should have a speed limit of 80 kph to allow drivers to react to unexpected events (animals, etc) and to decrease the kinetic energy in a head on collision. It does not make sense to me to allow two large trucks to meet at a closing speed of 200 kph, separated only by a white line and a few metres of space. I have been using these self-imposed speed limits for some time now and have not noticed much difference in my travel times.

    3. Tasmania needs to develop a culture of strict compliance with the road rules. I see many vehicles speeding, running red lights, drivers using mobile phones, etc. This compliance could be achieved by installing large numbers of speed cameras and red light cameras across the state.They would be seen by the public as “revenue raisers”, but would force compliance and are part of the scenery in other countries, particularly in western Europe.

    4. The consequences of driving while disqualified need to be more unpleasant than they currently are. The number of people appearing in the court system for repeatedly driving while disqualified is astonishing. It is particularly annoying when these people have caused injury or death to others. The sentences are often “further disqualification from driving” or a fine which is ignored. Surely a prison sentence is eventually warranted for repeat offenders, because the current system is clearly not deterring them!

  7. Max Edelweiss

    January 12, 2016 at 12:54 am

    #5, while I accept police and magistrate can only sentence within the framework, there is a definite reticence within TasPol to aim for the more serious charges. Instead they shoot for the ones they can prosecute with least efforts, or certainly that is how it appears. Particularly hard to prove the more serious charges as dead cyclists and motorists do not speak. There are usually witnesses for pedestrian deaths.

    As for (another defendant) a serious deterrent sentence should have been placed on maybe the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth or tenth opportunity to do so. The support her family are offering goes to show that even after such a tragedy her conduct is socially acceptable in sizeable pockets of the community.

  8. Mark Temby

    January 11, 2016 at 10:58 am

    #4, Linda, this first of my articles has focused on the inadequate level of penalties set and maintained by our state government. The police, magistrate and, even, Tamara Whitfield and Michael McCulloch as unlicensed drivers are all acting within the framework set by Minister Hidding. The magistrate does not have much room to move in sentencing.

    The maximum penalty only carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and a $1300 fine. McCulloch did not receive any gaol (fully suspended). The penalty should carry a maximum around one to ten years gaol, up to $25,000 fine, confiscation of vehicles and loss of licence up to 25 years. The most serious offenders such as these examples should be held fully accountable given their degree of recklessness.

    A few headlines where a drunk unlicensed driver in an unregistered vehicle kills another road user such as a pedestrian, cyclist or motorist is gaoled for 3 years or more with a ten or more year disqualification might start changing a few community attitudes. This societal shift sits squarely with Minister Hidding and Premier Hodgman. So far they have been cowards silenced by a vocal minority of aggressive drivers.

  9. Linda Peters

    January 11, 2016 at 9:01 am

    #2 Mark, what a blatant disregard for the public this magistrate has. A child’s life has now been valued at 1 months jail and an 18mth license suspension. This magistrate should be brought before a board and asked to justify this sentence which is terribly inadequate. What good is an 18 month license suspension if the woman has already been convicted10 times for driving whilst unlicensed? How many times has she driven unlicensed and not detected? 10 years of incarceration should have been the minimum considering her and the vehicles condition. I feel for the children and hope they can be taught to obey the law and not follow there mothers example.

    Poor Molly, a life tragically lost whilst under her parents control. So sad!!

  10. Linda Peters

    January 10, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    Add to this in the next few years the number of fatalaties as a result of the dumb decision to allow motorists to cross double lines to pass a cyclist cruising along at 20kmh. The amount of cyclists now using the public roads as there personal fitness routine is a worrying issue. Clearly the roads are not up to scratch to cater for cyclists, cars, busses & trucks but the cyclist revolution is on in tas and there cavalier attitude is disgraceful. Further without massive taxation increases they never will be. Time to have the dumb rule overturned and force cyclists to stick to designated bike trails and paths not on the roads. If they want to ride on the roads they must register there bikes for a token amount so they can be identify WHEN they do the wrong thing and more importantly they must pay the MAIB premium.

    Sad anyone has to lose there life as a result of using our roads but is much to commonly accepted now. It frustrates me that the word accident is so loosely used. Is it an accident that the car lost control as a result of speed, inattentive drivers or drugs & alcohol? An accident in my mind is because a tree branch had fallen on the road or a tyre has blown out not because someone changed lanes and didn’t look.

    I am all for increased penalties but they must go beyond just money and demerit points. I would include weekend detention watching of road trauma videos as a penalty. Most don’t seem to care mch about a fine but they might think twice before having to turn up to a centre on a Saturday morning to sit around for a few hours.

  11. Mark Temby

    January 10, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    A lesson learned or reinforcing recklessness to the wider community?

    BREAKING NEWS ABC

    “Woman whose negligent driving caused 4yo daughter’s death jailed for one month.

    A Tasmanian woman who caused the death of her four-year-old daughter through negligent driving will serve one month in prison. Tamara Brooke Whitford, 36, has been sentenced on eight charges.

    Her daughter Molly died in a car crash at New Norfolk in November 2014. Three 14 year olds and Whitford’s 10-year-old son were also in the car.

    Whitford was driving unlicensed, knew the car she had borrowed had bald tyres, and also knew the car did not have enough restraints for her five passengers. She lost control of the car on a left-hand bend on Boyer Road at New Norfolk. It then slid 35 metres before hitting an embankment and flipping. Her son and daughter were thrown from the car and Molly died a short time later.

    Tests at the time showed Whitford had a blood alcohol reading of 0.065 and traces of THC — the active ingredient of cannabis. She was also driving on a suspended and expired licence. The court heard Whitford had been convicted 10 times of unlicensed driving and had only ever held a learner’s licence.

    Whitford was supported by about 20 family members in court, several of whom cried as the sentence was read out. As Whitford was taken into custody, family members stood and called out: ‘We love you, Tammy.’ ‘Chin up Tammy,’ another called out.

    She was ordered to serve at least one month in jail and was disqualified for holding or obtaining a licence for at least 18 months.”

  12. Pete Godfrey

    January 10, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Good start Mark.
    Some of the issues I see with Tasmanian road users are.
    -They are too bloody impatient,
    -They overtake in stupid places due to this impatience.
    -They appear to think that if anyone is not driving at the speed limit that they are a nuisance.
    -They don’t stay on their own side of the road because they are too lazy to turn the wheel.
    – They do not drive to conditions, including in wet weather or on roads that are bumpy, winding or have poor forward vision.

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