In light of various views expressed here about road safety lately, and my own exceeding 50k ticket, I've had a look at the Victorian Road Safety Committee's report on pedestrian injuries, which led to the current 50k limits, to see what sort of evidence caused theses changes.
A few points will show what illogical and arbitrary reasoning this supposed safety law is based on, and how it has little real impact on the problems the Committee identified. If it is representative of what is behind our road safety laws, there are ample grounds for doubting the desirability or effectiveness of some of them.
The report is at
In chapter 2 the Committee recognises that 74% (or about 58 of the 79 pedestrians who died that year)of incidents are due to the pedestrian's own fault. Even allowing for young children with no road sense (on the roads, not on the Committee) I would have thought that this might suggest to the most limited intelligence that, given there is a longstanding practice of punishing drivers who put themselves and others at risk by careless or dangerous or alcohol-affected or speeding driving, there might be some recommendation for equivalent action against pedestrians, or at least those from about 14-15 years old upwards. Or maybe even a vigourous pedestrian education campaign. But no, the Committee focuses selectively on the fact that the damage to a pedestrian is proportionate to the speed of a vechicle (now there's a discovery!) and concludes "if lower limits on local urban roads were introduced and enforced there would be a significant reduction in pedestrian and other casualties".
Really? What about the proposition that if 100% of pedestrians, over about 14-15 years of age anyway, were required to use the road as sensibly, legally, and competently as drivers are, then up to 74% of them would completely avoid contact with a vehicle regardless of the speed limit? Would the remaining 26% of injuries justify a 50k limit?
The Committee also found that "Excessive speed in an environment where pedestrian activity is anticipated should be considered dangerous behaviour to be avoided at all costs and the culture of speeding needs to be addressed."
Wait on, if they have concluded that any speed over 50k is excessive and it has to be avoided at all costs where pedestrian activity is to be anticipated, which is pretty well every road in a built up area, then why aren't all those roads now 50k? I guess they didn't really want to avoid it all costs, just in some places that they have arbitrarily selected. It must be that the vast stretches of roads with 60, 70, and 80k limits with houses on both sides are areas where no pedestrian activity is to be anticipated, which is clearly wrong. The only other possibility is that, despite its grand language, the Committee had no intention of introducing anything that would go anywhere near avoiding dangerous activity at all costs. Pity they don't make it clear in the report what process of reasoning they used to identify the streets where lives matter and the ones where they don't, because then drivers might be able to recognise them as well and do 60k where the kids and old people aren't worth slowing down for.
The Committee is very good with distorted reasoning. Take this little gem. It produces a Vicroads table that shows that 78% of the road network is 100kmh or more; 6% between 70 and 90k; and only 16% is 60 k. It says "As 90% of pedestrian crashes occur on roads that are 60kmh it is time to consider the appropriateness of the speed limits on these roads". There is no way that 78% of roads in built up areas are 100k or more - it must be the whole of all the roads in Victoria - but the Committee nonetheless concludes that there is a serious disproportion between 90% of injuries and 16% of the road network in the second paragraph of Chapter 2. Try working out what proportion of roads in built up areas, where the bulk of pedestrians are likely to be, are zoned 60k, you dummies, rather than misusing the whole of the State's roads (most of which never have a pedestrian on them) as a base for a statistically absurd inference. Some cynics, like me, might think this is just a ploy to bolster the case for something the politicians on the Committee want to do, anyway.
And then we come to Chapter 4, where the Committee refers to Victorian studies that show that between 37% and 40% of adult pedestrians are intoxicated at the time of their collision. Indeed, 23% exceeded .15% blood alcohol content, which the Committe said made them 15 times more likely to be involved in a collision than those who hadn't been drinking.
It has been accepted for about 35 years in this State that drinking and driving don't mix and there have been increasingly harsh penalties for drivers who exceed the limit of .05%, currently a mandatory 6 month licence loss. It doesn't matter if the driver is alone on a deserted road and not putting anyone else at risk.
So it seems reasonable that if you're a pedestrian who's as pissed as a newt barging into traffic, or even just over .05, and running the risk of harming yourself or causing other collisions as people try to avoid you then, as an alcohol affected road-user putting yourself and others at risk, you ought to be treated in exactly the same way as the road users who happen to be in vehicles. Well, sensible and equitable as that may seem, the Committee saw that the main solution was to improve awareness in the hospitality industry of responsible serving of alcohol and improve police enforcement of licensing laws on serving alcohol affected people. Of course, this wouldn't be a cop-out to liquor industry interests, which have been adversely affected by a decline in sales since .05 laws came in.
This produces the ludicrous result that you can be so pissed you have to crawl across the road, without anything in the law to discourage you from doing it, but the driver who is going to run you over when you crawl out from behind a parked car has to be under .05 and below 50kmh or he's in trouble.
And it's not just about protecting pedestrians from themselves, as anyone who knows a driver who's run a pedestrian down will know. It's mentally shattering for most drivers and it lasts a long, long time.
A comment was made in another thread on speeding, although not in these words, about people being responsible for their own actions and accepting the consequences of breaking the law as it is in society's interests to minimise road injuries. I agree entirely.
What I do not agree with is the badly flawed reasoning behind some laws like the 50k limit which is based on some nonsensical propositions which ignore the responsiblity of one set of road users to use the roads safely and impose the whole burden on another set when it has not been demonstrated that this will solve the problem and, on the legislators' own reasoning, there is every reason to expect that it will not have much impact at all.
All the current changes have achieved is to annoy a lot of drivers; increase fine revenue; slow down movement in urban areas; leave it that about 40% of pedestrians will still be hit because they're too pissed to walk sensibly; and 74% are still going to get hit through their own fault, just 10k slower, which should cheer them up while they're in hospital or maybe dead. This does not look like it changes much for pedestrians and just makes things worse for drivers.
Well done, Road Safety Committee: About 58 of the 79 fatalaties will be their own fault. About 8 or 9 of the remaining 21 will be affected by alcohol. So that leaves about 12 or 13 people who are the fault of drivers. Please explain how all of us doing 50 k is going to save the other 66 or 67 from themselves. You morons.
I'm not necessarily opposed to a sensibly implemented
50k or any other speed limit. I am in favour of any effective laws and practices which make the roads safer. But I want a lot more convincing evidence and coherent reasoning than has been used to introduce the 50kmh limit.