That 104 km limit and no fatalities

Natalie writes on Simple and Loveable about the excellent zero road fatality result last weekend, and says credit should go to the Police for a good campaign. I agree – and here’s what I wrote in reply:

I covered about 4000 Km over the weekend and before (for the Brass Monkey). I noticed a lot more police, but they were often not really enforcing, but just providing a visible presence. There was, for example, the officer walking next to his Police ute on the road between Reefton and Murchison and the one a few corners after the long straight on the road between Murchison and Blenheim. They were not trying to catch anyone, but were just letting us know that we should be safe. I’m not even sure whether they had radar or were even able to do anything if they did see an offense.

The emphasis of the campaign was stated to be one of visibility – that every journey we would see at least three police officers. On the way to and from the Brass Monkey we certainly saw a lot more than that, and it’s that constant visibility that helped remind everyone that speed and safety was important.

However let’s also remember that the weather was the mildest it has been for a long time. Last year we saw deep snow all over the South, and ice in the passes North and South. While we saw a decent rainstorm, when riding on the road afterwards I remarked that it had simply served to clean the oil off the roads and make the traction more sure.

We’ve also see continuous improvements in road infrastructure, though we have a long way to go. While they are lethal to motorbikers, those wire rope separators I’m sure are saving some serious car accidents from becoming fatal.

Meanwhile there’s a recession and an increase in the motorcycle registration of over $500. Some folks have placed their bikes on hold for the winter (and some did that and, illegally, came anyway), or just did not come. We saw less bikes on the road regardless.

All of these factors, the police included, served to reduce the likelihood of a fatal accident.

However while the number of fatal accidents is a function of the number of serious accidents and the risk of a serious accident turning into a fatality, they are also a function of randomness – luck if you will. We had a good dose of luck one last weekend, but we also have improvement on all the other parameters. We create our own luck, and we should bank the result but keep striving to improve.

I do enjoy it though when I see emphasis based on helping us be safer rather than penalising. Visible police presence without a speed gun is much better than the reverse. A quiet flashing of the lights or chat is more effective than an us-and-them penalty approach. Let’s accelerate  efforts to distrbute hi-viz clothing to bikers and cyclists, and even pedestrians. Let’s all get better at telling fellow motorists (and there were a few) when a headlight is burned out. And let’s work with the police and have the police work with us so that we can all be safer.

Oh – and no, the change in limit didn’t really affect my behaviour, though one chap got caught as he had assumed his speedo was 10km too slow. We tend as a group to ride pretty much on the speed limit.

But the news that hit me in the weekend was the entirely preventable industrial fatality in Auckland. There are huge numbers of fatalities in industry, and they are much more easily preventable than the road accidents, which have been worked on for years. Let’s see more emphasis on creating lasting safety cultures in work environments.

Published by Lance Wiggs