Mar 8th, 2010 by admin
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.