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A Road safety expert bodly states that a crackdown on speeding is NOT the answer to reducing the road toll in Australia.

The vice-president of safety development for Mercedes-Benz, Ulrich Mellinghoff, says crash-avoidance systems, better roads and more roundabouts would do more to cut the road toll than tougher speeding laws.

The approach is in direct contrast to governments in NSW and Victoria, who preach the “speed kills” mantra as the best solution to reducing the road toll.

Mr Mellinghoff says motorists often fall into the trap of thinking they are driving safely because they are under the speed limit. He says the German road toll had reduced significantly in the past 20 years, despite much higher road speeds.

“I don’t think that speed alone is the problem. It’s the wrong speed in a special situation. With speed limits you will not stop those situations. If you have fog and drive at 100km/h, which is allowed, you are really in high danger of having an accident. On the other hand, if you drive 250km/h on the German autobahn in clear weather conditions with no traffic, it’s not really a risk and no accidents happen in those situations,” he says.

His claims are borne out by German road statistics. In 1972, there were 20,000 deaths on West German roads. Last year, there were 4100, despite 20 million more people on the road (including the old East Germany).

“That was with much worse traffic and significantly more vehicles on the road,” Mr Mellinghoff said.

“What we have seen is there are a lot of very different reasons for accidents. Sometimes it is not the high speed, it is the wrong speed. If you limit the speed, the driver often thinks all they have to do is drive the speed limit.”

It was better to put the responsibility for driving at the right speed on the shoulders of the driver. Accident-avoidance technology, including pedestrian avoidance systems, also had the potential to drastically reduce the road toll.

When stability control was introduced on all cars in Germany, there was a 30 per cent reduction in accidents where a single car left the road.

Mr Mellinghoff said Australia’s New Car Assessment Program, which crash-tests cars and awards safety ratings, should reward vehicles more for crash avoidance rather than the protection they offered in an accident.

“They should focus more on these assistance systems. It makes more sense to avoid an accident than to reduce the severity of it,” he said.

Responding to the comments, a spokesman for the RTA said: ”speed remains a major factor in crashes throughout NSW, with 40 per cent of fatalities speed-related. Motorists are becoming complacent about the dangers of speeding and the belief that a crash won’t happen to them.”

Mr Mellinghoff said Germany had also seen good results from separating vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. He believes car-to-car communication can also play a role in reducing the toll, with cars able to warn drivers behind them about hazards.

Queensland’s Police Union president Ian Leavers questions whether an increase in the number of speed cameras is anything more than a revenue-raising exercise.

At last – someone else is finally stepping up and calling the speed camera program for what it is…collecting more state revenue under a  masquerade of road safety.

Last year police clocked up 70,000 hours of speed camera operations and the rollout of digital cameras mid-2010 is expected to increase that figure considerably.

In addition, 30 per cent of speed camera hours will be able to be completed covertly.

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson has insisted the expansion of the speed camera program was aimed solely at cutting the road toll. He regularly points out that the only year the toll fell under 300 deaths was in 1998 – after speed cameras were introduced.

But QPU general president Ian Leavers said the public “would not support State Government revenue-raising initiatives that masquerade as road safety programs”. He said there was no doubt speed cameras had their place but it was vital public confidence not be undermined by revenue-raising suspicions.

“There has been a big increase in the money collected by speed cameras in recent years, but there has been little discernible positive impact on the road toll,” he said.

From 2007 to 2008, the number of speeding fines issued in Queensland soared 35 per cent to 663,020, and road fatalities fell 9.2 per cent from 360 to 327. Last year, the toll again climbed to 330 lives lost.

Mr Leavers doubted that more cameras would impact anything other than the amount of money collected.

“It’s time the focus moved more towards increasing traffic enforcement by officers, on bikes and in cars, who are capable of detecting drink-driving, unlicensed or dangerous driving and unroadworthy vehicles,” he said.

Testing has begun at seven new speed-camera locations throughout southeast Queensland with a view to them being operational by mid-2010.

Speed and red-light cameras are being trialled at the corner of Waterworks Rd and Jubilee Tce, Ashgrove, and Beaudesert and Compton roads, Calamvale.

Three fixed speed cameras are being tested at the Pacific Motorway at Loganholme, the Gateway Arterial at Nudgee and the Clem7 Tunnel between Woolloongabba and Bowen Hills. A point-to-point camera system is on trial on the Bruce Highway between Caloundra Rd and Wild Horse Mountain at Beerburrum.

A lawyer for independent MP Bob Such has told Adelaide Magistrates Court he wants a hand-held laser made available for independent testing to verify if they are capable of giving incorrect speed readings.

Mr Such is on trial charged with speeding after a motorbike patrol police officer used a hand-held laser gun to clock him at 69 kilometres per hour in a 50 kph zone at Aberfoyle Park.

The MP is challenging the accuracy of the hand-held laser and contesting a $300 fine.

His lawyer Michael Woods told the court the lasers could give incorrect readings if, for example, the beam was aimed at the slanted bonnet of a car or if it reflects off another surface.

Mr Woods told the court the Australian Standards document, with which all officers must comply, specifies the risks of panning or sweeping the laser.

But the prosecution disagreed, saying a laser gun was sophisticated technology and would not give any reading if aimed incorrectly.

Mr Woods said he wanted a copy of the manual and a laser gun for independent testing, requests the manufacturer has repeatedly refused.

The case will be back in court next week.

Michael Woods, for Such, today asked the Adelaide Magistrates Court to consider issuing a subpoena on the laser guns, which he says falsely recorded his client travelling at 69km/h in a 50km/h zone in Aberfoyle Park in 2008.

“They do it (independent testing) in New South Wales, they do it in Queensland, but good old South Australia does not,” Mr Woods said.

He said he wanted a “suitable expert” to do the testing instead of “relying on a so-called expert” presented by the prosecution.

He said he had made “every endeavour” to get access to the laser gun manufacturers instructions but has been denied every time.

Senior Sergeant Fred Wojtasik, prosecuting, said the lasers were “highly sophisticated” pieces of equipment and it was in the “public interest” the technology be protected.

He denied the lasers were capable of giving a false reading as they registered an error code if their operation was in some way obstructed or inconsistent.

The trial, which was due to finish tomorrow, was adjourned to enable the parties to get specific instructions on both the expert’s and the instructions availability.

A man from Nottingham has been caught ‘driving’ at 0 km/h by a speed camera not once but twice.

Jeff Buck, aged 55, has received two speeding fines in the post and letters of intended prosection for the offences.

His parked car had been snapped by a speed camera on his street, apparently as other cars sped past.

Nottinghamshire Police claimed he was snapped while driving his Vauxhall Zafira at 37mph in a 30mph zone.

When Mr Buck demanded to see the photographs, police dropped the case.

The problem for Mr Buck is the camera is situated outside his home where his car is parked.

When speeding drivers are caught by the camera, his car is snapped too and he gets sent the fine by mistake.

Mr Buck said: ‘The photographs must presumably show two vehicles, with mine parked halfway on the pavement and road.

‘It’s amazing that whatever system is in place cannot tell the difference between a car that is motionless and one travelling at 37mph.

‘I am amused by it, but also angry that I have to go to the trouble of contacting the police.

‘My only option is to park the car on the road as I don’t have a garage or driveway.’

Police have since apologised for the mix-up. In a statement they said: ‘The software used to read number plates has captured his car’s number plate in the image.

‘On both occasions the offending vehicle number plates were similar to those of Mr Buck’s vehicle registration number.

‘We will examine the processes and see if improvements can be made to minimise the chance of this happening again in the future.’

Lucky he wasn’t in Victoria – the police would have still taken him to court, demanded he still pay the fine, but award no demerit points!

The company that runs speed cameras on Arizona’s highways is behind a petition designed to change the way violators are served with tickets so more of them get paid, The Associated Press has learned.

The petition, filed with the Arizona Supreme Court on Jan. 8, does not mention the company — Scottsdale-based Redflex — or Quarles & Brady, the law firm Redflex paid to write the document. It only mentions John Wintersteen, a retired police chief for Paradise Valley, as the petitioner and is written under his name in the first person.

In response to a telephone call inquiring about the petition, Wintersteen told the AP that he supported changing a rule so violators could be served through first-class mail rather than in person, so he agreed to work with Redflex on the document.

Redflex officials and a spokeswoman for Quarles & Brady did not immediately return phone calls on Friday seeking comment.

Wintersteen said he was invited to a lunch with employees of Redflex and its biggest competitor, Scottsdale-based American Traffic Solutions, in late December. He said he mostly talked with them about public education and the photo-enforcement program. He said he has long been friends with many people at both companies, whom he met during his 13 years as police chief in Paradise Valley, a wealthy suburb of Phoenix.

At the end of the lunch, Wintersteen said Redflex employee Cristine Weekes handed him the petition, which had blank spaces for the name, address and phone number of the petitioner.

“She said, ‘Take a look at this. What do you think?’” Wintersteen said. “I looked at it that evening and in the morning said, ‘Yeah I’d be really interested in doing this.’”

Wintersteen said he then looked over a couple drafts of the petition with Quarles & Brady, and asked them to make a few minor changes before he signed it. He said he offered to file it himself, but the firm did it.

Weekes did not return a call seeking comment.

Wintersteen said he isn’t getting any money for his efforts. He said he simply believes photo-enforcement cameras save lives.

“I’m doing it because as a retiree, I’m now free to speak up more about these things and free to put energy and time into things that are going to make the community safer,” he said.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety introduced the cameras in September 2008 and slowly added more until all 76 were up and running by January 2009. Supporters said the cameras slow down drivers, reduce accidents, and free up law-enforcement officers for serious criminals, while opponents argue that they are intrusive and are more about making money than safety.

The mobile and fixed cameras snap the photos of speeders going 11 mph or over the speed limit, and violators get tickets in the mail. The current rule requires people to be served in person with a ticket if they don’t pay. The proposed change would allow violators to be considered served by mail.

Gov. Jan Brewer said Friday she wants to let the state’s contract for the cameras expire later this year and have the program go away, unless voters authorize it. Brewer budget director John Arnold said Friday that the governor’s position on the program is that “she doesn’t like it.”

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