Monday, March 29, 2010

Road Rules Should Be Designed To Help Us Out, Not Catch Us Out.

The New South Wales government has announced that it will reintroduce mobile speed cameras as part of a larger road safety plan which also includes higher speeding fines, along with a road safety audit and funding for road upgrades. While the audit and upgrades will be welcome, the increased fines and the speed cameras will no doubt attract the usual accusations of policy being driven more by revenue raising than by any genuine concern for road safety. It’s easy to understand why people feel that way, especially when it seems that the system is designed to trap people.

Of course, the simple solution to avoid falling foul of a mobile speed camera is don’t speed. It doesn’t matter where the camera is located, how visible it may or may not be, or how many of them might be out there lurking in wait for the unsuspecting motorist: if you don’t exceed the speed limit you cannot be booked. That much could not be any more simple. What is not so simple anymore is actually keeping track of just what the speed limit is at any given time in any given location.

Once upon a time, we all knew that we had to stay under 60 kilometres per hour in a built up area, and 100 kmh out of town. Obeying the law was easy. Now, the speed limit might be 110, 100, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, or 40, or even more confusingly, any combination of those over a relatively short distance. Instead of keeping our eyes on the road where they should be we now have to keep looking out for signs every few metres for fear of missing one and finding ourselves on the wrong side of the law.

Even worse are the variable speed limit zones, and worse again are the temporary speed restrictions for road works. Nobody in their right mind would object to slowing down for road works, but unfortunately it seems to be increasingly common for temporary signs to be left in operation while there is no actual work being done, and no obstruction to the road. All the equipment might be parked off the side of the road, sitting there inactive, but the law still requires us slow down anyway. And then there are the frustrating occasions when somebody has forgotten the 100 sign at the end of the roadworks and it appears we are supposed to continue driving at 40 kmh from there to the next town.

Most of us are happy to stick to the rules, but the rules are becoming increasingly complex and confusing, making it appear that the system is designed to catch us out rather than to help us out.

No comments: