11 August 2021

Speeding fines, parking tickets: why do people complain when they know they're doing the wrong thing?

| Zoya Patel
Join the conversation
Police officer with a speed camera

If you do the crime … you know the rest. Photo: ACT Policing.

I occasionally deliberately break the rules.

I park in a short term spot near work once in a while when I’m in a rush because the only other public parking is blocks away. I leave my car beyond the mandated period knowing full well that I might get a ticket. And when I get the ticket, I do something that it seems fewer and fewer people are willing to do – I accept the known consequences for my actions, and I pay it. On time. Without complaint.

I have occasionally had a speeding fine, too – the last one was well over a decade ago, but I got three in one week when the speed limit changed in Woden near the Westfield and I didn’t realise. It was well signposted, and if I hadn’t driven on autopilot and actually read the signs I passed, I would have realised. So I paid my fines. It was an expensive month.

READ ALSO No excuses for drivers flouting city slowdown

Watching people lose their heads over the speed limit change in Civic this past month, I’m questioning what they consider the law to be in place for? Is the fact that there are consequences for breaking it really that earth-shattering a realisation? Or is it just that people are fine with rules when they apply to others, just not when they find themselves on the receiving end of a consequence?

The cries of unfairness at the speed limit being dropped to 40 km/h in a high foot traffic area is confusing to me. Who is this unfair to? The pedestrians who may have a safer journey across the major intersections on Northbourne Avenue? The drivers who have to slow down for approximately five minutes of their drive? Don’t all of these people already understand the social contract we have in place, where we all benefit from a democratic and structured society in return for following the rules?

People seem determined to argue that things like speed and red light cameras or parking fines are just ‘revenue raising’. Well, the revenue only gets raised if people do the wrong thing. If you don’t want to pay a speeding fine, don’t speed. If you think the signposting wasn’t fair, then you probably need to pay better attention when driving.

And as this very publication has pointed out, there are numerous mechanisms in place to allow you to dispute a fine if you think it is genuinely unfair – another positive aspect of the democracy we’re lucky to live in.

READ ALSO Been pinged on Northbourne Avenue? Here’s what you can do about it

It seems like so many of us are determined to have our cake and eat it too – we want safe roads for our children and families, but we don’t want to be held to the safety standards ourselves when it isn’t convenient. We want our government to maintain our roads, hospitals, schools and other amenities, but if they gain revenue from lawbreakers, that’s unacceptable.

As far as I’m concerned, the exchange is both fair and transparent. Do the wrong thing, pay the consequence. Do the right thing, and save your pennies. The choice and agency are actually in your hands.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Hi Zoya, it’s all very well to say hey, the laws are there and clearly signposted but the beef is with the fact that the laws don’t make any sense and hence people don’t tend to respect them. It’s an old English principle that laws need acceptability from people. See what happed to British PM Thatcher and the disastrous poll tax! The 40 km limit on Northbourne is plain silly. It’s a main through road with no history of pedestrian accidents and to fine people over $350 for doing 7 kmph over the limit (even on Barry Drive!) is crazy. I have worked in road safety before and it just doesn’t make sense. Canberra has a confusing number of speed limits, 100, 80, 90, 70, 60, 50, and 40!! It’s ridiculous and the fines are far too high and discriminate against those on lower incomes!

cockneyreject9:59 am 15 Aug 21

Well said Zoya.

“Don’t all of these people already understand the social contract we have in place, where we all benefit from a democratic and structured society in return for following the rules?”

And yet when pedestrians break those rules, doing stupid things and crossing roads unsafely we respond by penalizing the motorists.

Yes, there are plenty of bad drivers that speed and do stupid things, but in general they are not following the speed limits and lowering it won’t stop them. Catch and punish these people please.

But lowering the speed limit around town centers is generally penalizing motorists to try and protect pedestrians who are breaking the rules.

There is also the perception that the ACT government and Greens areintentionally making driving less attractive because of an ideological opposition to people driving, and being dishonest about their motivations.

“And yet when pedestrians break those rules….we reposed by penalising the motorists” No, actually “we” don’t. Pedestrians can and have been penalised for doing the wrong thing, there are rules covering jaywalking and the can and have been enforced when necessary. As to penalised motorists, you won’t get penalised if you stick to the speed limits. This is pretty simple to understand and most people do understand.

“Catch and punish these people please.”
Isn’t that exactly what they are doing, Spiral? People have exceeded the speed limit and they got fined. We don’t get to determine which speed limits we will follow.

Societies need certain rules and laws because the alternative is anarchy. But we don’t need excessive, petty, intrusive rules. The danger is that those who meekly accept and fail to challenge the imposition of constant government restrictions and bit by bit removal of civil liberties become the same people who say, ‘But, I was only following orders’ when enforcing government mandated abuses. And we all know where that led. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Earlier Australian generations prided themselves on defending their civil rights and defied authorities at every opportunity. But now, we allow ourselves to be dictated to by a nanny state, meekly and complacently obeying whatever new rules have been imposed without questioning or understanding their need. What noise does a sheep make?

So, Acton, are you telling me that because I understand and accept why they changed the speed limit, I am going to be responsible for the complete and utter surrender of our democracy to corrupt demagogues hellbent on bringing us to dystopia? Wow – you know, in some perverted faustian way, it’s almost cool that I now have such power.

I like the parking component of this opinion piece. I ‘played the game’ for years – parking in 2 hours zones etc where I knew I was going to go overtime but the math played out for me. An occasional fine (maybe once every 3 months) of $110 or so opposed to paying around $10 per day was a no-brainer.

Heavs, I’ve heard from others who also did the math and benefited in the same way. I would have thought it’s not rocket science to see that if you take on more parking inspectors (which is an employment opportunity), they would (arguably) pay for themselves – or may be it is rocket science for the authorities

Lowering CIVIC from 60kph to 40kph is as impractical as if it were 10kph.
Does not work for the majority.
The ones who thought 40kph was a good idea are just deemed wrong by the thousands..

Oh right, simm – because there’s some objection to the change here on RiotACT, that doesn’t mean those who argree are wrong. If that’s your argument, then you seriously overestimate your own self-importance and that of all of us hee on RiotACT.

Blen_Carmichael8:12 am 12 Aug 21

“Don’t all of these people already understand the social contract we have in place, where we all benefit from a democratic and structured society in return for following the rules?” Oh please.

What I’m surprised about is the amount of people that are willing to just accept what the government tells you without providing transparency as to the decision making process and evidence behind them.

I agree that we should all follow the rules and suffer the consequences if we break them (I haven’t been fined so it isn’t an issue for me) but I think we should always be willing to question and oppose government decisions that aren’t supported by evidence.

May be purely anecdotal but I’ve noticed that a significant proportion of people who say we should just agree with the government on decisions like that in the article are often vehemently opposed to other government decisions or policies (at various levels) when they personally disagree with them.

Hi Chewy – couldn’t resist quickly diving in :-). So tell me, what has all of your railing against this decision got you – other than a robust (and hopefully engaging) debate on here? You imply that those of us who accept the rationale behind this decision (and I explained my reasons for such acceptance) and not seeking an explanation from the government are some kind of compliant putty in the government’s hands (my words, not yours). By all means challenge me on the reasons that I accept this decision and I’ll reply (as we did for quite some time on another thread) – I honour and respect that. But please show me the same courtesy and respect my right to hold that opinion.

I stopped replying on the other thread because there really was no point in continuing. I would say that in my opinion you haven’t had to deal with government’s all that much due to your faith in their processes and decision making. Particularly around your belief that it’s the experts always making these types of decisions, that they have the right information and that they aren’t tainted by political/ideological influences.

Let’s take another much bigger debate going on this website at the moment, climate change. The federal government has many experts working and advising them in the area. So you must believe that their decisions are sound, following the expert advice to balance competing needs to benefit all Australians?

And I don’t actually think any posts here or elsewhere would change the government’s decisions but it’s fun to debate the issues. It allows everyone to see other people’s perspectives and hopefully learn something on occasion.

Absolutely agree with your last paragraph 100%
However, one thing that really annoys me about you is the fact you regularly engage in non sequitur fallacy, and have so above – because IMHO there is a rationale for the authorities lowering the speed limit and see no reason to question it and choose to believe that that particular decision came from expert advice (again, it is a choice of belief I’m happy to make because in a warped ‘end justifies the means’ way, I accept the outcome even if experts were not involved), you assume I have unquestioning faith in EVERY govt decision and I accept that that decision maker ALWAYS listens to that expert advice. You push the non sequitur fallacy even further by stating that because of the foregoing, I believe that experts provide advice to the Feds on climate change and because of that I accept the Feds action (or in reality, inaction) on combating climate change. I think you know that I am an advocate for urgent action in the climate change arena – so you end conclusion is wrong. And you followed this path because I stated that I was happy to accept the new speed limit because at 40 kph I’ve got more time to stop in the event of an idiotic foolhardy pedestrian (of which there are numerous in that precinct) walking in front of my car.
In the words of Simone Elkeles – “Opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one but they think each others stink.“ Not quite true, because again Intotally agrre with your final paragraph.

If you want to talk about logical fallacies your entire support of the changed speed limit is an appeal to authority.

You literally have admitted that you have no evidence to support the change but still believe it’s a good thing regardless because you think the “experts” have decided.

That’s fine, it’s your opinion, but it’s still wrong.

Ummm no, my support of the changed speed limit is not an appeal to authority … it’s actually based on the laws of physics, which I’ve already given to you that shows that a car travelling at 40 needs less distance to stop than a car travelling at 60. But rather than acknowledging or disputing my facts (because you obviously can’t) you went off into a tirade that I HAD to support your (non-existent) push to liwer the speed limit further. So instead of berating, as mindless idiots kowtowing without question to every decision of an incompetent govt, those of us, who believe the decision to change the limit is reasonable, how about you provide factual evidence that the decision is wrong? How about you provide evidence to discredit the many studies that reducing speed limits in high pedestrian traffic areas results in less fatalities / trauma? You seem to want actual deaths and/or trauma in these areas before you will accept the speed limit change. How about you provide evidence that by being risk averse and wanting to avoid potential tragedy is wrong? Just because you have no respect for the ACT govt, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to rail against every decision they make, even when we think the decision is a fair one. Links to facts please, Chewy, not just your opprobrium, as a reason for us to change.

Now you’re back to “simple physics” again? Really.

So let’s make the speed limit 0km/hr. Physics says this is the safest. Why are you so opposed to road safety? The research clearly shows its safer.

The entire point is that you would need to justify why 40km/hr is the optimal speed that balances road functionality with safety which you’ve been unable to justify except with an appeal to authority that the “experts” made the decision.

And all I’ve asked for from the beginning of this discussion is the governments evidence to support the change. It’s up to you to provide the evidence for change in this area, not me. But you’ve already admitted that you don’t have that evidence so here we are.

If you can’t provide such evidence for the change in this area stop replying, the discussion won’t go anywhere like the other thread. Links to the evidence or go away.

Chewy, again you use opprobrium rather than fact.
As I said in my very first post on the matter of the speed limit being dropped from 40 kph to 60 kph and I quote “I for one am happy to sacrifice those 12 seconds, if it means I would not have to live with the consequences of accidentally killing or maiming a pedestrian (albeit because they were doing the wrong thing).” Those 12 seconds were the extra time it takes to travel that 400 metres at 40 kph instead of 60. And I was happy with that because at the lower speed I would travel 19 m less distance if I had to perform an emergency stop. Facts you didn’t dispute.
Please note the continual use of the pronoun “I”. Now you decided that I was not allowed to accept the government’s decision for the reason I outlined, because YOU don’t like it. Consequently I have to justify to YOU, MY reason for accepting it. You say “all I’ve asked for from the beginning of this discussion is the governments evidence to support the change” but that’s not true – you have demanded that I provide said evidence – “If you can’t provide such evidence for the change in this area …”. Why? So you can then let me have my opinion?
On another thread you posted “… it’s fun to debate the issues. It allows everyone to see other people’s perspectives and hopefully learn something on occasion.” Debate is about challenging other’s opinion – but not their right to hold them.
You don’t see or respect other’s opinions unless they accord with yours. So, no I am not going to continue to respond, but also, no, I will not change my acceptance of the decision to lower that limit.

It’s not rocket science why people complain. We are over regulated, over policed and over it.

Obviously you don’t follow the news of how things are in less regulated, or unregulated, countries. Some spoilt Westerners always expect the protections that regulation provides but whinge about any regulation on them personally. It doesn’t work like that and most of us realise this however we all have to put up with a whining minority.

No one is talking about an unregulated system.

And having travelled to many countries with less heavy handed over the top regulation, their citizens are mostly more responsible, more self sufficient and enjoy greater individual freedoms.

Not sure why you think that is a bad thing?

No, they’re not talking about “an unregulated system” they’re talking about regulation that doesn’t impinge on what they want to do (e.g. drive at whatever speed they like) but regulation that protects them from the consequences of these actions. don’t think you can be serious about the impacts of a lack of regulation in other countries. We are seeing the impacts of this in countries torn apart by COVID. You really need to access the news a little more. The writer of this article makes the point well but the whinging continues.

“they’re talking about regulation that doesn’t impinge on what they want to do (e.g. drive at whatever speed they like) but regulation that protects them from the consequences of these actions.”

Can’t see many people who are suggesting anything like that. We are talking about not over regulating every facet of people’s lives to accommodate the lowest denominators of society.

And honestly, trying to use a once in a generation pandemic as evidence of the benefits of authoritarianism is plainly ridiculous. By your position countries like China would be beacons of good governance.

Perhaps you should access the news a little more to work out why that isn’t a good idea.

The foot-stamping and tanty-throwing over a simple reduction in speed limit in a built-up area from 60k to 40k is all the evidence you need. And, let me assure you, there is nothing ridiculous about COVID-19 and the impacts of not properly regulating a national health response are particularly unpleasant.

No it’s not all the evidence I need, I prefer real evidence not strawmen and projection.

Also notice you ignored the point around Covid, so I’ll just take it that you’re onboard with the Chinese approach to governance and freedom. Look at how much their heavily regulated system has achieved.

Hmm and you haven’t explained why you’re so upset about a simple rule change, backed by evidence, which has already been posted on articles here, from 60 to 40, without carrying on about it (which is the point of this article).
Anti-China rants aren’t relevant at all in this context. Most Australians understand why we are applying public health regulations to keep the pandemic under control. Some will stamp their feet about having to wear masks, apparently, this also happened in the so-called “Spanish” influenza epidemic.

Except as I’ve repeatedly shown, the changed speed limit hasn’t been backed by evidence. As I’ve asked others, provide a link showing the “evidence” in this area. It doesn’t exist.

And I wasn’t engaging in an anti China rant, just pointing out the ridiculousness of suggesting that heavy handed regulation was a good thing. It’s far more complex than that.

Actually Chewy, you haven’t shown “the changed speed limit hasn’t been backed by evidence”, you have opined that the evidence doesn’t exist simply because , others like myself, can’t give you a link to the ACT authorities reason for the decision. ”I can’t see it, therefore it does not exist” is yet snother example of your use of nob sequitur fallacy.

Thanks for once again admitting that you don’t have the evidence for the change.

I don’t have to prove the null hypothesis, you have to provide the evidence for change. But we both know it hasn’t been provided, yet you still have faith because, um, hmmm…….experts…..

Physics obviously not your thing then? However you’re an expert in anti-China rants (pretty irrelevant in this context though).

Chewy14, Perhaps you could answer this simple question for me: Why do I have to provide evidence to YOU (or in fact anyone), to justify MY reason for accepting the lowered speed limit change?

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.