Monday, October 11, 2010


Once again the debate about speed limits and penalties has sprung up, this time in response to a proposal from the NRMA that the penalty system should be reviewed to more adequately, and fairly, reflect the modern driving environment. The NRMA has proposed that drivers should be allowed a total of 13 demerit points rather than 12, that the demerit points should have a life of two years rather than three, and that good drivers who have not accumulated any points should be rewarded with discounts on their licence renewal fees or registration. Whether or not those proposals are adopted, the NRMA says that it is time for a review of the system which is almost 40 years old, and was introduced before the days of speed cameras.

Of course, the truth is that if you don’t want to be penalised all you need to do is don’t break the law. Of course, there is a need for sensible speed limits, and other road rules, to manage the ever increasing traffic and promote road safety. And of course, if there are rules there should be penalties for breaking those rules otherwise they would easily become meaningless. But there is no shortage of motorists who have become so frustrated that they believe that the penalties are designed to collect revenue rather than to protect the safety of motorists. But I’m not really sure that it’s the penalties that are the problem. As I said, there need to be penalties so that we are discouraged from doing the wrong thing. Instead, I believe that it’s the rules which are the problem.

It’s easy to understand the frustration when the whole system increasing seems to be designed to trap the driver into making a mistake rather than help the driver get from point A to point B safely and efficiently. Cameras, both fixed and mobile, lurking at every turn, a vast array of possible speed limits from 40 through to 110 which could appear in any combination over a short distance, variable speed limits, speed limits for road works when there are no road works actually taking place, transit lanes, and bus lanes, all seem to be designed only to catch the unwary. And the moment you make a mistake, the government gleefully cries “gotcha”, grabs your money and takes away your points. The trouble is that if you keep on making more and more laws, sooner or later it becomes impossible not break at least some of them inadvertently.

And what’s worse, if the rules become too difficult to follow, people will inevitably lose all respect for them and won’t bother to even try.

No comments: