independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Speeding penalties: why it is unfair to say that gardai are shooting fish in a barrel

Our RSA expert has the facts and figures

Gardai are investigating an aggravated burglary that took place on the Old Cabra Road in the early hours of Saturday morning

IF there were awards for the craziest drivers in this country, those listed in the Garda roll of shame at last year's October Bank Holiday campaign launch would surely be contenders.

This listed the worst speed offenders, by Garda division. It includes the driver doing 160kph on the N81 near Tallaght which is a 60kph zone; the driver clocked on the N4 Clongowney doing 133kph in a 30kph zone; the driver in Cashel doing 144kph in a 50kph zone and the driver detected hitting a speed of 150kph on the 50kph road out of Clonakilty.

Excessive speed in this country is directly responsible for one-in-four fatal collisions, more than half of all single vehicle collisions and is the primary contributor to motorcycle, cyclist and pedestrian deaths.

At that campaign in October chief superintendent Michael O'Sullivan, Garda National Traffic Bureau, said: "There are drivers out there sharing the road with you and I that have been intercepted travelling at speeds in excess of 200kph, or in other cases, three and even four times the posted limit."

How reckless. And we have to share the roads with these death drivers?

While that's the extreme end of the scale I'm afraid our attitudes in general are worrying when it comes to speed. A recent RSA study of more than 12,000 motorists shows we have a problem with speeding. More than half of drivers were recorded breaking the posted speed limit on urban roads and one-in-five exceeded the posted limit on rural roads.

We really have a 'laissez faire' attitude towards speeding.

Every time we post something on our Facebook page about the weekly penalty points statistics or speeding in general, we get many comments back about the gardai "shooting fish in a barrel".

Looking at the Garda statistics on speed enforcement it's clear the vast majority are detected breaking the limit by more than 10kph.

From January 1 to September 30 last year, a total of 138,599 fixed charge notices were issued for speeding.

The majority, four-out-of-five detections, were made for those driving between 10kph and 29kph above the posted limit.

One in seven detections was for speeds in excess of 30kph above the limit.

Just 6pc were made between 1kph and 9kph above the limit. So the facts simply don't support the perception that Garda speed enforcement is "shooting fish in a barrel".

We need to realise that, regardless of the limit, the speed of your vehicle determines the outcome in 100pc of crashes, whoever is at fault. This is a law of physics.

An increase in average speed is directly related both to the likelihood of a crash occurring and to its severity. Put simply, the higher the speed the greater the risk of a crash and risk of serious injury.

A landmark study found that a 1kph increase in average speed (100kph) is approximately associated with a 2pc increase in the injury-crash rate, a 3pc increase in the severe crash rate and a 4pc increase in the fatal crash rate.

As drivers, we also hugely overestimate the amount of time we can gain by speeding. This is known as the "speed fallacy".

For example, if two drivers travel 10km, one at 90kph and the other drives 5kph slower, the driver travelling at the faster speed will arrive a whopping 23 seconds before the slower driver.

So what's the rush? Better to arrive alive.

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