Think you’re being treated unfairly when the fun police pull you over?
Think you’re lucky you’re here in peace-loving, nuclear sub-building Australia. The USA is the home of the free and the land of the brave, which it needs to be, as a New York Times investigation this week showed that police have killed more than 400 unarmed Americans during traffic stops in the past five years. “As a result, driving is one of the most common daily routines during which people have been shot, Tasered, beaten or arrested after minor offences,” the NYT reports.
“A hidden scaffolding of financial incentives underpins the policing of motorists in the United States, encouraging some communities to essentially repurpose armed officers as revenue agents searching for infractions largely unrelated to public safety.” Well, that would never happen here.
Hold on! What about this report from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph: “The number of people slapped with fines for low-range speeding offences has exploded by up to 1595 per cent since the NSW government introduced secret mobile speed cameras and removed warning signs. The longer-term average for people fined travelling less than 10km over the speed limit used to be under 2000 fines a month. But by March this year that had exploded to 27,760 people fined for the low-range offence in a single month.”
Looking for a great retirement investment? Forget shares, houses, cars, pubs and first edition Michael McMichael books. Let’s say a fixed speed camera costs $30k to buy and install and maybe $10k a year to run. The Tele says one camera on Hume Highway returned nearly $400k in fines in six months this year. Twenty readers, one friend and the only family member in my will, you don’t have to be Warren Buffett to work out that governments are not as dopey as we think they are.
And in Australia’s Disneyland, Canberra, revenue from traffic fines is expected to more than double following the tautologically named Better Regulation Minister, Tara Cheyne, and Transport Minister Chris Steel introducing a new 40km/h zone in the city centre, where violations “exceeded all expectations”. This good news may have come because the BRM and the TM didn’t tell anyone they were dropping the speed limit.
Now you would expect that a combination of Covid and shifty speeding fines would make the roads safer. Well, given that most of the money from fines doesn’t go into making roads safer (more on that later) it’s not surprising that in the USA, for instance, driving deaths were up nearly 20 per cent. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration says the fatalities are at an all-time high.
In the UK, where there were real lockdowns, injuries and fatalities dropped but (as Terry McCrann would say) data in the latest report demonstrates that exceeding the posted speed limit rarely causes accidents.
The Department for Transport’s quaintly titled report, “The impact of lockdown on reported road casualties Great Britain”, says that “exceeding the speed limit” was listed as a contributing factor in only 7 per cent of the 59,980 accidents last year.
As you know we are fair and balanced here, but can I just give a shout-out on your behalf to Bob Katter and Katter’s Australian Party. (All Australians deserve a fair go.) Bob, if I can call him that, issued a critical press release this week: Covert Camera Profits Must Go Back To The Regions. “The up to $80m revenue the Queensland government is set to make each year through covert police cameras designed to catch distracted drivers must be redirected to improving rural and regional roads.
Our policy here is when we get things wrong, we apologise and set them right. A few weeks ago we wrote about a 22-year-old outback school teacher who, it appeared, had been sold a 12-year-old Bridgestone tyre. Yesterday, Bridgestone boss Stephen Roche sent me the results of the company’s investigation into the issue.
“The job cards and invoices from the date in question confirm that one tyre was fitted to Caitlyn Young’s vehicle, having booked in for a puncture repair or tyre replacement. She was provided an option of a Bridgestone product or Toyo product and elected for the latter option.
“The store invoice confirms that a single 265/75R16 Toyo was sold to the customer for $350 on the supply date in question, not an aged Bridgestone tyre as implied by your column as the failed tyre. Based on this fact, the 12-year-old tyre that had an issue in late September was not the one sold to the customer in March.
“We believe that our employee George Kulyn has been unfairly represented with quotes that are simply not true. He has denied commenting to the customer, as you outlined in the article. We would like you to consider an apology at least to George. (I apologise, George.) “Key findings of the investigation showed that it was not the tyre sold that failed, and the customer was refunded for expenses despite there not being any wrongdoing by Bridgestone, Bridgestone’s licenced store in Alice Springs, or George Kulyn.”
And apologies if you bet on Hamo to win in the USA (he should have, but came second) and things aren’t looking flash coming into Mexico this weekend. If you want a spin around the track in your own F1 car, expect to pay about $10m and expect it to be over three years old (FIA rules, although Pierre Gasly’s 2019 Toro Rosso STR 14, the second most successful car in the 14-year history of the Italian team, sold recently for an undisclosed price but without its Honda engine).