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Speed Cameras - Saving lives or Revenue gathering?

Do speed cameras save lives or are they just another road tax to fund the government coffers? Here's what the LTSA has to say on the matter. You receive one of these when you get a speed camera fine in the mail.

According to the pamphlet, speeding is involved in more than 1/3 of road deaths in New Zealand. This may be true but according to a famous quote "There are 3 kinds of lies in this world, Lies, Damb Lies and Statistics". Statistics can often be used to distort the truth and I believe that is what is happening in this case. You can make up your own mind of course. On the LTSA website, they have a number of PDF documents that relate to accidents. The latest statistics are for 2002 and they can be found on the LTSA site. The most relevant information to this discussion is the Casualties pdf which lists the reasons attributed to the accidents that occur.

A summary of this document "Factors probably contributing to crashes in 2002" follows. Each fatal accident has on average 2.66 factors that contributed to that accident. I will discuss what this really means further down on this page. There were 364 fatal accidents in 2002 where 404 people died.

Factor Number of fatal accidents % of the 364 fatal Accidents
Alcohol or Drugs suspected 258 71
Too fast for conditions 110 30
Lost Control 78 21
Failed to keep left 75 21
Fatigue 39 11
Inattentive 30 8
Pedestrian crossing road 28 8
Did not look or see 28 8
Failed to give way 24 7
Attention diverted 23 6
All other reasons 274 75
TOTAL 967 266

Unfortunately there does not seem to be any information on the primary cause of these accidents. An example of why we need to know the primary cause is:

An extremely drunk person is speeding home and fails to take a bend in the road. This would give 3 factors for the accident in the summary above but the accident would never have occured if the person was not drunk. As the primary cause of the accident was being drunk then that is what the LTSA should be targeting, not the secondary factors of speeding or failing to take the bend.

As there are multiple factors listed for each accident, the "% of the 364 fatal Accidents" listed above is only approximate, but it does give us a good indication of where the LTSA should be targeting their resources. The four areas I see that they should target in order are:

  • Alcohol and Drug use (mainly alcohol)
  • Advanced Driver skill training (covers many areas listed above and is possibly the most important)
  • Fatigue
  • Pedestrian safety

Note that the next three reasons after alcohol (Too fast for conditions, Lost Control and Failed to keep Left) are totally driver mistakes and these would be significantly reduced if the skill level of the average driver on the road was improved through advanced driver training. A suggestion here is that anyone involved in an accident that was their fault should have to attend one of these courses?

You may note that none of the four items I have listed are directly related to speeding. That's because speeding is always a secondary factor in an accident, never the primary cause. If the LSTA targeted these 4 areas instead of wasting so much of their limited resources on policing speeding, then I'm sure a much more significant reduction in the road toll would be achieved, which I'm all in favour of. Thats my 2 cents worth anyway. As I said you make up your own mind.

So are speeding fines mainly a revenue grab? In my opinion, of course they are, but no government official will ever admit to that!

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Last modified on Thursday January 6th, 2005