Speeding fines have become a multi-million dollar source of income for state governments in Australia, according to the National Motorists Association of Australia (NMAA). NMAA spokesman Michael Lane said there has been a vast over-emphasis on collecting speeding fines instead of a focus on the major causes of road fatalities.
The cause of the majority of road fatalities is inattention, Lane said. "Some people use the euphemism of distraction when they crash while driving. However, drivers need to accept that driving is a task that deserves their full attention."
Research in Australia has shown that fewer than 8 per cent of road fatalities would be prevented by fitting GPS controllers to every vehicle on the road so that drivers cannot exceed the posted speed limit. The NMAA said this is clear evidence that more than 92 per cent of fatalities are not caused by exceeding the speed limit.
"Governments need to focus on the real causes of fatal crashes, instead of raking in speeding fines." Other nations have provided similar research results. Government research in the UKshows that only 5 per cent of all injury crashes had 'exceeding the speed limit' as a contributory factor.
In the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that when driver error was the primary cause of a crash, researchers identified that "distraction and not paying attention to the road accounted for 41 percent of the errors".
In Australia, state governments continue to espouse speed limit enforcement as the primary traffic safety measure. Comprehensive examination of accident causation suggests this focus on speed is grossly misplaced and is actively hindering progress towards genuine reductions in road fatalities.
Mr Lane said three major steps are necessary to dramatically reduce fatal crashes on our roads. Firstly, improved driver training is vital and P-plate drivers need to complete an advanced driving course to be competent to drive on public roads.
Secondly, more highly visible highway patrol vehicles need to patrol the roads and enforce all road rules, not simply the one rule for which technology allows the greatest number of tickets issued per hour. The technology companies that peddle speed detection devices are part of the problem. For too long, bureaucrats and politicians have been susceptible to the temptation to invest in this technologically based revenue.
Thirdly, governments need to commit far more expenditure on road improvements such as divided dual carriageways on major highways. History shows that converting the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne to a dual divided carriageway has reduced road fatalities by 80 per cent. That is a quantum leap.
Mr Lane said that reducing fatalities and injuries on roads is not a simplistic single sentence fix such as blaming speed. "The state governments have converted the roads portfolio into a revenue source and in doing so have disguised their lack of expenditure on road infrastructure. "Vehicle manufacturers have made excellent progress with vehicle safety.
Evidence of this is that air bags have greatly reduced the number of front seat fatalities and electronic stability control has dramatically reduced the number of fatal car crashes. "What is needed is for state governments to participate with expenditure on road infrastructure, providing more highway patrol police and establishing a vastly improved standard of driver training."