Speeding fines

I treat speeding fines as a purely optional tax. I know some people seem to see them us unavoidable (notably one guy I knew who worked in car insurance), but really, nobody has to speed. Nothing’s compelling you to press down harder on that accelerator. Those people zooming past me or tailgating might remember that next time they get a ticket.

Here in Victoria in the past couple of years they’ve changed the default speed (for side streets, in other words) from 60kmh to 50kmh. That was a good idea. There’s no way the driving conditions on a narrow side street match those of an average suburban main road with lines and traffic lights. In fact I found it had me better separating the two in my mind, and driving in a manner more suited to each.

Then they put in school zones — lower speeds around schools. Again, I have no problem with this, though its implementation has been trouble prone. Typically the road in front of the school gets the lower speed, but this is not necessarily the only road that lots of students may use to get to the school. And while they said roads with a 60 limit would get only a school time 40 limit, I know of at least one (Farnsworth Avenue in Footscray) which is permanently 40. That doesn’t make sense.

I don’t necessarily see lower speed limits as a magical solution to road accidents. Sure, excessive speed is a factor in some crashes, but it seems to me the emphasis is on speed because it’s something the government can catch people for en masse with minimal effort. Speed cameras, mobile and fixed, catch motorists out cheaply. Not me though, at least not yet. But what it means is that other types of stupid driving don’t seem to get caught so much.

Governments continue to agonise about ways of reducing the road toll, through speeds, more police, double demerit points, more advertising. One thing they seem to have not considered is reducing it through reducing car usage.

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17 Replies to “Speeding fines”

  1. The permanent 40 km/h school zones are installed on streets that have a limit of 50 km/h. So the rest of the street will be 50 km/h, but the school zone section (which will not be signed as a ‘school zone’) is permanently signed at 40 km/h. I don’t know why school zone signs were not added, without times, to the 40 km/h signs in these areas. I think it would have made things much clearer to motorists who aren’t traffic engineers.

  2. I overheard a report on Today Tonight or A Current Affair (they blur into the one show for me) last week about how difficult it is now for drivers to be changing speed zones so often, and how problems are really occurring on roads that are 70km/h which go down to 40km/h for school times etc., and how people who are good/responsible drivers are being caught for speeding simply because of the confusion due to the frequency with which the speed zone changes on some roads.
    My frustration: there is a permanent 40km/h zone further up my street (Separation St which is a 50km/h road anyway) near a school and the Northcote Plaza, but I question whether it really needs to be this late at night because it is one of those places where you have to put the car into 3rd gear just to make sure you don’t speed along a deserted stretch of road at 11:30 at night …
    Another interesting thing I have noticed, is that near the wealthier schools in wealthier municipalities (with the exception of Camperdown on the Princes Highway), the school zone signs are fancy lights with changing numbers, whereas in loads of other places the school zones are marked with basic metal signs with an added extra part that says 2:30-4:30pm … I know it is a cost thing, but I find it interesting that the fancy signs aren’t up in some more significant/dangerous areas (granted near MLC in Hawthorn there have been some kids hit by cars, so it fits into both the wealthy school and dangerous area category).

  3. The electronic signs are used on busy roads and in all built-up locations where the non-school-hours limit is more than 70 km/h. It is not related to the wealth of the school, but MLC is on a busy road and the Camperdown Primary School is probably in an 80 km/h zone. I think Camperdown also has illuminated pavement markers for its crossing, which were part of a trial.

    Separation Street should have a 40 km/h limit all the time because it is a sub-standard piece of road. There is very little footpath space and the entire road reserve is about 9 metres wide. I would not do 50 km/h in that street.

    I haven’t noticed any adjustment problems in the traffic I drive in around school zones, and I reckon my sample is bigger than ACA’s.

  4. Drivers are more likely to speed when they have a clear, wide road ahead. Obscure this view by narrowing roads, putting in median strips (benefits for pedestrians too), pinch points, etc.

    Small roundabouts, speed humps and street plantings can help but can introduce their own set of problems.

    Lower car dependence will reduce the road toll but the effect is relatively small; a 10% drop in use might drop the toll by a smilar amount. Any drop is good, but is small compared to the 50% drop since 1970 recorded in a period where the car modal share steadily increased.

    But I suspect that with things like seatbelts and RBT having contributed to big drops since the 1970s, it is probably fair to say that it will be harder to sustain a future reduction unless reducing modal share is made one part of the campaign.

  5. Phil, Farnsworth Ave in Footscray/Flemington is a 60 limit, with a full time 40 school zone at the western end.

    I don’t have too much of a problem with permanent 40 zones on narrow side streets, since dropping your speed by 20% for a few hundred metres makes hardly any difference.

    Plenty of people seem to keep driving at 60 when they enter a 50 timed school zone (at least the one near me). Variable/lit signs would help eliminate the confusion over times.

  6. I have access to a car (paid for by me) but choose to cycle, walk or take public transport. I believe I am a conscientious objector to overuse of motorised vehicles. I am a proponent for alternatives to cars but governments (and most other people)don’t seem to share my idealism.

  7. There are lots of 30 km/h zone in German cities, though it appears less for safety reasons, rather more for environmental reasons (which dosn’t quite add up, as the Autobahn is still pretty much speed limit free. And when does a car produce most pollutants, at 30 or 220 km/h?).

  8. I have no problem with the school restriction signs except for the times. 8am to 930am. Why 9.30? There are a lot more school kids around at 7.30 than 9.30. And then you rarely see kids around at 2.30 in the afternoon.

  9. Most schools start between 8:30 and 9:00am. A 30 minute buffer is allowed either side of that window to cater for the children who arrive early or late, and to allow for schools with unusual start times (although some schools have their own times, but they are rare and always clearly signposted).

    And most schools finish between 3:00 and 3:30pm, so the same buffers apply to that. The limits need to be in effect before and after they are needed.

    40 km/h zones are not confined to school zone use in Victoria. A number of them are being tried out at shopping strips. Often these are electronic signs supplemented by static signs. The times vary according to business hours in the individual areas. So a street might be at 40 km/h between something like 7am and 10pm, Mon-Sat. I believe the Chapel St area may have a permanent 40 km/h zone because it is so busy with pedestrians at all hours.

  10. Just in case Jörg (or anyone else for that matter) is interested, if you are talking greenhouse gases (Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Methane and Nitrogen Oxides) the answer is higher emissions at 220 km/h than 30 km/h, by a factor of about 3.

    For a typical passenger car travelling at 30km/h the fuel consumption is around 100 ml/km. At 52 km/h it goes down to around 79 ml/km, at 110km/h it’s back up to 122 ml/km, and at 220 km/h it’s more like 360 ml/km.

    For a given fuel, converting fuel consumption to greenhouse gas emissions just a constant factor (it’s on my other computer, so I can’t give it to you off hand).

    IOW, if you are interested in minimising end-use greenhouse gas emissions from transport, you want your traffic to be moving smoothly at around 50km/h.

    (ref. avail on req.)

  11. Thanks Phil. Understood and it is quite logical, but not how it happens in practice.

    Toorak Rd and Commercial/Malvern Rds are also permanent 40km/h zones.

  12. In SA our school speed limits are effective whenever “children are present”. That’s right – 24 hours a day you continue driving along at 50km/hr unless you suddenly see a kid and then slam down to 25km/hr. I’m amazed there haven’t been any deaths as a result of this stupid system – frankly I’d rather it be a 24 hour 25kph limit than one that’s effective at any time the second you spot a kid.

  13. Chris, we have a simialr deal in California.
    Posted signs will say “Speed Limit 25mph ” and then in smaller print it says “When children are present”

    By law here, children are considered present during school hours Monday through Friday in months school is in session. The actual presence of a child is mostly irrelevant.

    The speed limit goes up by 10mph, I believe, when children are not “present.”

  14. I think school speed zones are good, but have difficulty with two around the corner from my home. We have one school with a time zone for school hours on one corner, and the school on the next corner is a permanent 40 zone. It doesn’t make sense. You go from a 70 zone, to 40 during school times, turn the corner and it’s a permanent 40 zone!!! Who makes these rules? Tonight I was driving on the 70 zone road past the school to go an feed a friends dog, thinking the road was 70 right through, I was sitting on 65 when FLASH!!! yes I got done on a speed camera. I went back to see where the change in zone was, and it was about 5 meters from where the camera was. If I had been doing 70, then I wouldn’t have had time to slow down to 60 as per the sign, in time to miss the camera anyway. Talk about revenue raising. This will be my first fine for anything in 27 years of driving!!!

  15. You talk of no necessity to speed, but there are times when it is unavoidable, even necessary and of course have we all forgotten that we are, after all, only human.
    I was travelling out of a 40k zone into a 60k zone which then turns into a 70k zone about 50 metres from the 60k zone sign. Add to this that it is a downhill run and that I drive a large family car.
    In order to avoid a potential accident, I sped up as it appeared a car entering the road on my right was going to pull out right in front of me – scary stuff. Checking my rearview after passing them, found they had in fact stopped at the last minute, but when I looked forward there was a cop dancing about on the road waving his arms at me to pull over.
    They had positioned their radar at the bottom of the hill – hidden behind another parked car way over on the grass of a nature strip, right before the 70k sign.
    He was not moved by my explanation, nor of the fact that I was visibly shaken by the experience of what I thought was a near miss. Verdict – Guilty of doing 75k in a 60k zone in order to avoid an accident.
    $205.00 for the pleasure.
    I now have added costs (total $285.00) so that I can have the privilege of paying this off as I could not afford the initial amount charged. Unfortunately my children and I still have to eat. Tell me what’s fair and how will this help me not to speed in the future? If I have to do it again I will.
    I am a defensive driver, not a defective driver who speeds for the thrill of it.

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