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Speeding Fines …
Road Safety or Revenue Gathering?

Are most speeding fines in New Zealand issued in breach of the operations manual and therefore NOT enforceable?

First off, if you’re a tyre-shredding, red-lining, antisocial mooron, then this site’s NOT for you … IF … on the other hand, you’re a responsible, careful, law abiding driver who feels aggrieved at having to hand over fat wads of hard earned cash for the most trivial of distractions, then here’s a big, warm welcome to Drivers Revenge.

Secondly, the incidents and officers featured on this site represent a small section of traffic enforcement staff. Most traffic officers work long hours motivated only by keeping you and other road users safe. The contents of this site are opinion or to the best of the contributor’s knowledge, true. We welcome debate and look forward to receiving input from all parties.

Road Safety or Revenue Gathering?

“Is that driver speeding …  OR, have they inadvertently breached a limit for a few moments in the natural course of everyday driving, 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 got a number of fines to my name 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.

Fines for doing less than ten percent over the limit eg 54 in a 50 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 … much to the annoyance of anyone traveling behind me!

I do feel persecuted for simply choosing to travel by car.

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

Contrary to what the media and enforcement agencies relentlessly preach, I believe that it’s not speed that kills.

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.

There are currently campaigns across NZ to reduce the limits justified as being the the answer to reducing accidents.  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.

Then are we to believe that there’s something about New Zealand’s high quality roads that render these beautifully designed, highly engineered, relentlessly tested machines, utterly useless at anything above donkey pace?

It’s failing to drive to the conditions and Muttonheads that cause accidents.

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.

My issue, and it’s become a BIG issue, is the way ‘speed’ is monetised.

The available statistics appear to confirm that the exponential rise in revenue isn’t translating into safer roads and reduced deaths.  But then stats are confusing, can be manipulated and are often shrouded in smoke and deflected by mirrors.

In this extract taken from the speed enforcement operations manual there’s a sweeping statement made that ‘EXCESSIVE SPEED’ is a key cause of road trauma. What does that actually mean?

The fact is, that hitting something hard at any speed will cause trauma; falling on the pavement at 3HPH will cause trauma. Hitting a tree at 55KPH in a 100KPH will cause an horrific mess. The driver may not have been speeding excessively, they may have dozed off or got confused.

The KEY CAUSE was a bad decision or bad driving.  SPEED WAS A CONTRIBUTING FACTOR TO THE RESULT due to the fact that the person was moving. It’s physics.

Reduce the limit to 50KPH and does the cause become excessive speed? No! It’s still the bad decision.

I fail 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?

Why should I need to request specific data via official information requests – let’s just have it!

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.

Canada ripped up their cameras altogether in early 2000 and speed traps are announced, even on the radio in some states.

If the goal really is to reduce accidents and make black spots 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 a jackass 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?

Why would the officer who stopped me on the duel carriage way feel the need to hide under a bridge, behind bushes and claim to be ‘out to catch speeders of over 200kph’ (a wholly laudable action), then contradict this by issuing a ticket to a family traveling home from the cinema.

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 … really?

‘Minimal’ Excess Speed is Unavoidable!

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 woollly mammoth, various beasts, and banging women over the head. 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 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 50 KPH zone whilst their attention is focused on other drivers doing the very same thing, processing data.

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 a fat wedge of wonga has been gathered by the camera van deployed there regularly now.

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

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 The Vast Majority of Fines Issued In Breach Of the Operations Manual and Therefore Unenforceable?

This site was inspired by the tickets I received for what I 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 fines.

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!

My 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.

(I did publish the manual but was sent a lawyers letter from Stalker to remove it).

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 recognise 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 I 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. I challenge any human to identify which vehicle coming towards them is traveling at 100KPH and which is traveling at 105KPH.

So a cop 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 I have had whereby patrols appear to be deploying a scattergun. My Radar detector appears to show patrols leave Stalker on to obtain a reading and then assign that to a vehicle.

The fine I 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 my vehicle would be of headlights in his rear view mirror.

According to the manual he was supposed to identify my vehicle from all the others on the road, assess the speed, establish visually that I 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’.

I recently corresponded with Wellington on behalf of a friend who was also stopped at night for a very minor infringement. As it is not possible to clearly identify a vehicle at night I 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. I then asked for the tracking history IN CONTEXT. ie, in the notebook entry with incidents before and after or evidence to confirm that the tracking history they had supplied was taken at the time.

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

Stealth Fines

A revenue gatherer participating in stealth fining

If this wasn’t controversial enough police 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 the police, 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 KHP over the limit, there has to be doubt. The police often defend their actions 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.

And these fines are enforced!

My experience in dealing with the system has been, putting it politely, frustrating! If they send you a notice it’s automatically considered ‘delivered’ regardless of whether it’s actually delivered or not.

Conversely, I’ve sent numerous letters to Wellington including extremely important ones asking for court hearings and they are mysteriously lost in the post. When Wellington ‘didn’t receive the correspondence’, it’s passed straight onto the Ministry of Justice for collection, circumventing statutory rights to a fair hearing entirely.

Throughout my social circle there is a genuine and pervasive feeling that current traffic policing 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 can only be 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.