No more excuses - 5km over limit is now too fast

BY KIRAN CHUG
Last updated 05:00 03/06/2010

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Speeding motorists used to driving 10kmh over the maximum speed limit will not get away with it this weekend, as police trial a zero tolerance policy to cut road deaths.

Police say New Zealand's 10 per cent tolerance zone is higher than other countries, and cutting it could help change the attitudes of motorists who claim lives.

From tomorrow, extra police will be out in force for Queen's Birthday Weekend and, for the first time, motorists found to be more than 4kmh over the open road speed limit will be ticketed.

The Automobile Association predicts the move will anger motorists unaware of the change, or driving with inaccurate speedometers.However, as another life was lost on our roads yesterday, national road policing manager Superintendent Paula Rose said police needed new weapons to change driver behaviour. "There can be no excuses. We are killing our people and we want it to stop."

Holiday periods were "high risk" times on New Zealand's roads, with crashes over last Queen's Birthday Weekend leaving 10 dead – the worst toll in 13 years.

"There's still too many people travelling too fast. And our holiday periods, to be honest, are the ones that are killing us."

This Easter road toll period saw 12 road deaths, the worst in 18 years.

AA motoring affairs manager Mike Noon agreed that roads had to be made safer, but said the tolerance existed to allow for speedometer error, which could occur when motorists changed their tyres.

Speedometers were not checked during warrant tests and it would be difficult for motorists to measure such small speed differences.

To keep within the zone, they could end up spending more time on the wrong side of the road while passing, so police would need to enforce the change carefully, Mr Noon said.

"Motorists will be extremely angry if police stake out and ticket on passing lanes."

Ms Rose said police believed the change was fair and officers would still be able to act according to individual circumstances. Police did not expect to see more motorists challenging tickets because "the speed limit is still the speed limit".

In the year to October 31, 2009, police generated more than $30 million in revenue from speeding tickets, issuing 340,368 tickets.

Meanwhile, police in the central district were yesterday piecing together events which led to a rented van carrying seven people crashing on State Highway 57 north of Shannon, killing a male passenger.

Inspector Neil Wynne was unsure what caused the crash but it happened during wet conditions and police would investigate whether speed was a factor.

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While a small number of drivers were causing horrendous damage, Mr Wynne urged motorists to treat everyone else on the road as an imbecile and stop blaming "boy racers" for road deaths.

"Don't be fooled by people in their midlife-crisis-time. They're just as bad."

Ms Rose said police would review how effective the 4kmh tolerance zone was before considering whether to use it again. But Mr Wynne said he hoped the change would be permanent as people now got angry for being stopped at 109kmh.

"We were effectively telling people it was 110kmh."

The change had nothing to do with revenue gathering, but was aimed at trying to make the roads safer, Ms Rose said.

In Australia, tolerance limits were about 5kmh above the speed limit and the road fatality rate was falling.

- The Dominion Post

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