There has been a rash of horrific fatal accidents recently, and the kneejerk reaction of governments around Australia has been to increase fines and punishments in legislation. Seize the cars of persistent offenders and crush them. Lock the buggers up. Fine the daylights out of them.
The idea is that, knowing there’s a savage penalty in store, drivers will fall into line, obey the road regulations in every respect, and the problem vanishes.
As ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said, announcing tougher laws, “We are sending a clear message to the community that Canberra’s culture of dangerous driving will not be tolerated.”
Government is out of touch. The accidents have been fatal. The crime of being stupid on the roads is one that is punishable by death. Drivers know this, so what possible notice are they going to take of any lesser penalty? A hefty fine for going around a corner too fast and sliding into a tree is nothing when you compare it to having a branch speared through your trunk.
Sending messages to the community and paying for advertising campaigns doesn’t work. Jon Stanhope could be sitting beside some of the morons on the road, reading out the regulations, and they are still going to slug down a six-pack and whip out on wet roads for a pack of fags.
When self-policing obviously isn’t working, you need to get real actual burly police out there on the roads doing the policing.
The point for the government is that police are expensive and fatal car crashes are free. Apart from replacing the odd light pole it’s a user pays situation.
Well, Chief Minister Stanhope, I’m about fed up with some of these public artworks you’ve been scattering round interchanges and motorways. A pile of painted rocks and twisted metal girders may be art in your book, and well worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars to the “artist”, but it’s another useless roadside obstacle for drivers to run into if they lose control on a wet road, and it’s the cost of a car full of policemen patrolling the streets to catch the lunatics driving dangerously.
And there are lunatics out there. I’m a cabbie. I see them every day and night. They don’t care about the death penalty, and they aren’t going to care if you ratchet the dangerous driving fine up to a million bucks. It’s not going to happen to them so why should they worry?
Well, make it happen. Get a couple of coppers in an unmarked car appearing out of nowhere when they least expect it. That’ll send a message.
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