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We’re speeding up, not slowing down

More people died on NSW roads so far in 2016 than in 2015. A huge 41% of these tragic deaths were linked with speeding. In the year to June 2016, speed cameras caught 11% more motorists driving more than 45 kmh over the limit and 17% more of us driving 30-45 kmh over the limit. We are speeding up, not slowing down.

Dangerous driving

Dangerous and reckless driving is thought to be the main contributor to the huge 30% increase in deaths on the road in the past year.

There is a distinction between dangerous and reckless driving and “hooning”. Hooning includes speeding by more than 45 kmh, as well as street racing, aggravated burnout, or taking part in a police pursuit.

A recent survey by Royal Automobile Club found Tasmania has a serious hooning problem, because more than 70 per cent had witnessed hooning. In the year to February 2016, only 173 drivers in NSW were charged under hoon laws.

Speed and red light cameras

Speed and red light camera fines do not appear to be a strong deterrent to speeding:

  • NSW government reaped $183 million in fines, up 8%, from red light and speed cameras in 2015-16
  • New cameras on the Great Western Highway raised $5 million in the first 9 months
  • Eastern Distributor northbound raised $3.46 million and the Lane Cove Tunnel Westbound $3.18 million
  • Drivers on Military Rd and McPherson St in Mosman alone generated $1 million.

The NRMA says new cameras, like the one on the Great Western Highway, tend to attract more offences in the first few years of operation before people start to get used to them and slow down.

Why speed?

But what makes people want to speed in the first place? Do fines make any difference to this desire to speed?

European research found the groups most likely to speed excessively are those driving for professional purposes, members of high income households and young men, especially 17-24. Those who drive for work or with high incomes may not even be deterred by fines. Common justifications for speeding were they were in a hurry, bored, or generally enjoy driving fast.

There is cynicism in NSW now about heavy use of speed and red light cameras as a method of road safety.

Is it possible that Australian authorities have gone too far with penalties? If you can be fined for being only a few kilometres over the speed limit – not reckless or dangerous –  then you might as well go faster?

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