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Speed Cameras - a look at the numbers

Well, after listening and commenting on all the 'speed kills' garbage put out from the TAC in the many threads here I thought to myself that really all I'm doing is agreeing to others who had my point of view. I did not really know the facts apart from blindly accepting what others told me. This, to me, is just as bad as blindly accepting the TAC's 'facts'. I'm just a sheep of a different colour.
The truth is I didn't even know what the Victorian road statistics really were. This being the case I decided to do my own research and reasoning, so I looked them up:
1997 - 377
1998 - 390
1999 - 384
2000 - 407
2001 - 444
2002 - 397
* These numbers are straight of the TAC website.

Now, not being a Rhodes Scholar I may be off base and missing something here but the numbers are not changing much. On average about 400 are killed per year. So we are looking at a fluctuation of around than 10% from the average over a 6 year period. Considering that fixed speed cameras were only introduced (in force) in 1999, this average shows both pre and post speedcamerafigures. Yet after 1999 the average increased!

Ok, so I have to assume that there are more people on the roads now as the average age and population continues to increase (slightly) so as a percentage the road toll may have dropped per person on the road. However the percentage increase in population could not be very significant considering that the Average Australian population has grown by only about 5% or so in the last 20 years.

Then I look at some pretty basic facts.

The age of the average motor car is now less than 10 years old. Assuming that the Falcon, Commodore, Magna and Camry make up the largest % of passenger vehicles on the road (as total salesover the last 10 years seem to suggest) then we can assume that close to (if not well over) 50% of the cars currently on the road have innovations such as ABS, IRS, SRS and a multitude of other safety devices and improvements as standard. In addition nearly all cars on the road would now have crumple zones and side intrusions bars.
In addition the obviously safer cars on the road are the actual roads themselves.

There is no doubt in my mind that the major highways (the ones with the vast majority of the speed cameras) have been steadily improving over the last few years. So much so that they have had few fatalities in comparison to the suburbs and other roadways. It seems to me that it is extremely ironic that the safest traveled roads are also the most heavily policed. At first it would appear that the heavy policing must be what are making them safer however it is not the case. A classic example is the Melbourne - Geelong highway. This has been the target of heavy policing for over 10 years, yet the fatalities kept coming. It wasn't until they actually fixed the road that the fatalities stopped. Did the policing solve this? No. Did everyone suddenly decide to slow down? No. What fixed it was paying attention to the root cause, in this case the actual road itself.

So any percentage drop in the road toll is probably more than covered but the improvements in cars and major roads.

This then lead me to look at some root causes. Speeding? No, it is a factor in some crashes, but not a primary factor. There had to be other factors (and of course there are). Why? It is well documented that the majority of accidents occur under the posted speed limit. Something like 96% of all accidents are caused by other factors apart from speed. In fact the police themselves have even publicly admitted that that speed cameras have been indirectly* responsible for the saving of 26 lives last year. This reinforces the fact that the majority of road deaths have occurred under the posted limit.

* I have to ask here, what do they mean by indirectly? Because the cameras are there these 26 motorists maybe, might have, kinda thought about, in some instances, when it was convenient, not to speed at that moment because they might die? What the hell sort of logic do the TAC use?

So how many of those who died were really speed related? I can find no figures that actually state this but, based on the evidence I can guess 4% of the 400 average road fatalities is a good place to start. That's a total of 16 people on average killed by speed each year! Oh no, horror of horrors! But how many really died from speed alone?
The police have already stated that more than 1/3 of all fatalities are caused by drug affected drivers. So there speed is really irrelevant as they were already compromised.

What about the person killed when the car is at fault. A blown tire at 100kph or 150kph is really not that different. There is a good chance you will spear off and hit that tree 1 meter off the side of the road. So once again, speed it there but irrelevant

What about the drunk driver who swerves for no reason and clips the car passing them at 120kph? The drunk drives on, the car full of people die (hitting the same tree 1 meter from the road). Is this a speed related death? They were speeding but it did not directly cause the deaths.
Finally, the poor people doing 10kmh over the limit that simple fall asleep from boredom and drive into that wonderfully placed tree! Yep, they were speeding but that's not what killed them.

So of the 16 speeding deaths a year how many are really true? 5, maybe 10? And of these 10 are we talking about totally irresponsible speed? Most likely. 220kph on public roads where the vast majority of traffic is doing 110kph is irresponsible - we all accept that.

So there we go. I'm no statistical genius and my figures may be out, but the end result is these 2 things:

Speed cameras have made absolutely no noticeable reduction to the road toll over the last 6 years. At this point, based on safer cars and better main roads I'm starting to see that the speed cameras are actually causing the toll to be higher than need be!!!!! The fear of a fine locks people to a speed limit where they would rather be in a stupid accident than accelerate to just 5kph over the limit to avoid it. Just drive on the ring road in Victoriaand see what fear of a ticket will do to peoples behavior at any of the merging onramps. Scary stuff!

Speeding in itself makes up such a small percentage of road deaths that any attempt to justify the revenue raising tactics of speed cameras as 'a road safety initiative' can be dismissed with about 20 minutes of research and about 30 seconds of rational thinking!

To put it in perspective, pedestrians being hit by (non speeding) cars make up more than 5 times the amount of deaths caused by inappropriate speeding, but when was the last time you saw someone ticketed for jaywalking?

So I'm left with only 1 answer. The primary goal of every speed camerais to raise revenue. They simply have no other purpose any more. Statistically they have failed dramatically as a safety device. Therefore, any speed camerain operation today can only be to collect money from the motorist - where they have proven to be wildly successful.
As the revenue drops (which it does) the government is force to find new ways to trick motorists into these revenue traps. Impossibly low tolerances, insanely variable speed limits that can be changed at will and increased numbers of speed cameras are all there solely for the purpose of collecting revenue. Just had a look at the TAC website and there is some very interesting stats to read. Some of the stats as follows taken directly from the TAC site:

Pedestrian statistics
A total of*58 pedestrians were killed on Victorian roads in 2002, which represents 15% of all fatalities.
Three pedestrian groups are particularly vulnerable: the young, the elderly and the intoxicated.

Of the accidents resulting in the death of a pedestrian in 2002:
71% were on metropolitan roads,
48% were on roads signposted at 60km/h, and
47% occurred during high alcohol times.

*An interesting point to note there is that almost half of these deaths were in 60kmh zones, hardly the areas where we get slugged by speed cameras!*

Older driver statistics

Drivers aged 65 years or over have a higher risk (per distance travelled) of being involved in a fatal crash than any other age group.
In 2002, 29 older drivers were killed. Of these deaths:
66% were male,
38% were involved in adjacent and opposing intersection crashes,
52% occurred on metropolitan roads,
90% occurred during low alcohol times,
crashes were more frequent on week days than weekends, most occurred during daylight hours, and
48% occurred on roads signposted 100km/h and 17% on roads signposted 80km/h.

*Another point to note, almost half of these deaths were in 80-100kmh zones. *

Young driver statistics

In 2002, 28% of drivers killed were aged between 18 and 25 years. And yet, this age group only represents 14% of Victorian licence holders.

Of the 52 young drivers killed in 2002:
88% were males,
58% were killed on country roads,
58% were killed in single vehicle crashes,
77% were involved in crashes that occurred during high*alcohol times, the days when fatal crashes were most frequent were Friday (23%), Saturday (25%) and Sunday (15%), 60% of crashes occurred between the hours of 8pm and 6am, and 63% of deaths occurred on 100km/h and 110km/h signposted roads.

Note: High alcohol times are those times of the day and week when casualty crashes are ten times more likely to involve alcohol than casualty crashes at other times.

*Point to note - 63% of these deaths occured on 100-110kmh zones and 58% on country roads*

Age group statistics

18 to 25 year olds represent only 12% of the Victorian population, yet account for 26% of fatalities in 2002.

Municipality statistics

In 2002,*397 people were killed on Victoria'sroads.
The six with the highest road tolls were:
Geelong with 17 fatalities (4.3% of the road toll),

Mornington Peninsula with 17 fatalities (4.3%),

Hume with 15 fatalities (3.8%),

Brimbank and Casey with 13 fatalities each (3.3%)

no fatalities occurred in Alpine, Buloke, Horsham, Nillumbik, Queenscliff, Warrnambool and West Wimm

To me, the factors that standout are the 3 main groups at greatest risk, the 18-25, 39-49 and over 70's. The largest percentage of deaths are not on major highways/freeways, alcohol is obviously a big contributing factor, but the one clear distinction is there is no clear indication that speed cameras have reduced the road toll.If those 3 main groups are the greatest % of deaths on our roads, surely the powers-that-be would concentrate on reducing those numbers. It all leads to one simple fact, and that fact is clear and evident to all you speak to, that speed cameras are designed for revenue only and serve no real purpose other than that.
Document last updated 16:41 Thu Oct 26, 2006
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