Speed kills, so why carp about driving a little slower?

Ian Bushnell 15 November 2020 144
Rolled car

Speed is usually behind the loss of control of a vehicle. Photo: File.

It has been interesting to read the reader comments about possible reduction of speed limits in the ACT.

For many, it is always the other drivers at fault, never them. Some, as always, just see it as another opportunity to boost fines revenue, while others feel it doesn’t matter what speeds are posted as there are not enough police around to enforce them.

Behind much of it is an anti-authoritarian streak that seems to infect people when they get behind the wheel of a car.

But the fact is, speed kills.

Forget modern safer cars, Canberra’s wide boulevards and parkways and relative lack of congestion.

It doesn’t matter how skilled a driver you may be, the laws of physics determine how soon you can stop before hitting another car, a pedestrian or a tree.


READ MORE: Speed limits up for review as government moves to make roads safer


The faster you are travelling the more likely a collision will result in injury or worse, and the harder it will be to retain control of your vehicle.

The scientific modelling behind the proposed targeted adjustments to certain speed limits pointed to much fewer injuries and fatalities – that’s less road trauma in our hospitals and fewer families having to endure emotional trauma of losing a loved one.

The reductions – 100 km/h to 90 km/h and 80 km/h to 70 km/h – are not on the face of it that significant, particularly as Canberra’s roads become busier, and would not make much difference to trip times. But they will save lives and reduce trauma.

Speed van

Not very popular but they work. Photo: File.

Yet something happens when we turn the key and drive off in our little bubble of a world. The car has always meant independence, freedom and any threat to constrain it is taken as a blow against our liberty.

Of course, that freedom of movement is facilitated by an elaborate system of road rules that most of us adhere to. Running a red light is generally considered a bad idea.

I am no different to most, drifting over the speed limit occasionally but less so since the introduction of mobile speed cameras and point-to-point monitoring. They definitely pacify traffic streams and curb our worst tendencies.

The proposed measures along with physical infrastructure such as roadside barriers, noise linemarking and installing traffic lights will all save lives and prevent and limit injury, making our roads safer.

The police, ambulance and fire crews who confront the dreadful consequences of speeding know they will make a difference.

It’s time the myths about government gouging motorists and how good drivers don’t have accidents were binned, and we all faced up to the facts about staying alive on the road.

Better driver training will give a motorist survival skills. Vision, reaction times and knowing what to do in a crisis will help.

But ask any young person and they will tell you the current requirements are already onerous.

It’s the government and the community that picks up the tab for road trauma, and the human cost is incalculable.

Surely it’s not too much to drive a little slower on some of our roads where speed has been identified as a safety factor.


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144 Responses to Speed kills, so why carp about driving a little slower?
tim_c tim_c 5:20 pm 19 Nov 20

It would probably help if a driver’s licence was seen as a privilege rather than an inalienable right – all one needs to says is “I need it for my job” and no one in the ACT has the backbone to say “You should have considered that before risking other people’s lives”. We need to face that fact that some people just aren’t currently fit to be operating a machine that takes the lives of 1500 Australians every year – the proliferation of speedbumps in ACT are testament to that.

Ana Ana 5:14 pm 19 Nov 20

I tend to drive at the speed limit. I am usually the only person doing so. I’m happy to drive slightly more slowly.

Jordania Jordania 4:42 pm 19 Nov 20

It would be interesting to know if speed was the only factor involved in the road deaths that have occurred in the ACT this year. I’d be willing to bet that drugs and/or alcohol were involved, too, in which case lowering the speed limit isn’t necessarily going to improve the situation.

domenic domenic 12:35 pm 18 Nov 20

The lower the speeds get on good roads, the more people will speed – period.
If speeding actually did kill, like the regulatory signs around the ACT state as fact, then you’d expect to get off every speeding fine where the police can’t identify a dead person.
The Barton HWY has just been lowered to 80km between Gundaroo and Gungahlin drives – what a joke!! There are plenty of single lane country roads around our country at 100km but for some reason, we’re expected to believe that in the ACT, you can’t drive safely on a fully fledged highway above 80km.
What a joke.

    tim_c tim_c 5:23 pm 19 Nov 20

    No, not if the government continues to hand out driver’s licences like raffle tickets.

David Malcolm David Malcolm 8:37 pm 17 Nov 20

Lowering the speed limit won’t reduce crashes. The biggest cause of crashes is distraction.

Jeremy Anthony Jeremy Anthony 3:35 pm 17 Nov 20

U can't teach stupid!

brianf brianf 2:51 pm 17 Nov 20

If ‘speed kills’ was true, Germany would have the highest road toll to go with the highest speeds, and the Northern Territory road toll would have come down when they introduced speed limits. Neither of these things are true.
The wicked problem in road safety is that a single-digit percentage of unlicenced, unregistered or unroadworthy road users cause about half the accidents and the majority of fatalities. But how to do you target people who don’t respect the law?
The other hard problem is road design and maintenance, with separation of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, good sight lines and sensible flows.
Lowering speed limits is a cop-out that increases travel times, frustration and pollution. It’s easy to police and pushes blame onto the users. It’s an easy choice for a cash-strapped bureaucracy.

    jcjordan jcjordan 5:33 pm 17 Nov 20

    I would suggest that you do some research before you fall for the Autobahn myth. The Autobahns only represent less than 1% of the major arterial road network with the vast majority having speed limits similar or slower than what we have here in Australia. You also need to consider that with a much higher road rule compliance requirements (loss of licence in Germany is not a suspension but a proper loss that requires you to reapply), higher vehicle maintenance requirements and higher driver training there are other factors which see lower collision rates in most of Europe.

    chewy14 chewy14 5:46 pm 18 Nov 20

    JC Jordan,
    And those things you mention are exactly why the speed kills mantra and those who want to reduce speed limits are so silly.

    The controls you’ve raised are exactly what should happen here.

    Startmeup Startmeup 11:11 am 19 Nov 20

    Road deaths per 100,000 pop. all roads (not just autobahns): Germany 3.7, Australia 5.6. The argument remains, if speed alone was such a primary cause of deaths then Germany’s road toll should be multiples of what it is. You can’t just conveniently pop in other arguments like road rule compliance and then go back to a singular speed kills mantra.

    brianf brianf 1:36 pm 19 Nov 20

    I wasn’t talking about autobahns. If ‘speed kills’, average speeds and road tolls should be identical league tables. They’re not. Thanks to startmeup for recent stats. The biggest road safety opportunity is working out some way to keep unsafe drivers and vehicles, massively over-represented in crashes, off the road. Then design and maintain safe road systems to save the rest of us from mistakes.

David Gooch David Gooch 2:30 pm 17 Nov 20

It's my opinion that we should have an advanced driver training as a standard to obtain a licence.. cornering skid pan dirt roads . Changing wheel for spare standard.

Luke Rogers Luke Rogers 2:11 pm 17 Nov 20

I agree with you Ian 100%. Others may say it is the condition of the road, but when drivers do not drive to the conditions or when they drive at a speed higher than their abilities, the only control measure left is to lower the speed of all the vehicles.
This approach has statistical validity as it gives everyone else more time to avoid the speeding idiots and reduces the velocity of the impact when things inevitably go wrong.

Junior Finch Junior Finch 1:27 pm 17 Nov 20

I’d be interested to see the data that shows the time of day and locations for these accidents, and then look at what time the speed camera vans and locations the camera’s are being placed to help reduce the accidents.

liberalsocialist liberalsocialist 11:38 am 17 Nov 20

Speed is not a noun. So how does it kill? How do we attribute this “speed” being to road deaths?

Drivers kill. Poor roads kill. Fix those two – with better training, more regular driving, better design and more regular maintenance. Cars can kill too – but with the massive advance in driver safety over the period (20-odd years) of this ‘speed kills’ slogan dreamt up by marketing, no one acknowledges that this is likely to prime reason behind lower road tolls over the period. Not Police. Not the ‘speed kills’ mantra. Not better training, and not better roads.

    Jordania Jordania 4:39 pm 19 Nov 20

    Umm, actually, speed is a noun eg, what speed were you doing? But of course what they mean is ‘speeding kills’.

Milenko-Slavenka Jovanovic Milenko-Slavenka Jovanovic 1:07 am 17 Nov 20

The speed limits should go up, not down! And not just by 10km. Any 100km limit should go up to 120km, such as the Tuggerranong Parkway or the Monaro. Left lines should be reserved for cars and drivers that cannot drive at those speeds. Abolish any new creations, such as the 70km limit. Why was that ever introduced? And speed limits in the suburbs between 50km and 60km? Also, all day near school limits should be abolished and returned back to the old half an hour limits before and after school. Speed does not kill, people do!

    Milenko-Slavenka Jovanovic Milenko-Slavenka Jovanovic 10:31 pm 18 Nov 20

    Richard Michalak I am not a problem, I am very serious, and I do not tailgate. Those who can’t drive are the problem, those who drive while drugged or drunk are the problem. Speed is not the problem.

Luke Morgan Luke Morgan 9:36 pm 16 Nov 20

Yeah sure 100% nothing to do with the lack of driver training, the piss poor conditions of the roads and finally the revenue raising that lines the pollies pockets instead of fixing the roads

David Doblinger David Doblinger 7:08 pm 16 Nov 20

Fixing the roads might help as well

Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 6:40 pm 16 Nov 20

Lets call it what it is, the slow limit. A wombat can run at forty.

theguru theguru 6:12 pm 16 Nov 20

“But the fact is, speed kills.” You’ve got to be kidding right Ian?

If that were true, every racing car driver ever would be dead. Every person who’s ever set foot on a modern jet would be dead. But guess what? They’re NOT !! So your statement of FACT is just PLAIN WRONG !!

So lets take the diatribe back a step and analyse this. Who determines speed? Is it an arbitrary number? Is it someone’s judgement? and if so, what makes them qualified to pass judgement? Is it the lawmakers?

In terms of speeding, it is the lawmakers who set arbitrary limits. Are speed limits set correctly? I’d suggest No. Australia’s speed limits were originally set in the early 1970’s, prior to that highways were derestricted and it was a judgement call from a police officer who determined if you were speeding and that judgement too into account prevailing conditions. Back then, the HQ Kingswood was king, it had radial ply tyres, soft suspension and drum brakes – front discs if you were lucky.

Today, speed is deemed from an office and enforced by a camera. No input, no allowance for conditions, etc.

“It doesn’t matter how skilled a driver you may be, the laws of physics determine how soon you can stop before hitting another car, a pedestrian or a tree.” Well, actually, Driver Skill DOES Matter! A skilled driver may be able to avoid a situation in the first place, thus negating the “laws of physics”.

Todays cars stop, turn and accelerate in a way a HQ Holden could never understand. They are also massively safer. So maintaining speed limits based on vehicle dynamics from the 70’s is draconian.

Stop talking Speed, lets focus on the real problem – Drivers and their ability! (or lack thereof)

    dolphin dolphin 11:15 pm 16 Nov 20

    what utter tripe. glad you’re not in charge of road safety. if you were right the road toll would be far lower. the reality is that speed is a factor (along with driver inattention/distraction and drugs/alcohol in the vast majority of crashes. just slow down – its not that hard.

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 5:38 pm 16 Nov 20

Next they'll be adamant that roads kill. Those psychopathic roads.

astro2 astro2 5:06 pm 16 Nov 20

Seems like many of the posters here not only didn’t read the article, they didn’t even read the headline: “…..why carp about driving a little slower?” Indeed, one would wonder why so many people passionately defend their right to speed (which isn’t actually a right, right?), despite the overwhelming evidence of risk. I can think of reasons why ambos, police and fireys may need to go over the limit in certain circumstances but, for the rest of the whiners here, to use a quote being applied to a certain US President, ‘time to put on your big boy pants’. Speeding on city roads is pointless and silly.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:17 am 17 Nov 20

    No, most people read it and have given it the response it deserved.

    The pure intellectual laziness of those who call for lower speed limits without any balance of risks and benefits should always be called out.

    astro2 astro2 6:28 pm 19 Nov 20

    And they need to drive over the speed limit because…???

Samuel Nicholls Samuel Nicholls 3:52 pm 16 Nov 20

Inattention kills. Out roads are the best in Australia being the Capital and if you make it slower then you have taken away what everyone appreciates living in Canberra. 10 minutes to most places. Being a planned city then would have been a massive waste of time thanks to greedy revenues by the government.

Get the older cars off the road that don't have all the safety as in blind spot monitoring and advance collision warning. Give people incentive to upgrade to safer cars.

Acton Acton 3:24 pm 16 Nov 20

Factually wrong, logically wrong and just plain provocatively wrong, this article shows the dumbing down of media commentary in a city that expects and should demand a higher standard. This is a new low point for Riotact.

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