Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Social Engineering

There has been a disturbing trend growing over the last 20+ years in this country which I've now started to see creeping into other countries around the world.  It is delivered by our government and thrust upon us as road safety but in reality at a base level it's nothing more than social engineering.

Year after year the government pushes the road safety message with the subtlety of a sledgehammer heavily focused on you guessed it speeding. All other road safety issues are virtually ignored unless they can be easily enforced. They constantly advertise on tv and radio with their propaganda. It's brain washing on a mass scale, fed to the populace to induce them into believing falsely that speeding is the bane of all evil.

Over the years there has been countless campaigns in this country about speeding. For those Australians reading this you'll have probably heard of most, if not all of these.
  1. Clip every trip
  2. Wipe off five(kmh)
  3. Don't Rush.
  4. Slow Down
  5. Towards Zero
  6. Ride to live
  7. Every K over is a killer.
  8. Speeding, no one thinks big of you.
  9. Everybody Hurts when you speed.
Australia is leading the world in its nanny state approach to road safety with some of the harshest speeding penalties in the world. See my previous post on Australian Speeding Fines here. There's not much focus put on any other road safety issues except drink driving. I've hardly ever heard of police targeting people for sitting in the right hand lane when the left lane is empty, the police can't really book fatigued drivers, how do you know someone is about to fall asleep at the wheel? But speeding is easily measurable, definable and very easy to police and brings in massive revenue for our cash strapped government. How much revenue? In New South Wales alone its 496 million this year and rising. Annually the Australian government pull in 1.8 billion dollars in revenue every year from speeding fines. Too hard for them to give that up, they are are addicted like a drug.

The latest campaign 'Towards Zero' video below, not specifically about speeding but road safety.

What's wrong with Zero fatalities you ask? Well nothing and everything. Firstly this Utopian idea of zero fatalities is utter bollocks, its never ever going to happen. I'd love for there to be no road deaths, really I would but I am also a realist and recognize that you cannot stop this from happening. As long as people are driving on the roads there is always going to be crashes and deaths. We are human and humans make mistakes. We fall asleep, we have medical episodes, we get distracted we make stupid mistakes, there is wildlife, people commit suicide, there are mechanical failures, mobile phones, fatigue and the list goes on. Let me repeat its never going to happen. But you can see where this is going can't you, reduced speed limits and more police to relieve us of our hard earned money as often as possible. It's already started happening on Australian roads - see link. The following roads have already had their speed limits dropped including Mt Glorious Rd, The Great Ocean Rd, The Putty Rd, Bells Line Of Road and The Great Northern Rd, the Old Pacific Hwy and the Bonang. If you cannot accept that there will be deaths on the road then you have no place being on our roads. I accept and acknowledge the risk.

The thing that gets me about this towards zero bullshit is that we as motorcyclists are the most vulnerable road users there are and there is no room in the government's vision for motorcyclists on our roads under this Towards Zero propaganda. They will want us off the roads and will introduce any measures they can think of to do it. That will come in the form of insurances and registrations that are so high that no one will be able to afford to ride and road tax collectors will crack down on motorcyclists for anything they can think of to get us off the road.

So what is the result of all these lowered speed limits and higher numbers of police on the road. You'd think that our lives would be totally safe by now but no, Australia ranks fairly poorly against several of our European counterparts. Here is a list of the fatalities per 100k people.

Road Traffic Accidents - Death Rate Per 100,000:
Sweden 2.36
United Kingdom 2.9
Norway 2.86
Switzerland 3.3
Netherlands 3.4
Denmark 3.5
Israel 3.4
Spain 3.65
Germany 3.9
Japan 4.7
France 5.1
Canada 6.0
USA 10.6

Stats courtesy Wikipedia - Link

Most of the European countries listed above have speed limits of 130kmh whilst here in Australia our national limit is 110kmh or 100kmh in 98% of places. One notable exception in Australia is the Stuart Hwy in the Northern Territory which has been speed limited to 130kmh, which I might add was brought down from an unlimited speed limit. The Northern Territory Department of Transport records only 6 fatalities from 2004 to 2014 with 62 people badly injured. None of these deaths are directly attributed to speed however, with not wearing a seatbelt accounting for 63% and alcohol accounting for 31%. This data comes from times when there was no speed limits and when the limit was 130 kmh. Statewide the Northern Territory experienced its highest total road toll of 75 deaths on 2008 when speed limits were enforced. In the 30 years from 1981 to 2010 the Northern Territory had an average of 55 fatalities a year on the road. For most of this time there was no maximum speed limit. There were more deaths in the 6 years following the decrease in the speed limit than there were in the 6 years prior with unrestricted speed limits.

European Speed Limits

We have sections of highway in this country that are built to very high standards and are quite easily the equal of Germany's autobahns. Roads like the Hume Highway, a double lane dual carriageway which stretches from Sydney to Melbourne through some 878kms of mainly remote countryside. There is no reason that the speed limit on this road couldn't be raised to 140km or even 150km to be conservative. I'm not saying make every remote country road with speed limits like this but certainly the well maintained and built ones yes. Why not that's what they have been designed for?

Fatigue is one of the major killers on Australian roads with some 20% of deaths caused by fatigue. A study from the Adelaide Centre for Sleep Research found that a person who has been awake for more than 17 hours is twice as likely to have a crash as somebody who is not fatigued. This is the same probability as a person who has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 g/100 ml. The same study showed that a person who had been awake 24 hours was equivalent to a person with a 0.1 g/100 ml blood alcohol concentration, with a crash risk of seven times higher than normal.

If we consider 3 popular Australian Interstate routes, Melbourne to Sydney, Sydney to Brisbane and Adelaide to Perth, taking 9 hours, 10 hours and 28 hours by increasing the limits there can be considerable time savings.

Time at
Time at 130kmh
Time at 150kmh
Time saved
At 130kmh
Time saved
At 150kmh
Syd to Melb
2.02 hrs
3.27 hrs
Syd to Bris
Adel to Perth

With the potential to have more people completing their trips within the 17 hr window of fatigue there is actually lessened chances of an accident by driving at an increased speed.

This chart below shows the road toll in Australia over the last 40+ years.

It has been in steady decline over this time but has stagnated over the last 7 years. I'm sure the government would have you think its because of their numerous safety campaigns, speed cameras and strong police presence. Indeed drink driving laws came into effect back in the 80's which has helped. I would argue and counter with this - cars have become much safer with airbags, crumple zones, stability control, ABS etc, roads have been improving over the years. What hasn't changed? People's attitudes, training and education.

What needs to Improve?

One thing that needs to change in this country is the licensing system. Our licensing system is so antiquated to the point that getting your licence here is a joke. There's an old saying that we use here that goes something like this  "Where did you get your license? Out of a cornflakes packet" It would be laughable if it wasn't so true.

To get your license here all you need to do is sit a short test which doesn't even have to be in English, although all of our road signs are in english, go out on our roads accompanied by mum or dad who has a license and learn as many bad habits as you can for a few hours(120) then a short 15 minute drive with an RTA driving tester and voila you have a license.

Seriously how can you get a license if you can't read the road signs? That is a basic ability of being on the road. You need to be able to read the signs.

How's this for a comparison, a German driver’s license requires a minimum of 25 to 45 hours of professional driving instruction plus 12 hours of theory and eight hours of first aid training. Obligatory lessons include a minimum number of lessons each driving on: the motorway Autobahn; rural areas, and in the dark.

This should also be the minimum requirement in this country. We teach people how to pass a test rather than how to drive here and it needs to change. There are far too many clueless people on our roads. Who knows maybe the road toll might be a little lower if we had better trained drivers instead of licensed incompetents.

Even these measures of increased driver training, better cars and better roads are not going to stop fatalities on our roads. They may well reduce them but you cannot stop it completely and it is utter madness or plain wishful thinking to think otherwise. The government knows this and they actually have the power to stop all speeding vehicles. How? Compliance of every new vehicle to be fitted with GPS speed limiting devices therefore there would be no more speeding vehicles but they are not going to do this. Why? Because they know if that happened their revenue stream would instantly dry up and there would still be fatalities, making the whole road safety campaign of speed kills a complete fallacy. A 1.8 billion hole in the budget is pretty hard to fill. Makes me wonder what happens if they introduce driver less cars?

Our Victorian government would have us falsely believe that every 1 kmh over the limit is a killer. Well that's great, what about then that the NT speed limit is 130kmh with a lower road toll of their Victorian counter parts and the Victorians highly police their limits with a 2kmh over the limit speed camera tolerance has one of the highest road tolls in the country?

Now I am not totally against speed limits as I support urban area limits of 50, 60, 80 and then there are 40kmh for schools zones but there is a tendency in this country to change the limit every kilometre or 2 here from 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and back again making it impossible sometimes to know exactly what speed zone you are in, but completely perfect for mr plod to empty your wallet. These need to be consolidated back to a more simplified approach. We need to protect our kids from harm with the 40kmh limits but I do believe that out of urban areas in our rural areas with little traffic limits could be raised.

How about variable speed limits on our national highways so that in good conditions limits can be higher, but during night or rain & poor visibility the limits can be reduced. No, that all makes sense but it doesn't make for good revenue so therefore our useless bureaucrats would not even entertain such useful suggestions.

With never ending government advertisements on speeding being the evil of all evils the public has become brainwashed and no longer think that there are any other problems that cause road accidents whilst they blissfully stay under the speed limit, talking on their phones and not paying attention. Who are the real menaces on the road?


  1. Very well written little bro. Who wrote it? Lol.
    I agree, we have two major problems in this country. Number 1 is that there is no driver training to speak of. 100 hours of sitting next to your parents and learning their bad habits(if the hours aren't just fudged in the first place) and Number 2(a very close second might I add) is the extremely poor attitude of Australian drivers. I haven't travelled extensively but where I have been I must say that Asian, North American and Kiwi drivers showed much more courtesy and common sense in one day than I have seen in several years on Australian roads. It is the "fuck you mate" attitude coupled with little to no actual driving skills that is killing people. Maybe compelling everyone to shuffle around at 40km/h does save lives as collision speeds are greatly reduced? Anyway, until we Australians change our attitudes on the road, nothing will change.
    Good post.

    1. I've had the idea for this for quite some time and it actually took a little while to get it to work, it was a lot harder to put together than I thought and required a fair bit of research for information.

      You're spot on with your assessment there are too many people with poor attitudes on our roads. Why, there are hundreds of Dashcam road rage videos available on the net with drivers doing ridiculously stupid shit. RE:40kmh, yeah no one is going to die but this is so inconvenient that it would probably bring this country to its knee's economically.

    2. Yes but dying is pretty inconvenient too. Safety is NUMBER 1 here. A healthy economy doesn't seem to matter. We really do live in the "lucky country".

  2. Great post Steve. I hope you enjoyed all our 110km/h roads...Speeding is just about the worst offence you can commit here too.

    Thanks very much for all your Aussie traffic safety ideas as our leaders tend to steal them too. I love that #7, every 1 km over blah, blah nonsense

    We've copied one of your ideas with decreased tolerances over long weekends (and normally all through the Xmas/New Year holiday season) and if you're 4k over you're public enemy number 1. It was touted as going to save lives but over at least one period the road deaths increased...

    You're right, speeding is just too easy to enforce while other dumb ass behaviour not so easy (or profitable?)

    Training over here is probably even worse than in Oz - although ACC are now offering (non compulsory) some good discounted courses (paid for by my horrendous rego fees). I still reckon that some of the road improvements (which make those roads theoretically safer) make dumber drivers - you've only gotta see what some idiots do in bad weather or on roads that aren't in race track condition. People need to learn how to recognise hazards and how to avoid them.

    BTW: I've had a bit to do with H&S over the years and you'd be surprised how many motorcyclists work in the field. I reckon we tend to be a lot better at seeing hazards and working out how to avoid them - it's in our best interests eh?

    My winge was shorter than yours...

    1. Andrew, my job is basically risk management and I can't go a single day without shaking my head at some driver/riders stupidity. I don't want people wrapped up in cotton wool, I just want people to apply sensible risk analasys to how they drive. It is bloody frustrating.

    2. Andrew
      We don't have the 4km tolerance on holidays, they do something much worse here. They double the amount of points you lose from your license for speeding. A 20kmh over the limit ticket is normally 4 points from your license, well in double demerits long weekends you lose 8 points. You only have 13 points on your license in NSW so its nearly gone in one hit.

  3. Good artical hoss......you forgot to mention that you cant stop a drug fucked houso or truck driver from killing and they do more than their fair share....and the cops turn a blind eye to them as they cant pay the fines like us workers can.

  4. Absolutely excellent Steve - a first class article. As a matter of interest, NZ and Australia actively collude on a heap of transport matters so it's no accident that similar strategies are put in place. One of my mates who works for our transport authority visits Oz every month for joint meeting. He's a biker but his speciality is heavy transport.

    Got to agree with both you and your bro. Ever since I've been involved in mentoring advanced riding, I'm always evaluating every rider and driver round me and overall, it's bloody disappointing. In NZ with its relatively low population density (Oz too, I suppose), people could get away with being a crap driver with relatively low consequences. Consequently, expectations re testing were low from officialdom. Now circumstances are changing, no political party wants to jeopardise their election chances by addressing the root cause of the matter. Totally agree that more rigorous training and testing is the only way to really fix things.

    1. Sorry about that Geoff. Your authority's need to look at world leaders like Germany, Sweeden etc and not our money driven policys that will only lead to people resenting police and authority in general. The police are just seen as tax collectors now.

  5. It is interesting how they think Speed is the largest contributor. Wasn't there a study about Germany and the Autobahn about how people going a faster speed actually have to pay attention and are more aware of their surroundings and less likely to be stuffing a fast food burger in their cake-hole than their counterparts poking along going slower?

    Sure a faster speed crash would cause more damage/fatalities, but I am thinking slower drivers are more distracted and more of a hazard.

    In Oregon they are currently raising some of our speed limits. Right now our freeways are 65 mph (105 kph) for regular vehicles and 55 mph (88 kph) for commercial trucks. Our regular state highways are 55 mph. They are raising the limit on some of our more rural roads. Usually the police will let you do at least 10% over the limit without citing you. And on the freeways you are practically run over if you aren't doing 75 mph (120 kph) in a 65 zone.

    Now if we could get folks to stop texting and driving (not an issue with motorcyclists) I think all roads would be safer. While they are raising our speed limits they are also raising the fines for using a cell phone while driving. Only hand- free bluetooth usage is currently legal in Oregon.

    1. Hi Brandy
      I've also read that about the autobahn. Don't get me wrong when they have accidents they are big and people die at those speeds but yes there tends to be less accidents because people are actually paying attention to what the hell they are doing.

      I've seen a bike rider here busted on the news for texting whilst riding, not sure how he was doing it but is was a P plater(provisional license holder). It would be quite difficult I would think to text and ride.

  6. Great post Steve. You are spot on with your comparisons with Europe. I've done a lot of driving and riding there and the attitude of other road users and the police is totally different to here in Australia. You are more likely to get booked for hogging the fart labe than speeding and as your stats confirm, this lack of policing speeding didn't appear to have any negative impact on fatalities. There was an interesting study done by WA Uni that found stricter policing of speed limits actually had a negative impact on driver awareness hence creating a greater chance of accidents (http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/201610269146/stricter-speed-enforcement-can-impair-driver-safety). Sadly I don't see this changing here any time soon. Not only are the politicians never going to change their tune, a quick scan of 'community safety' Facebook pages will show that the marketing if 'speed kills' has been a great success.

    1. Booked for "hogging the fart labe"? Rightly so I would say..... ;)

    2. Hi Wayne
      I've read that report and concur with their assessment. As Keith Codes A Twist of the Wrist put it, you have $10 of attention span, if your spending $7 driving and $2.90 watching your speedo then your not really looking out for anything else that could cause an accident.

  7. ....yeah wayne....like some german doin a right hand turn in front while not paying atttention causing you to bin it.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Gregg, hope you enjoyed it.


  9. Hey Steve, I'm just back from riding some of those 130 kph roads. Cars did not burst into flames as Australian transport departments might suggest.

    It seems universal that what speed is deemed 'safe or suitable' is a legacy issue everywhere. Whatever you had post WW2 seems to become what was 'right' for your area because everyone thinks their country is unique and so anything another country does could never work. I hear this about everything in life everywhere I go.

    Even the US has legacy speed limits that vary state to state from 55mph max one place then cross an invisible line and it is 80mph.

    I think be thankful that at least it was originally set at 60mph in Australia which then got carried over to 100kph. When metric arrived I can still recall as a young lad the government wanted to reduce the maximum speed considerably. At the time many roads were dirt or were twisty with unpredictable surveying to reduce the grades over hills for old trucks and buses that lacked power or brakes. My parents car had drum brakes, tube retread tyres and feeble headlights as well as no seat belts with windscreens always getting smashed from stones and the glass flying everywhere as not laminated like now. So there was a moment when the pencil pushers nearly took the 100kph away but fortunately it never got passed.

    Get on a plane to northern Thailand anytime you want to feel freedom to ride anyway you like.

    1. How did you survive those ridiculous high speeds, you should be dead man hahahhahahhaha

      Funny you mention the legacy issue. On studying up for this article I found that most of the speed limits in this country were set back in the day before, disc brakes, abs, seat belts, crumple zones or any of that safety stuff we have now. And authority's continually keep dropping the limit in the hope that will reduce the toll rather than address the root cause issues in all of this. Why? They are not vote winners or making them any money.