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Speed & Enforcement …

Safety or Revenue Gathering?

Firstly, DV is published to further the debate. There are two sides to this contentious topic and there can be no doubt that ALL involved want safer travel around our glorious country. If you’re a tyre-shredding, red-lining, antisocial moron, then this site’s NOT for you … IF … on the other hand, you’re a responsible, careful, law abiding driver who feels aggrieved at being fined for the most trivial of distractions justified by making you a better driver read on.

The BIG Question: Are responsible motorists being unfairly treated under ‘road safety’ measures and are many of the penalties enforced in breach of the Speed Detection Operators Manual guidelines and therefore NOT enforceable?

ACCORDING TO STALKER OPERATIONS MANUAL: Stalker speed detection equipment uses radar RADAR (used world-wide and at the time of writing, by most New Zealand traffic enforcement) can be set to:

  • ‘Fastest’ or
  • ‘Biggest’ target.
  • It cannot reliably identify ‘the vehicle’ of a group in the field of deployment returning the reading. (Due to letter from stalker lawyer we had to remove the manual)

ACCORDING TO SPEED DETECTION OPERATIONS MANUAL: (made available by police at Wellington). In summary:

  • An officer should manually ‘estimate’ the speed of a vehicle.
  • They should clearly identify that vehicle eg make, model, colour.
  • They should establish a ‘tracking history’ through visual and audio sufficient to be presented as evidence in court …
  • and only ‘confirm‘ speed estimation by locking the identified vehicle with RADAR.
According to a police source the procedure laid out in the code of operations is to ensure clear identification of an offending vehicle and fairness due to limitations of speed detection equipment.
It is not sufficient or fair for an enforcement operator to set their equipment to scan all traffic and to then attempt to identify the vehicle returning a reading.
The manual states:

9 Fairness

Operators must use their training and experience to ensure that there are no significant sources of reflection or interference in the vicinity of the offense. If there is ever any doubt concerning the speed check or the operation of the speed detection unit, no action is to be taken.

The Law

The law is black and white. There is no margin of error and if the limit is breached then an offense is committed. However, to secure a reliable conviction the evidence must be sound.

Questions

  1. How reliable is a human at estimating speed? (Can a human reliably identify a vehicle doing 3-5kph over the limit under all conditions?)
  2. How can a tracking history in accordance with the requirements of the manual be secured at night on unlit roads? (Make model etc)
  3. What factors interfere with a reading eg electric fencing, road signs, bridge structures, vegetation?
But these questions relate to the ‘method’ of enforcement. The question most drivers ask:

“Is that driver genuinely speeding …  OR, have they inadvertently breached a limit for a few moments in the natural course of everyday driving. A momentary indiscretion whereby, there is virtually no defense resulting in a fine, demerits, increased insurance premiums … and worse?

If you were to look at my driving history on New Zealand’s roads you’d be forgiven for thinking that I was a bit of an idiot. I’ve had a number of fines and a small stack of demerits (clean for now :).

Now some will say that’s justified and tell me to “pull my neck in and stop whining!”

However, I would argue that I am not a bogan or even a bad driver for that matter. I’ve driven what I would like to think, sensibly and respectfully on roads all over the world and nowhere have I been stopped and fined more than right here in NZ.

Many fines issued are for doing less than ten percent over the limit eg 54kph in a 50kph and I am now so paranoid that if I see a car that even remotely resembles a patrol, my first instinct is to slam on the brakes, regardless of my speed … much to the annoyance of anyone traveling behind me!

Some would argue that the regime of fining is working. And that could be a valid argument. But I would like to see this backed up with reliable data.

How many fines are issued:

  1. 5% over limit
  2. 10% over limit
  3. more than 15% over limit
  4. And most importantly, how is road safety affected in each bracket?

Reducing speed limits … Less accidents vs increased revenue.

Most of the safety measures in my district seem to revolve around reducing speed limits.

They have just reduced a section of SH6 from 100kph to 80kph outside of Richmond Nr Nelson. Roads so straight you’d think they were built by the Romans. Furthermore, it is no longer possible to overtake as the passing sections along those straights have been made double yellows. The effect from a driver’s point of view is that it seems to have made matters worse. This change seems to have had a dramatic affect on the flow. Some drivers now sit at between 65kph and 75kph so as to not creep up to the threshold which seems to cause frustration for the drivers now forced to sit in huge tailbacks.  And there seems to be just as many accidents. (Need to see figures).

What has become more noticeable is the presence of the camera van, painted beige with blacked out windows, which despite the majority of this section of road being on a flat and straight flood plain, is often parked at the bottom of a hill, partially obscured by traffic signs.

There are now plans to reduce more limits on SH6 from 100kph to 80kph. A petition garnered over 20,000 signatures in opposition

They say it’s not the fall that kills you but the hard stop at the bottom.

‘Excessive speed for the conditions’ kills, and the faster we go, the harder the stop when it goes wrong.

As long as humans choose to travel at speeds exceeding walking pace then there will be accidents and the faster we go, the bigger the mess.

I was a fireman for a number of years and believe me, the mess at 80kph is no less dramatic than the mess at 100kph. From what I’ve read, the metrics for survivability only begin to  come into play at very low speeds and with a wider comparison. eg people are ‘x’ times more likely to survive an accident at 30kph as opposed to 50kph. But as the speeds increase those margins will dramatically diminish and other factors come into play.

Speed is only part of the equation

We are human and therefore utterly fallible. They say that one in every five hundred decisions made whilst driving is a bad one. It’s only a matter of circumstance as to what results from that mistake.

Modern cars are highly capable of holding the road, cornering and stopping. Some are capable of 250kph and regularly do so on Germany’s Autobahns (where there’s no limit). The modern vehicle is more than comfortable and safe cruising down a UK motorway at 145kph.

There are many factors that cause accidents and failing to drive to the conditions is high on the list.

My vehicle is perfectly engineered to cruise down a double lane highway at 100kph so long as I don’t do anything stupid. I’ll make adjustments garnered from years of driving should the conditions change. If it’s pouring with rain or icy I wouldn’t dream of cruising along the local country roads at 100kph even though the limit would say it’s OK to do so.

The issue, and it’s become a BIG issue for many motorists, is the way ‘speed’ is now monetised.

The available statistics appear to show that the exponential rise in revenue isn’t translating into safer roads and reduced deaths.  (I welcome data that shows otherwise) But then stats can be confusing and need to take into account many factors.

In this extract taken from the speed camera and enforcement operations manual there’s a summary statement made that:

‘EXCESSIVE SPEED’ is a key cause of road trauma.

What does that actually mean?

Hitting something at any speed can cause trauma; falling on the pavement at 3kph can cause trauma. The faster we travel, the more severe the crash.

Remember, this is a summary in the speed camera enforcement operations manual and justification for monetizing ‘excessive’ speed.

Excessive speed for the conditions is what causes the accident in many cases. If a driver does not slow down sufficiently for a bend then the mass of a ton of iron will continue its path. If that bend is on a 100kph road and the suggested speed to navigate it is 35kph then trying to round it at 100kph isn’t going to cut it. ‘Excessive speed’, ie breaking the designated limit isn’t the key cause, the bad decision is.

When a driver misjudges the clear road ahead in an overtaking maneuver the resulting carnage was not a result of ‘excessive speed’ it was simply a bad decision.

Speed enforcement aimed at changing driver behavior has proven to be effective.

Has it?

Has proven to be effective in what?

Can fining a motorist for doing 54kph in a 50kph zone stop them making bad decisions?

One accident on the roads is one too many. Anything that can be done to reduce them is welcome by all. There will always be idiots behind the wheel and punitive measures for them are totally necessary.

The issue for most drivers and one that seems to cause resentment is the unilateral regime of speed enforcement.

If a particular bend has become an accident blackspot then there is something about it that is causing drivers to make a bad decision. Wouldn’t the prudent thing be to make alterations to the bend rather than target motorists on the entire highway?

Where there is a history of head-on accidents then there must be something about that particular stretch that makes drivers think they can overtake.

Drivers are obviously becoming frustrated and using that opportunity to pass. Will reducing limits alter that behavior or will it cause even more frustration?

Would the sensible course of action be to put in a passing lane?

Speed is the key cause of trauma and car accidents are particularly violent however, it’s the bad decision more often than not that causes the accident.

Cruising on of New Zealand’s long, straight roads at 100kph may be perfectly safe, trying to carry that speed into the bend at the end is not.

There are so many factors to consider. The driver may have dozed off or been blinded by low sun or misjudged the distance of the approaching car when turning right, or put too much faith in balding tyres, or cast an eye on the view, or the new message on the phone or rounded a bend to find a tourist on the wrong side of the road.

I recently had a very serious near miss when I was blinded by someone with their fog lights on. In that moment the car in front had stopped to turn right. Excessive speed would not have been a key factor in the carnage that would have inevitably resulted should I not have been able to swerve, yet speed is relentlessly targeted.

SPEED IS A ‘CONTRIBUTING FACTOR’ TO THE RESULT OF THE BAD DECISION due to the fact that the person was moving. It’s physics.

A person crashing at 85 in a 100 zone did so due to a bad decision. If this was not the case then wouldn’t every driver crash at that particular spot?

Reduce the limit to 80 and the cause is still a bad decision.

Motorists are failing to understand how fining a driver for doing 85KPH in 80KPH zone on a perfectly good bit of road will alter anything. Yet it looks like that big stick has to be wielded to keep us all in order.

I have asked for the statistics regarding speed enforcement fines and have yet to receive an answer. All of my fines have been for the type of speeds we hit when driving safely and concentrating on the hazards, a few KPH over the limit. I would like to see the total number of fines and the percentage of those that are in the 0-5kph over range, the 5kph-10kph over range and tickets issued for ‘excessive speeding’.

Isn’t it time for clarity and openness?

In reality I’m sure it’s only a fraction of a percentage of people who wantonly and recklessly speed excessively. I can count on one hand, the amount of drivers I’ve seen acting like complete retards. I’ve had more terrifying experiences with log lorries and trucks, than redneck motorists.

YET the authorities continue to have us believe that fining motorists, any and all motorists for any minimal excess speed is ‘the way to reduce the toll on our roads’.

In Australia recently, not only was a zero tolerance policy (same as we get here) enforced during the holidays, but they saw fit to add  double fines and demerits!

A single moment of distraction could see a driver lose their licence and all the collateral damage that goes with that.

Is that where we’re heading?

Eventually, the tide of public opinion turns and the backlash from angry and disgruntled motorist becomes overwhelming .

Speed camera warning sign alerting motorist to an accident blackspot

The UK were forced to examine their policies and chose to abolish ‘stealth cameras’. They eventually bowed to public resentment and lobby groups and were forced to only target GENUINE accident black spots, put up speed camera warning signs, re-paint cameras and vans from battleship grey to high-viz yellow.

Some states in Canada ripped up their cameras altogether and speed traps are announced, even on the radio in some states.

If the goal really is to reduce accidents and make blackspots less black, then surely we need to target them, highlight them with a sign ‘HIGH CRASH RATE SLOW DOWN OR DIE BIRDBRAIN’. Put a high-viz camera there because if someone does put their life and others at risk, they deserve to be fined.

I’m confident that the kind of driver we welcome at Drivers Revenge would wholeheartedly agree that any accident or death on our roads is one too many and anything we can do to make them safer is fully supported …

Let’s open the debate

  • Is fining the answer?
  • Is this about road safety?
  • Or, despite all the rhetoric and claims, is the current agenda more about money?
Stealth Speed Camera Van Participating in Revenue Collection

Why would this grey, blacked out speed camera van set up on a long, straight section of road whilst leaving the multiple black spots in the area un-monitored?

Why is it not sat outside the local school every day instead of at the bottom of the hill where you actually have to brake to stay under the limit … or at the top just where the limit drops as you round the bend?

Of course it’s the right thing to do to lock up the bonehead for burning rubber past a school, but a big fat fine and demerits for 63kph in a 60kph zone … ?

‘Minimal’ excess speed is simply unavoidable!

At first this sounds like a contradiction in terms but just 1kph over the designated limit is classified as ‘excess speed’.

We spend many hours of our life behind the wheel and it’s a naturally human trait that we can only concentrate on one thing at a time (they believe that it harks back to the days when we were chasing down the woolly mammoth. We had to focus fully on the hunt).

Whilst driving, I concentrate on the road ahead, yet there are any number of things vying for my attention.

I switch focus multiple times a second to assess various potential hazards. I anticipate and make preparations for the occasional tourist heading towards me on my side of the road, I keep one eye open for small children and the elderly suffering from alzheimer’s who may jump into my path at any moment, I even monitor my peripheral vision for angry Pukeko and those daft wood pigeons, which seem to fly out of nowhere … and occasionally, just occasionally I drift over the speed limit and into the ‘Gotcha Zone!’

It’s practically impossible to drive any distance and not drift over the limit – we drive, process a thousand data points every second and responsibly glance at our speedo to adjust our speed.

I’ve followed any number of patrol cars doing precisely this, sneaking to 55kph in a 50kph zone whilst their attention is focused on other drivers doing the very same thing.

In our area they change the road speeds on a regular basis. A local road was originally part of the main highway but a bypass was built so the speed limit was dropped from 100kph, to 80kph. More recently it has been dropped again to 60kph and over the last months there have been varying combinations of those limits. It’s all a little confusing and I’ve been fined a couple of times along with many, many other locals.

Changing this limit appears to have resulted in a zero reduction in the zero incidents that were happening prior but I would bet a dollar that increased revenue has been gathered by the camera van deployed there regularly now.

The question is: “If it’s safe to do 100kph on that road one week, then why does it suddenly becomes unsafe to drive at 80kph the next and why am I fined for doing 64, now it’s a 60?”

There are hundreds of stories like this and we’d love to hear yours.

Drivers Revenge gives you the opportunity to have your say and to let us know your experiences.

Are some fines issued in breach of the Operations Manual and therefore unreliable and potentially unenforceable?

Many tickets are issued for what most would consider to be very minor indiscretions enforced by patrol officers using radar. Apart from a few traffic speed cameras and vans, radar is the key tool used by police for enforcing  EXCESSIVE SPEED.

Stalker radar as used by New Zealand police

Hundreds of thousands of fines are handed out each year based on a reading obtained by an instrument. The assumption appears to be that the reading is unquestionable and entirely accurate.

Is this the case!

Radar is Dumb!

Research shows that Stalker radar is used by New Zealand police and although quite sophisticated, it can only register ‘the fastest’ OR ‘the biggest’ target in it’s field of operation. RADAR DOES NOT PICK WHICH VEHICLE IS SPEEDING. It is up to the operator to establish the offender.

Furthermore, it appears that it can only register an ACCURATE reading under very specific conditions. Radar cannot render an accurate reading when fired through obstructions, trees, bridges, alongside electric fences etc.

These conditions are outlined in the new Zealand Police Operations Manual Available HERE for your dissection.

There seems to be little excuse in law for operating a vehicle over the prescribed limit, it is black and white. 1kph over is an offence. But as in any allegation, to secure a conviction the fact that you were speeding has to be proven. The KEY point in the manual appears to be that the police have an obligation to fairness and accuracy.  If the radar is not operated in accordance with the operations manual then the reading cannot be considered accurate and MOST IMPORTANTLY … NO ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN:

Yet fines and demerits are issued every week in their thousands … and those tickets are enforced, ramped up, leveraged and collected every, single day.

The manufacturers of Stalker and New Zealand Police recognize the limitation of this tool and therefore it appears that it should only to be used to CONFIRM the officer’s assessment of an incident.

From what we understand, an officer is trained to assess traffic, he is supposed to be able to spot a speeding vehicle and manually assess the speed. Having said that, officers posses the same flaws as the rest of us, humans are notoriously bad at accurately assessing speeds and if that object is traveling towards you (as in most speed traps) they fail dismally. We challenge any human to identify which vehicle coming towards them is traveling at 100kph and which is traveling at 105kph.

So a speed operator is supposed to best-guess that a particular car is speeding excessively, clearly identify the car by make and colour etc. AND ESTABLISH A TRACKING HISTORY.

RADAR IS ONLY SUPPOSED TO BE USED ONLY TO CONFIRM THE OFFICER’S ESTIMATE.

THEN … according to the Operations Manual, the officer is at liberty to issue a fine with the tracking history clearly RECORDED:

This is far from the experiences we have seen whereby some patrols appear to be deploying a scatter gun. Owners of Radar detector appears to show patrols leaving Stalker on to obtain a reading to then assign that to a vehicle.

One fine received when traveling home on the duel carriageway was for a reading taken at night. The officer was sitting in his car facing forward. His view of the ‘offending’ vehicle would be of headlights in his rear view mirror.

According to the manual he was supposed to identify the vehicle from all the others on the road, assess the speed, establish visually that it probably was speeding and then confirm that by radar. He was supposed to record and supply all of this information in the form of a tracking history as ‘the chain of evidence’.

Recent correspondence with Wellington for a very minor infringement taken at night asked for the recorded tracking history: The vehicle, the make, the estimated speed prior to the reading and how this was confirmed by radar.

Wellington duly supplied that information in the form of a computer print out with the accompanying threat of enforcement. The same request was then made for the tracking history IN CONTEXT. ie, in the notebook entry with incidents before and after or evidence to confirm that the tracking history supplied was taken at the time.

Wellington replied that this was not available and withdrew the fine. To many this would come as no surprise because at night, the only thing a patrol can see is a number of headlights coming towards it.

Stealth Enforcement?

A revenue gatherer participating in stealth fining

If this wasn’t controversial enough, enforcement appear to be hiding behind obstructions.

Not only is radar dumb but it works in a very specific way.

It emits a beam, a fraction of that beam will hit an object and rebound. The instrument will then register a reading.

The key point is that it’s the FIRST solid object encountered that the beam is reflected off, so if an officer chooses to hide behind bushes, signs, gates, fence posts and all manner of erroneous objects the reading will NOT be accurate.

And on top of this and despite the claims of enforcement, Stalker Radar is not infallible or immune to outside influence. As a publisher of auto related information on the Internet for many years we’ve investigated Stalker radar and as the videos on the site show, they can be affected by all manner of things from rain, to sounds and even by the electricity pulsing through the stock fencing that borders many of our roads.

Revenue gathering?

There is a margin for error when dealing in 1,2,3,4 kph ‘excessive speeds’, there has to be doubt. The police often defend enforcement in the media by claiming ‘they don’t receive the fines as they go to the Government Fund‘; they claim they do not have targets.

I have no reliable proof other than I’ve been told by actual police officers that there are quotas. It makes sense, after all, if a cop isn’t enforcing policy and changing driver behavior by fining (as the manual states) they aren’t doing their job are they?

And these fines are enforced!

Motorists have a statutory right  to a fair hearing and can make representations against any speeding allegation but dealing with the system can be frustrating. We’re told that if ‘they’ send you a notice it’s automatically considered ‘delivered’ regardless of whether it’s actually delivered or not.

Conversely, letters sent to Wellington including extremely important ones asking for court hearings have been lost in the system. When Wellington ‘didn’t receive the correspondence’, it’s passed straight onto the Ministry of Justice for collection.

Throughout my social circle there is a genuine and pervasive feeling that current enforcement does nothing to make roads safer.

The AA have a grading system for New Zealand roads.

A spokesman recently claimed on national news that ‘if by simply upgrading a two star road to a three star road, it would HALF the number of deaths’.

People I speak to all agree that genuine and dangerous speeding is unacceptable. However, the AA spokesman did not cite speeding as the main issue. He went on to say:

We all make mistakes however, it’s the state of the road that determines how severe are the consequences

Most of the people I speak with object to what has been described as a regime of unfairly targeting motorists for revenue. I believe we all support fines that are genuinely and honestly given. I also believe that there would be further support for a common sense policy that put that revenue directly into road upgrades.

Drivers Revenge details all of our findings, it is also a conduit for your personal experiences and it is our intention to use this site as leverage in the battle for fairness and safer roads.

We are a young nation and one that is proud of our many and varied achievements, one that leads the world in so many areas. We are innovative and original thinkers.

So enjoy this site, let us have your thoughts and stories and together we’ll work out a better way to make driving safer, an alternative to an outdated regime that appears to get more draconian as time passes.