Editorial: Caught on film

Last updated 05:00 18/03/2010

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OPINION: It is the common complaint of many New Zealand motorists. Truck drivers hog the road and, being oblivious to other road users, are responsible for accidents and near misses, both in urban areas and on the open road.

Those who subscribe to this jaundiced view should be taking a hard look at the video footage on The Press's website. This footage, which was taken from cameras mounted in Canterbury Waste Services (CWS) trucks and which has created great public interest, has graphic images of other road users behaving recklessly and illegally.

It includes video images of one car overtaking a truck and forcing oncoming traffic to take evasive action. Other footage shows motorists not stopping at red lights or compulsory stop signs, failing to adhere to the give-way rule at other intersections, adopting some appalling driving techniques at roundabouts, and skidding due to a failure to drive to the conditions.

It should be pointed out that The Press has not breached the Privacy Act by publishing this footage, as the legislation does not apply to the gathering and dissemination of news by the media. And CWS blurred the number plates of the driving footage obtained by The Press.

What is surprising is that the use of these truck video cameras, which record continuously but only store the 10 seconds of footage before and after a driver has had to brake hard or swerve, has just come to light. Unbeknown to the general driving public, they have been used by CWS for two years and by other operators for four years.

Those companies using the cameras deserve to be commended, as the technology serves several laudable purposes. Firstly, it assists the trucking companies and their drivers, who are themselves being filmed from the back of the cameras, with their training. For the drivers, it is a strong reminder of the sort of shocking motoring behaviour they might encounter on the road and for which they must be prepared by driving defensively.

But the video footage also offers protection for drivers and their companies. Undoubtedly, when trucks are involved in accidents or near misses, the other motorists involved will like to delude themselves that they could not possibly be at fault, even if their own poor driving really was responsible.

This might be part of the broader tendency of many New Zealanders to believe their driving skills are better than what they actually are and that they can speed and overtake with impunity.

When such drivers are involved in an accident or near accident with a truck some would inevitably complain to the company or to the authorities that the truck driver was to blame.

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Rather than it being a case of one driver's word against another's, the video footage should clearly establish who was in the wrong. No doubt many complaints are hurriedly dropped when the existence of the footage is made known.

Hopefully, publicity about the cameras will have a positive impact on driving habits generally. Those drivers whose frustration at being unable to pass a truck leads them to overtake dangerously, and those who try to beat a truck through an intersection, should have second thoughts now they know they could be captured on truck candid camera.

- The Press

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