Credit where credit is due

For the first time since records began (I think) New Zealand had a Queens Birthday Weekend without a single death on the roads.

I’m a big fan of keeping people alive and think that this result is astounding. It also conveniently coincides with the second holiday weekend where Police totally cracked down on speeders (the first also saw a decrease in deaths).

It coincides so conveniently in fact, that I’m shocked with how so many people are going out of their way to remove any credit from the Police. Apparently it was a weather issue. Which is somewhat surprising because I don’t think the weather was that much worse than ANY other Queens Birthday in the past few decades, in fact the only factors that seems to have changed at all are:

  • An increased overall awareness of speeding and road deaths – which has to be at least partially attributed to the police
  • A 4km tolerance over the speed limit. Which is a new police strategy, enforced by police and almost without question can be attributed TO the police

I’m not sure why we’re all anti the police, I’m even less sure of why people think they are fully in control of their driving – our dismal death toll proves otherwise. I am, however, very sure that if the road toll went up, it would have 100% been attributed to the police and their new no-tolerance strategy.

We should be realistic, no one is a perfect driver, and speed does kill. No one is immune from crashing and we’ve had more than enough time to prove that as individuals, we can sort this issue out… And we haven’t.

It’s only unfortunate that by using prevention as a strategy, the police lose all credit for the lives they saved over the weekend. As someone on the road who, just by being in a car has a chance (albeit a small one), of winding up a statistic, I appreciate their efforts.

3 thoughts on “Credit where credit is due”

  1. I would be interested to know if they are out policing the 4km limit more than they would have been in the past. I.e is it due to the 4km limit or/and the fact there were more Police out on the roads over the weekend? I’m pretty sure they always increase the policing over the long weekends though.

    I think the hype over the reduction of the limit is fabulous – leading up to the weekend there were lots of news articles about it and people commenting/complaining. No matter what your stance it, at least the issue of speed would have been on everyone’s minds.

    I love the weather argument. Regardless of the weather if there is slack policing of the speed limit (or just general unsafe driving) there is no way I would get out on the roads…

  2. I covered about 4000 Km over the weekend and before. I noticed a lot more police, but they were often not really enforcing, but just providing a visible presence. There was, for example, the officer walking next to his Police ute on the road between Reefton and Murchison and the one a few corners after the long straight on the road between Murchison and Blenheim. They were not trying to catch anyone, but were just letting us know that we should be safe. I’m not even sure whether they had radar or were even able to do anything if they did see an offense.

    The emphasis of the campaign was stated to be one of visibility – that every journey we would see at least three police officers. On the way to and from the Brass Monkey we certainly saw a lot more than that, and it’s that constant visibility that helped remind everyone that speed and safety was important.

    However let’s also remember that the weather was the mildest it has been for a long time. Last year we saw deep snow all over the South, and ice in the passes North and South. While we saw a decent rainstorm, when riding on the road afterwards I remarked that it had simply served to clean the oil off the roads and make the traction more sure.

    We’ve also see continuous improvements in road infrastructure, though we have a long way to go. While they are lethal to motorbikers, those wire rope separators I’m sure are saving some serious car accidents from becoming fatal.

    Meanwhile there’s a recession and an increase in the motorcycle registration of over $500. Some folks have placed their bikes on hold for the winter (and some did that and, illegally, came anyway), or just did not come. We saw less bikes on the road regardless.

    All of these factors, the police included, served to reduce the likelihood of a fatal accident.

    However while the number of fatal accidents is a function of the number of serious accidents and the risk of a serious accident turning into a fatality, they are also a function of randomness – luck if you will. We had a good dose of luck one last weekend, but we also have improvement on all the other parameters. We create our own luck, and we should bank the result but keep striving to improve.

    I do enjoy it though when I see emphasis based on helping us be safer rather than penalising. Visible police presence without a speed gun is much better than the reverse. A quiet flashing of the lights or chat is more effective than an us-and-them penalty approach. Let’s accelerate efforts to distrbute hi-viz clothing to bikers and cyclists, and even pedestrians. Let’s all get better at telling fellow motorists (and there were a few) when a headlight is burned out. And let’s work with the police and have the police work with us so that we can all be safer.

    Oh – and no, the change in limit didn’t really affect my behaviour, though one chap got caught as he had assumed his speedo was 10km too slow.

    But the news that hit me in the weekend was the entirely preventable industrial fatality in Auckland. There are huge numbers of fatalities in industry, and they are much more easily preventable than the road accidents, which have been worked on for years. Let’s see more emphasis on creating lasting safety cultures in work environments.

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