Our everyday experience, beliefs and practices

Most of us use our cars every day, often several times in a day. Many (perhaps most) of us exceed the posted speed limit a number of times on any given trip, typically by quite small amounts. Rarely does this result in a “near miss” and almost never in a minor crash, let alone an injury producing crash. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that we are indignant when we get a ticket for “low level” speeding and regard speed enforcement as a “revenue raising” rather than a road safety measure. On the other hand, we all accept that the faster one is going at the time an impact occurs the greater the risk of serious injury so we demand that the enforcement focus be on “high end” speeding.

These types of experience and beliefs are reinforced by media coverage. Shock jocks rail against speed cameras. Only dramatic crashes make it to the television news and “carnage” typically involves high speed. Further reinforcement comes from traditional enforcement practice. Because speedometers originally had an accuracy of plus or minus 10% and because cameras and radars had an accuracy of plus or minus 3 km/h police, to avoid legal challenges, never ticketed a driver for less than 10km/h over the posted limit in a 60 – or in a 100 – zone. Of course, the take-away message by the driving public was that the posted limit wasn’t the real limit at all! In short, that low level speeding was not a problem!

Moreover, there is not a single vehicle safety design rule that relates to top speed capability or acceleration performance and speedometers have dials reading well over twice the maximum speed limit in Australia. Finally, vehicle performance (typically acceleration capability) remains a major marketing element.

It is hard to conceive a more perfect storm in which official efforts at speed management are attempting to succeed!