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, government and the individual … A different view

Over the last few weeks Mark Temby has written several opinion pieces in the Tasmanian Times under the title ‘Road Safety: Inaction by our local and state politicians and relevant authorities’ ( HERE ).

As the title suggests, these articles hit out at what Mr Temby perceives as either wrong-headed or inadequate government action to address road safety issues. Along with more and faster work to improve roads, his principle road safety policy prescription is for lower speed limits on many roads, especially an 80 km/h limit on the rural sections of the Channel Highway.

In this piece I will argue that the focus on speed reduction and enforcement in jurisdictions across Australia is already past the point of diminishing safety returns, and is deflecting attention from a much more important issue; driver inattention. Moreover, speed limits set too low combined with zealous enforcement of very minor infractions turns safe and responsible driving into an offence, which unfairly tarnishes the reputation of the police; unless there is compelling evidence that such policies actually reduce the road toll they should have no place in a country that values individual freedom and responsibility.

Lastly, I will argue that the ultimate determinant of road safety is not government regulation and initiatives, important as they may be, but rather depends on individual road users paying attention to what they are doing and taking responsibility for their own safety and that of others.

Speed

Firstly, there is no question that increased speed makes the consequences of any crash much worse. This is because increased speed increases the kinetic energy unleashed in a crash by the square of that increase in speed, and thus increases the consequences of a crash significantly. For example a crash at 110 km/h rather than 100 km/h involves 10 per cent more speed but 21 per cent more energy. Thus it is entirely predictable that, as Mr Temby notes, ‘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’; speeds on these roads are higher than on urban roads so crash consequences are worse.

This does not mean that speed caused these crashes, yet Mr Temby nevertheless claims that ‘excessive speed on rural roads is recognized as the primary cause of most road fatalities’. This is both wrong and disingenuous, conflating the consequences of crashes with their causes. In fact DIER’s statistics from the current Road Safety Strategy1 tell us that 83 per cent of fatal or serious casualty crashes on our rural roads involve single vehicles (65 per cent) or head-on collisions (18 per cent), of which perhaps 12 per cent were related to inappropriate speed. Something other than speed is at work here; I suggest the root cause is driver inattention, of which more later.

Furthermore, as Mr Temby notes, the 2013 Legislative Council Select Committee on Rural Road Speed Limit Reductions found that ‘the majority of serious and fatal crashes on non-urban roads are attributable to a variety of causes in which speed is not a factor. This is supported by analysis completed by the RACT and by statistical information provided by Tasmania Police’.

Nevertheless, across Australia, governments focus heavily on speed and speed enforcement. The current DIER road safety strategy states that ‘speeds just 5 km/h above the speed limit in urban areas and 10 km/h in rural areas are sufficient to double the risk of a casualty crash occurring’. This finding is not disputed, but the wording is crucial. It does not say that the risk of a crash doubles with each 5 km/h above the speed limit, but that, in the event of a crash, the risk of there being a serious casualty doubles.

These kind of statistics are generated from the Power Model2, which governments use to estimate the safety benefits likely to result from a reduction in speeds. The model provides a mathematical correlation between increased or reduced average travel speeds and the probable severity of an accident. Using this model:

• Serious casualty accidents are represented by the third power, so a reduction from 100 to 90 km/h should reduce casualties by 1-(0.9)3 = 27 percent.

• Likewise, a reduction from 100 to 60 km/h should reduce casualties by accidents by 1-(0.6)3 = 78 percent.

The Power Model and statistical analysis of the relationship between speed and serious casualties are certainly useful, but have little to say about the causes of accidents and offer no help in deciding speed limits. The model will always tell you that the speed limit should be lower. If you propose a reduction of the speed limit from 100 to 90 km/h on the basis that it will reduce serious casualties by 27 per cent, why would you not pursue a reduction to 60 km/h, because that should reduce serious casualties by 78 per cent?

We are also regularly told that increased speed increases the likelihood of a crash, although the evidence for this is nowhere near as compelling and the effect is dependent on circumstances. I doubt there is any measureable increase in crash likelihood (as opposed to crash consequence) as speeds increase on good roads, especially freeways. On the other hand, increased crash likelihood is entirely credible on winding or wet roads where quite small increases in speed can rapidly and unexpectedly take a driver beyond the limit of traction and cause a slide leading to a crash; as with the kinetic energy unleashed in a crash, g-forces increase with the square of the velocity.

Note at this point that the relationship between speed and both the consequences and likelihood of crashes is independent of speed limits; on any road short of a freeway there will be sections of road where it is not possible to travel safely at the speed limit and drivers must exercise judgement to drive to the conditions; in the wet or winding road example above there will be many places where a dangerous speed is well below the actual speed limit.

Once speed limits and speed enforcement are conflated with issues of crash likelihood and consequence the argument becomes less credible.

Speed Limits and Speed Enforcement

Against this background, let’s have a look at the arguments for reduced speed limits, and specifically the proposal for an 80 km/h limit on the rural sections of the Channel Highway. There is some history here, involving the previous government’s proposal to reduce the default Tasmanian rural road limit to 90 km/h, and the associated Kingborough and Tasman ‘Safer Speed Demonstrations’.

The first point to make about these demonstrations is that the trial reduction of the limit from 100 to 90 km/h did not result in an improvement in road safety. This was to be expected because, as predicted by the Power Model, reductions in casualties are dependent on reductions in actual, average travel speeds, not on the speed limit, and average travel speeds barely changed. A further reduction to 80 km/h is also likely to make little difference to average travel speeds so is unlikely to reduce the road toll. However, as with the existing 90 km/h limit in Kingborough, it would unnecessarily prevent people from travelling at higher speeds on those sections of the highway where conditions safely allow.

In other words, the Safer Speed Demonstrations provide empirical evidence that reduced speed limits on these kinds of rural highways will not improve road safety. They do not support the case for imposing lower speed limits.

In the event there was strong opposition to the proposed reduction of the rural limit to 90 km/h and the then government rejected the proposal, putting a sensible focus on ‘driving to the conditions’ within the existing 100km/h rural road limit. As Mr Temby notes, the new government has retained this position. Minister Hidding noted ‘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.’

Of course there are some people who disagree with this assessment, but the fact that both major parties have come to the same conclusion suggests that it does indeed reflect majority public opinion.

In arguing for reduced limits, Mr Temby also cites a number of examples of road safety stories from taken from press reports. These stories always fall into two categories, neither of which supports the case for lower speed limits.

First are the stories about road users who were drunk, unlicenced, driving at extreme speeds, or otherwise behaving in a highly irresponsible and unsafe manner. Such people deserve to face the full force of the law as they put themselves and everyone around them at risk. However, I suggest that these stories have no relevance to the question of speed limits; for drivers wilfully flouting the law, it makes no difference what the limit is.

The second category of reports involves single vehicle accidents or head on collisions, where speed is not usually an issue, and the reason for the crash is largely unexplained. Once again such reports have no relevance to the question of setting speed limits.

I have never seen a media report where a minor infraction of the speed limit is cited as the cause of a fatal or serious casualty crash.

An important point is that speed limits are arbitrary, varying dramatically within Australia and across the world. For example:

• Around the world, freeway limits vary from derestricted down through 130-140 in much of Europe, 70mph (114km/h) in Britain, 55-75mph in the USA, to 110 in Australia to 100 or less in some places.

• In Australia, non-dual carriage highways vary from 130 (with a derestricted trial section) in the Northern Territory down through 110 on the Midland Highway here in Tasmania, with most highways around the country posted at 100. Here in Tasmania some such roads are now set at 90 and there are quite long sections of Victoria’s Midland Highway set at 80 (which is what Mr Temby proposes for the Channel Highway). In almost all cases the sections of road with lower limits are no better or worse than the adjacent 100 areas.

Thus what would be regarded as high level speeding (more than 15km/h over) on one section of road can be legal on another equivalent section. To give a local example, 95km/h on the Channel Highway in Kingborough is speeding, yet it is legal the instant you cross into Huon Valley. In neither example have the safety implications changed at all.

The credibility of the anti-speeding message is further undermined when combined with low tolerance enforcement policy. The reality of speed enforcement is that it overwhelmingly catches people who are low-level speeding, often on good roads where the speed limit is set quite low. In Victoria 80 per cent of speed camera fines are for less than 10 km/h over the limit. Here in Tasmania Assistant Police Commissioner Glenn Frame tells us that 64 per cent of fines are issued to people doing less than 15 km/h over the limit.

Kingborough has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of speeding fines across the state. I wager most come from places like the Channel Highway just south of Margate where, against DIER advice, the limit has been reduced from 80 to 60 km/h and the police regularly trap vehicles rolling down the hill at speeds well under the previous limit. Another example is the Kingston Bypass, an excellent new road with a rather low 80 km/h limit where drivers are regularly speed trapped, usually rolling downhill towards Hobart. Most drivers so fined will have been doing less than 90 km/h, a speed they can quite legally do on the Channel Highway, a far inferior road, just a couple of kilometres further south. There are many similar examples around the state. This kind of enforcement does little or nothing to enhance road safety.

This is not to argue for people breaking the law, but it does suggest that the constant refrain about the dangers of even a few km/h over the limit is exaggerated and misleading in many circumstances. This helps explain why such a large proportion of the Tasmanian community believe low level speeding is ‘acceptable’3. The message would be much more credible if enforcement was clearly aimed at excessive speed rather than people who are driving in a safe and responsible manner but have unwittingly picked up a few extra km/h rolling down a hill.

Moreover, the Road Safety Advisory Council graph of serious road casualty numbers against road safety initiatives4 shows those numbers flat-lining over the last few years, despite a heavy and continuous focus on speed. This suggests that the focus on speed is past the point of diminishing safety returns. We need to do something new to further reduce casualties. There are much more important initiatives to be pursued to promote improved driver behaviour and safety, which brings me to the role of inattention.

Inattention

There is more than enough direct and indirect evidence to suggest that driver inattention is a crucial factor, often the most important factor, in almost all crashes. Direct evidence comes from naturalistic driving studies such as that by Virginia Tech5, which found that nearly 80 per cent of all crashes (93 per cent for rear-end crashes) involved driver inattention within 3 seconds of the incident.

Indirect evidence comes from our own DIER statistics which tell us that 83 per cent of fatal or serious casualty crashes on our rural roads involve single vehicles (65 per cent) or head-on collisions (18 per cent), of which perhaps 12 per cent were related to inappropriate speed. It also comes from the sad, ongoing litany of road crash and incident reports in the newspapers which I have already discussed. In many of these cases inattention seems to provide the only plausible explanation; one or two seconds (you travel 56 metres in two seconds at 100km/h) of inattention is all it takes to run off the road or cross the centre line and cause a crash. That same one or two seconds inattention also causes a much greater increase in potential stopping distances than a few km/h of additional speed, because it delays the point where braking starts by many metres.

At this point it is important to mention the recently quoted Road Safety Advisory Council statistics indicating that inattentiveness was a factor in (only) 9 per cent of fatalities and 12 per cent of serious injuries. This is highly misleading as, since 2011, inattention is only reported when it is considered to be the sole crash factor. Moreover, while speed is easy to measure or to calculate through crash reconstruction, inattentiveness is much harder to determine, at least if mobile phone records do not provide an obvious answer. As a result one would expect the statistics to very substantially under-represent the danger of inattention compared to speed. The fact that inattention is hard to measure does not mean it is not a crucial issue, nor that we cannot do something about it.

Any initiative to reduce the road toll needs to address this issue, yet it is under-emphasised. In the section on behaviours contributing to serious road casualties, the current DIER Strategy places speed first and inattention last, despite the fact that it states that inattention caused 60 more serious casualties than speed (623 v 563) in the period 1996 to 2005. That said, 623 casualties is still only 13 percent of the total of 4749 serious casualties in the period. Yet, on the basis of the Virginia study, it is not unreasonable to assume that as many as 80 percent of these accidents involved inattention, in which case it contributed to about 3800 of the 4749 serious casualties.

If that figure is even close to correct, it suggests that the danger of inattention is overwhelmingly the most important road safety message of all. If driver education and other measures reduced the incidence of inattention by even one third, that could be expected to reduce serious casualties over the next ten years by more than 1200. That is more than twice the total number attributed to speed (563) over the ten years from 1996 to 2005.

The lack of emphasis inattention is still given in so many road safety campaigns, always ranking far behind speed, alcohol, drugs and fatigue, is a dangerous omission. Unless drivers can be made to understand the absolute need to give driving their continuous and undivided attention the crash rate will not drop and the tragic death toll will continue.

It really doesn’t matter what causes the inattention, be it texting, using mobile phones, arguing with children in the back, looking at a view rather than the road or giving in to any of the hundreds of other possible distractions. It is the resulting inattention that is so dangerous.

If you are paying close attention to your driving and the situation around you, every single time out on the roads you will see other drivers, riders and pedestrians who are not focussed on their surroundings and are wandering around on the road or otherwise behaving erratically as a result. I suggest the difference between these incidents and a fatal crash is simply a matter of luck; it is tragic and harsh, but the evidence suggests that most of those who die or are seriously injured on the roads are those who were not paying attention when their luck ran out.

There is a clear message here that needs to be constantly reinforced to stop drivers becoming complacent and starting to believe that crashes can’t happen to them. The key points include:

• Driving is one of the most potentially dangerous things we do. As a driver, you are responsible for your own safety and that of your passengers and all those around you.

• To meet this responsibility you must drive safely to the conditions. To do this you must have excellent and continuous situational awareness of the road, weather, visibility and traffic (vehicles/bikes/pedestrians/animals) conditions.

• This can only be achieved by paying continuous, undivided attention to your surroundings, particularly what is happening ahead of your vehicle.

• Anything that distracts you from the direct task of driving is potentially fatal to you or others. If you fail to pay attention you are failing your most important responsibility as a driver and are playing Russian roulette with your own life and that of everyone around you.

• Nothing the authorities can do reduces the responsibility of individual users for road safety. Whatever initiatives are in place to improve the safety of roads, road laws and vehicles, they will come to naught if road users fail to meet their responsibilities.

A message like this would surely be a statement of the obvious to a parent teaching their teenager to drive. This might be one reason why learner drivers actually have a very low accident rate – teacher and driver tend to be completely focused on the task at hand. Yet once the licence has been issued, and as we get more experienced and driving becomes more routine, complacency seems to set in for many. A capable, educated man like Mr Bill Shorten (Labor Opposition Leader) is nevertheless sufficiently complacent to text while driving. We only read about that because of his high profile, yet he was only doing what a multitude of other road users do every day.

Driver responsibility and the need for drivers to pay continuous attention cannot be directed and enforced by government in the way that other initiatives to improve road laws, the roads and vehicles are directed and managed. The responsibility to drive to the conditions rests with the individual road user, not the government. All other initiatives to improve roads and vehicles, however important, are subordinate to that fact.

It should be government policy to recognise that ultimately it is the driver, rider or pedestrian that determines whether they and others are safe or not, and to continuously emphasise this safety message to all road users, both in the new Road Safety Strategy for 2017 and in future road safety campaigns.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Speed Limits and Speed Enforcement

• Stop pursuing general speed limit reductions that turn safe and responsible driving into an offence. Where there are strong reasons to do so, review speed limits on specific sections of road.

• Separate the issues of crash likelihood and consequences from speed limits and speed enforcement. Reinforce the message that quite small increases in speed can easily mean you are driving beyond rather than to the conditions.

• Focus enforcement on genuinely excessive speed and other forms of aggressive and dangerous driving.

• Unless there is clearly irresponsible or unsafe driving involved, issue warnings for low level speeding offences.

• When a particular location is yielding many low-level speeding infringements, review the speed limit. It is very likely it is set too low for the conditions.

Inattention

• In the new Road Safety Strategy due in 2017 and in future road safety campaigns the following message should be clearly stated as the first priority of road safety.

o Driving is one of the most potentially dangerous things we do. As a driver, you are responsible for your own safety and that of your passengers and all those around you.

o To meet this responsibility you must drive safely to the conditions. To do this you must have excellent and continuous situational awareness of the road, weather, visibility and traffic (vehicles/bikes/pedestrians/animals) conditions.

o This can only be achieved by paying continuous, undivided attention to your surroundings, particularly what is happening ahead of your vehicle.

o Anything that distracts you from the direct task of driving is potentially fatal to you or others. If you fail to pay attention you are failing your most important responsibility as a driver and are playing Russian Roulette with your own life and that of everyone around you.

o Nothing the authorities can do reduces the responsibility of individual users for road safety. Whatever initiatives are in place to improve the safety of roads, road laws and vehicles, they will come to naught if road users fail to meet their responsibilities.

References …

1. Non-Urban Road Network Strategy, September 2012, DIER, Tasmanian Government
2. Nilsson, G. (2004A). Traffic safety dimensions and the Power Model to describe
the effect of speed on safety. Bulletin 221. Lund Institute of Technology,
Department of Technology and Society, Traffic Enginering, Lund
3. See RSAC website ‘Speeding Shatters Lives’ http://www.rsac.tas.gov.au/campaigns/speedingshatters/
4. http://www.rsac.tas.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/RSAC_GRAPH_updated.pdf
5. 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), 10 June 2005 http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2005/06/2005-834.html

*Peter Leschen retired from the RAN in 2010 after a 36 year career in the Permanent Naval Forces, and is now a Commodore in the Naval Reserve and a consultant to Defence Industry. He is a motoring enthusiast who has done a significant amount of both theoretical and practical advanced driver training, and has a keen interest in road safety. Among other things, he has taught his two daughters to drive, and is passionately concerned that they remain safe on our roads.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Leonard Colquhoun

    February 28, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Very ambivalent about this “Towards Zero vision of zero deaths or serious injuries on our roads”, as reported in Comment 15.

    Is it that sort of praiseworthy encouragement for betterment, often associated with 19th century writer Robert Browning’s “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp / Or what’s a heaven for?” in his ‘Andrea del Sarto’ poem? The essence here is this: all good – if it can be practically and pragmatically achieved.

    Or.

    Is it another of those dollar-a-dozen naive, simplistic and unrealistic sound-bites forever associated with former PM Hawke’s unfortunate script change of “By 1990, no Australian child will live in poverty”?

    Can it be done? Or just more pollie hot air?

    Perhaps MHA Hidding avoided the Bob Hawke stumble with that word ‘vision’, a point Hawke himself made about his mistake 20 years on:

    “It was a silly shorthand thing,” Mr Hawke has told News Limited newspapers. “I should have just said what was in the distributed speech.

    “We set ourselves this first goal: by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty,” Mr Hawke said on June 23, 1987 at an election campaign launch. The printed version had it as: ‘By 1990 no Australian child need live in poverty’.

    Link – http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Hawke-regrets-child-poverty-comment/2007/06/16/1181414583336.html

  2. Rene Hidding MR posted by editor

    February 28, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Step forward for development of Tasmania’s new road safety strategy
    The Hodgman Liberal Government is committed to working with the community to achieve the Towards Zero vision of zero deaths or serious injuries on our roads.
    This vision is at the centre of our new, 10-year road safety strategy, currently being developed by the Road Safety Advisory Council (RSAC).
    Community consultation is critical to the development of a successful strategy, and I am pleased that the first stage of this work is now complete.
    Under the first stage, RSAC held 22 separate forums across the State from October through December last year, which were well-attended by representatives of local councils, the transport industry, service and road user groups, as well as members of the public.
    An online survey received 370 responses, while another 17 submissions were received from community members and stakeholders.
    Views have been collected and published in the Towards Zero Strategy Stakeholder and Public Consultation Report – Stage 1, which is now available at http://www.towardszero.tas.gov.au
    The RSAC will now produce a Discussion Paper based on the community consultation and independent research and again seek community feedback through April and May.
    A final Towards Zero Strategy will then be recommended to the Government for adoption later this year.
    Reducing road trauma takes a whole-of-community effort, so I do thank all those Tasmanians who have taken the time to express their views to help in the development of our next road safety strategy.

  3. Mark Temby

    February 23, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    A quick observation on proponents of 100/80/60/40kph speed limits who justify the “real” speed limits for experienced drivers are really 110/90/70/50kph is that it is all a pretence for deregulation of speed limits. Do the speed, do the fine.

  4. Leonard Colquhoun

    February 22, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Strongly agree with Comment 12’s “the idea that 1 or 2 km/h over an arbitrary freeway or rural highway speed limit constitutes a road safety issue is quite simply ludicrous”. Which evokes this next question,

    How come drivers can be penalised on the basis of a calibration of speedometer accuracy NOT mandated by Standards Australia?

    Perhaps we drivers need to rally to this cry: no penalisation without justification.

  5. Peter Leschen

    February 21, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Thank you to Mark Temby for his comments on my article.

    As my article clearly states, speed is the crucial factor in determining the consequences of a crash, and has a lesser effect in increasing the probability of a crash in some circumstances. As I tried to explain, however, these effects, are independent of speed limits. They always suggest a lower limit; if you don’t like a 100km/h limit, then why not 90, or 80, or 70? At some point the argument becomes ridiculous; it becomes clear that, in the push for lower limits, we have forgotten that the roads are there to get us from place to place expeditiously as well as safely, and that drivers are responsible for driving to the conditions. No speed limit can ever replace that responsibility.

    I have used statistics from the 2012 Road Safety Strategy, which are quite different to those other government statistics recently provided by Jim Cox, the Chair of RSAC. Certainly the most recent statistics on inattention are grossly underestimated because it is only recorded ‘if it is the sole cause’. The Road Safety Strategy says speed was a factor in 12 percent of fatal and serious casualty crashes, yet the latest figures are apparently 44 percent for fatal and 35 per cent for serious casualty crashes. I don’t believe anyone is lying here, notwithstanding ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’. I expect the differences arise from the underlying assumptions and the questions asked in gathering the data.

    I am not against sensible speed limits and speed enforcement. I am against an over-emphasis on speed resulting in speed limits being set too low and safe and responsible driving being penalised. Surely that is wrong if we genuinely value individual freedom and its concomitant responsibilities?

    As for Victoria’s Zero Tolerance policy, the idea that 1 or 2 km/h over an arbitrary freeway or rural highway speed limit constitutes a road safety issue is quite simply ludicrous. I hope no one is seriously considering it here in Tasmania.

    My bottom line is that the focus on speed is past the point of diminishing safety returns and is detracting from a much more important cause of accidents, namely inattention. My analysis of that seems be widely supported.

    Hence my recommendations, which I don’t think have actually been challenged in the comments above.

  6. Mark Temby

    February 21, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Hi Leonard, the one and a half lanes were still there in 2003. I think the half lane was for tourists, pre 1950 vehicles and donkey carts. I recall the speed limit as 90kph but the whole lane must have been in a different time zone!

  7. Leonard Colquhoun

    February 21, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    About “and Greece” at the end of Comment 9: during four months in Athens during 1988 I saw lots of examples of what must surely have been the world’s most creative street parking!

    And, en route west and SW from Athens via Corinth to Epidaurus, possibly (at the time) the world’s only freeway with one-and-half lanes in each direction. Why? How? – usual suspect: Greek attitudes to government and government spending which had developed and had been refined during the four centuries of the Ottoman administration.

    Trouble now is that their government is now Greek.

  8. Mark Temby

    February 21, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Finally, our own surveys have found 95% support a review of the nominated speed limits. Less than five percent have concerns with lowering the speed limit on the Channel Highway and Huon Road. Some of the 5% stated they were unwilling to sign without additional information. Our general response from the vast majority has been “Oh, yes! Where do I sign?”

    Of course, you have referred to such statistics as “The consequence of giving in to this kind of special pleading is that it imposes unnecessary restrictions on everyone to placate a few individuals.”

    Someone is telling porkies again on the levels of community support and my money is on the politicians.

    PS My driving background started in Sydney where I worked on the road for fifteen years utilizing a fleet of different vehicles. I saw drivers in three broad categories being business hours (mostly professional and courteous), peak hour commuters (too fast and always from A to B with mostly rear end collisions) and weekenders (treat these with caution). I spent too many hours on the road to ever be a “motoring enthusiast.” Since then I have driven extensively across all states and territories including 4WD, Italy and Greece. My wife and I also taught our children to drive.

  9. Mark Temby

    February 21, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Lastly, I’ll address the LC statements on community support. Greg Hall (MLC for Western tiers) of Deloraine headed the LC Committee and I note a number of submissions received were from Mr Hall’s local area like Pages Transport of Carrick and the Northern Midlands Council. In total only 41 submissions were received of which about 73% were against the reduction from 100kph to 90kph. Greg Hall called this “strong community opinion.” Counter this with the public opinion the Committee had at hand:

    “Bob Rutherford (DIER) stated, ‘The Kingborough and Tasman trials were primarily designed to show that we could get community acceptance of the changed speed limits. Our community surveys reveal that between 81 per cent and 84 per cent of respondents in Kingborough and Tasman believe the speed on sealed roads should be 90 kilometres an hour or lower and 91 per cent to 97 per cent – perhaps not surprising on the unsealed roads, the gravel roads – believe the speed limit should be 80 kilometres or lower. Obviously, due to the small number of crashes that you get in two municipalities like that, we were never going to get crash data that was robust enough to show the effect. What we do know, of course, and we know this obviously from what we did with the 50 kilometres an hour change, we confidently predict that there will be a significant reduction in the number of crashes, serious injuries and fatalities from bringing this in. There is a lot of empirical evidence, both in Australia and from around the world, that substantiates that.’”

    The above quote also counters your argument where the Kingborough Demonstration was a failure. How does one measure accidents that did not occur?

    “Mr Ian Holloway from the Council went on to explain the community feedback received on the trial. ‘The reduction from 100 to 90 on our sealed roads and a straight 80 for our unsealed roads – when that was first introduced there was some concern within the community regarding the reduction. However, a lot of that was based around two issues. One was the perceived impact on travel times and the other was a lack of overtaking opportunities on the Channel Highway south of Margate and therefore the lowering of the speed limit to 90 was perceived in some quarters to be a retrograde step. Monash University, who undertook the project on behalf of DIER, had telephone surveys conducted and the overall perception within the community from the first contact in 2007 through to 2009, when they conducted another survey, there was a marked change in attitudes. The percentage of residents who supported the reduction had dramatically increased and I have a copy of the report for committee members if they would like a copy. The report on page 18 details the statistics relating to percentage, but overall there was acceptance of it. It also increased the public’s awareness of speed limits.’”

    The above facts also counter your claim travel times are irrelevant. Further note, community support has been quantified through a series of professional market surveys. The evaluation by the Monash University Accident Research Unit compiled its report stating: “Community survey results collectively indicated that the reduced rural speed limits in Kingborough had a positive and substantial impact upon the local community. The large majority of respondents either considered the new reduced limits to be appropriate or preferred further reductions.”

    Your quote of Minister Hidding says more of Mr Hidding than any professional road safety assessment, “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.” The government ran a mile from a noisy minority without facts.

  10. Mark Temby

    February 21, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for your article, Peter. I also note your submission to the 2013 Legislative Council Select Committee on Rural Road Speed Limit Reduction from 100kph on Sealed Roads wherein you also argued for blanket 100kph rural road limits.

    My articles have not solely been about speed. They have been about promises made by our politicians to address fatalities and serious injuries on our roads, in particular, in known dangerous locations. There have been other promises where the community should have input into the speed limits of their local roads like Huon Road but they are given the runaround despite 88% support for a reasonable urban speed limit consistent with the same road in another municipality. There have been promises to upgrade sections of road and intersections. There have been promises to review penalties for fatalities on our roads and hooning laws but they remain pathetically weak ($1300 fine and/or twelve months maximum unless the police go outside traffic legislation to manslaughter charges).

    My references have been national regulators and bodies whose function is road safety such as Austroads and Monash Accident Research Centre. The Tasmanian authorities have been shown to be out of date in its application of methodology like the 85th percentile rule and nationally inconsistent its rural road standards where it was determined most Tasmanian roads would not meet the standard.

    Specifically, to your article where you argue speed, inattentiveness and community support. Of course inattention is a major contributing factor and most accidents are usually a combination of several factors. One of the problems with speed is that if the road has a 100kph speed limit and the car was doing 95kph then speed couldn’t be a factor…or could it? Officially, the answer would be speed was not a factor as it was within the speed limit even if it was a hairpin bend on Huon Road but inattentiveness because the driver didn’t drive to conditions. Speed and inattention is the deadliest mix for a driver unaffected by alcohol or drugs.

    You quoted my reference to the LC Committee where a finding was “the majority of serious and fatal crashes on non-urban roads are attributable to a variety of causes in which speed is not a factor. This is supported by analysis completed by the RACT and by statistical information provided by Tasmania Police” but omitted my conclusion where “It is worth noting the Premier’s and Minister’s own Press Release on the 2015 Road Toll nominates speed as the highest cause of fatalities and serious injuries.”

    To clarify the statistics for the 2015 Road Toll from Minister Hidding’s own Press Release (source would be Tasmanian Police),

    “The main contributing factors (to fatalities) were:
    Speed
    Inattentiveness
    Alcohol
    Inexperience
    Drugs; and
    Failing to give way.

    “The main contributing factors (to serious injury) were:
    Speed
    Alcohol
    Inattentiveness
    Inexperience; and
    Drugs.”

    Further, Jim Cox (RSAC) in December 2015 released percentage figures from the past five years,

    “The facts tell another story:
    Speeding was a factor in 44 per cent of fatal crashes and 35 per cent of serious injury crashes.
    Drugs were a factor in 22 per cent of fatalities and 10 per cent of serious injury crashes.
    Alcohol was a factor in 20 per cent of fatalities and 19 per cent of serious injuries.
    Inattentiveness was a factor in 9 per cent of fatalities and 12 per cent of serious injuries.”

    Speeding is quite clearly a factor yet the LC Committee went out of its way to deny it in its findings. Who is lying? Is it the Tasmanian Police with no motivation to do so or is it Tasmanian politicians trying to avoid controversy? I will add another finding as per the original article, “RSAC stands by the recommendation to reduce default speed limits on some 100 kph roads despite the Government’s decision not to proceed with the recommendation.” Therefore, speed is an official critical factor despite your protestations.

    There seems to be an inference in your submissions that police overly prosecute speeding. Victoria has zero tolerance in its speed limits and the Tasmanian RSAC’s Community Survey from 2015 specifically gauged public opinion on this factor. Zero tolerance might be just the tonic for some Tasmanian drivers.

    We may have our own zero tolerance laws in the near future. Personally, I’d like to see consistent national laws like national road standards but we all know Tasmania is different!

  11. Leonard Colquhoun

    February 19, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    Thank you, Simon. Perhaps the Law has not yet caught up with the multitude of in-car distractions which have been added over the last four decades.

    They make the legendary ‘back seat driver’ seem like a blessing!

    Here is a helpful link – http://www.findlaw.com.au/articles/4479/dangerous-driving-laws-in-australia.aspx

    I like the sound of the charge of ‘depraved indifference’ in some US jurisdictions, which is “conduct must be so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime. Depraved indifference focuses on the risk created by the defendant’s conduct, not the injuries actually resulting”. (From ‘US Legal’)

  12. Simon Warriner

    February 19, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Leonard, the legal phrase you are searching for could be ‘negligent driving”. At least it once was in NSW.

  13. Ben Peelman

    February 19, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    this is exactly why I started a facebook group years ago called “Jaywalkers Against Inattentive and Distracted Drivers” It may no longer exist, but I keep training drivers with my jaywalking.

  14. John Allan

    February 19, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Your article makes a lot of sense and I do wish that those making decisions in this area ‘got it’.

    One point I would make is “…for drivers wilfully flouting the law, it makes no difference what the limit is.” that may be true for that driver in a single-vehicle collision (road excursion, impact with stationary road-side object, rollover); but in relation to incidence and consequence for collisions involving other road users where a collision is inevitable; average speed reductions (relative to the oncoming driver) do reduce the combined impact forces and hence the severity of injuries / likelihood of fatality.

    A case in point, my wife was involved in a head-on (frontal offset) collision in a 110km/h zone. The other driver was drunk and veered on to her side of the road. Due to the conditions (night, rain) she was initially driving less than the speed limit. After braking, the the combined impact speed was at the favourable end of the survivability curve and she exited the car under her own steam (the toll on her body was not immediately apparent). If she was initially travelling ‘at’ the speed limit, that is likely to have been a very different outcome.

    I appreciate that such circumstances are in the minority.

  15. Leonard Colquhoun

    February 19, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Makes 99% sense to me, particularly in this matter:

    “Anything that distracts you from the direct task of driving is potentially fatal to you or others. If you fail to pay attention you are failing your most important responsibility as a driver and are playing Russian Roulette with your own life and that of everyone around you” – why is why I reckon ‘picking on’ mobile phone use while driving and criminalising that specific distraction while ignoring (and, it seems, condoning) all others is one of the most stupid distortions in our road laws and regulations.

    Which is why the relevant laws and regulations about mobile phone use should be aggregated to something like ‘failing one’s responsibility as a driver by not taking due regard for road, traffic and weather conditions while in charge of a vehicle’. (Or legalese to that effect.)

    The stench of tax-gathering is as irremovable as Lady Macbeth’s “damn spots”.

  16. Leon Paul

    February 19, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Well said.

    Reduced speed zones from 100 to 90 will possibly result in more serious accidents as it will take a car longer to travel the required distance to overtake legally. It might only be 10kmh difference but it’s the extra time spent overtaking that can contribute to a head on collision and at that speed a fatality is almost certain.

    Inattention & driver attitude to me are the single greatest cause of accidents on our roads & highways. Those wanting to drive right on the limit and overtake at any expense are accidents waiting to happen. No reduction in speed zones will reduce this drivers actions and probably only increase the aggressive nature. Education is needed here not speed zone reductions. Inattention is the highest factor in my opinion. The time spent taking eyes and concentration from the job of actually driving the vehicle to do something else is more likely to result in a single vehicle accident or head on which are the greatest stats in fatalities. The modern car is more of an extension of the living room at home with comfy seats, Touch screen entertainment systems, crash cams, mobile phones, GPS navigation devices, trip computers displaying multiple amounts of information etc…… Drivers should be watching the road and road side signage not doing other “cool” things.

    Mr Temby may well have justification for speed reductions on some roads but the blanket approach is just plain silly.

    As drivers the responsibility of driving safely rests solely on the driver driving to the conditions. Reducing the speed from 100 to 90 because the road is winding and has poor sight distance is not the answer. Better attitudes of drivers driving sensibly to the conditions is what is needed.

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