Tuesday, 2 December 2008

No, it really is about revenue raising

Queensland police, who appear to have noticed that their current speeding deterrents aren't working, are considering publicising the locations of mobile speed cameras, in an attempt to get people to slow down (Courier Mail).

Now, there are many arguments over the use of sneakily hidden (and don't ever try to argue that they aren't - hiding behind bushes, in gulleys beside the road, over the crest of hills...) speed cameras to monitor speed limits. There are at least as many arguments over what the speed limits should be, and how much speeding actually contributes to the road toll, but let's not go there right now.
The main complaint, in detailed form, can be summarised thusly:
  • There is no deterrent effect to random speeding fines turning up in the mail a couple of weeks after the event.
  • Therefore, there're obviously not serious about actually stopping people from speeding.
  • Therefore, they're not actually interested in the road toll.
  • Therefore, cameras are a revenue-raising exercise.
I think that just about sums it up nicely. Well, have a look at the nice, sweeping, general, claim in that article: If people slow down before getting to the cameras, and don't get booked, then funds received from speed cameras could drop by $30 million. I'll write that again, shall I:

$30 million

So: Every year, speed camera fines add up to somewhere in the region of $30 million, and people are still speeding, and the road toll keeps on climbing. Now, while I'm not in favour of conspiracy theories which claim that the government is doing this deliberately in order to make as much money as possible (medical costs from accident victims, let alone care costs, probably exceed that each year), do you think I would be justified in claiming that we can see here the mark of incompetence?

  • Item: People are still speeding
  • Item: The road toll is getting worse.
  • Item: They've only just now started trying something different.
Yep, doesn't seem all that competent an administration to me.

Now, let's get back to the more contentious issue of whether the police should be doing anything about speeding at all.

Please note, from the article:

A similar move in 2001 by South Australian police corresponded with a sharp drop in the level of speeding detections.

"But no independent analysis of the program had been done to link the drop with publicity of camera sites."

Notice what's missing? No mention at all of accident rates, or even safety in general, vague terms.

The entire article is talking about speeding, and narry a mention of "every K over is a killer" to be seen.

Which leads me to these three conclusions:
  • Incompetent or bored and careless journalists
  • A new editorial direction from the Courier Mail
  • South Australia didn't see a change in accident rates coinciding with this drop in speeding offences detected.
Now, I can think of two very good possible explanations for that last conclusion:
  1. It's not the speed that's the problem, it's the incompetence of the drivers
  2. The way people react to an approaching speed camera (braking, taking eyes of the road to glance at the speedometer, nervous twitch of the steering wheel, flashing lights at oncoming drivers who get distracted, etc.) causes crashes.
Obviously, those two are compatible, and indeed probably occur together more often than not.

Here's a thought: train drivers properly. Maybe when they're able to judge safe speeds, distances, and the behaviour of other road users, they might not exceed those limits quite so much.

Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot. That would require the government doing something pro-active and innovative, when it's so much easier to just try and punish, when any matric-level psychology student could explain that punishments don't work.

What I particularly love is the way that the Courier Mail is spinning this: "Revenue to fall". Oh no, if the police try something which might have an impact upon speeding, the government will be worse off!

Are they trying to be sarcastic? That's my job...

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