April 02, 2004


We are insufficiently controlled, according to some idiot:

Drivers are given too much leverage by police before being booked for speeding, the traffic safety guru responsible for the gradual lowering of the suburban speed limit to 50km/h (30mph) has warned.

Allowing drivers to marginally edge above the speed limit could double the risk of crashing, according the Centre for Automotive Safety Research, the first research group in the world to prove the benefit of lower speeds in built-up areas.

"Travelling at 65km/h (40mph) in a 60km/h (37mph) zone doubles your risk of crash involvement," Jack McLean, the director of the University of Adelaide centre, said yesterday.

Jack McLean contemplates a typical speeding motorist yesterday

How the hell does Professor Jack McLean reach this conclusion? His absurd theory allows for no variables; all drivers are equal, all vehicles the same, and the only factor determining their fate is speed -- three miles per hour, in fact, which is all that stands between wonderful safety and double the chance of brutal hideous death! Just three miles per hour -- the rate recommended for beginner-level, “very very overweight” Christian music walkers.

An alert, competent driver is safer at 80km/h than some McLeanite slowpoke who thinks that because he’s mooching along at the speed of a motorised wheelchair he’s safe from any accident. The dangerous implication in McLean’s message is that slowness is all; skill and awareness and focus aren’t involved. His statistics are bogus, too, because they only include crashed speeders. Who knows how many rapid-yet-safe drivers didn’t crash during the period examined?

I bet Jack drives a Volvo.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 2, 2004 03:30 AM

Double the risk? Where do they get that?
In all my travels, i have never been anywhere where everyone keeps to the speed limit.
There is literally no way one could find the data to establish that one could halve the number of accidents by slowing people down who are going 10 klicks over the speed limit.

damn busybodies.

Posted by: Joe at April 2, 2004 at 03:36 AM

Two of my three closest brushes with automotive carnage have been when I'm stuck getting on the freeway behind someone who insists on merging in 75 mph traffic at 30 mph.

Jeeze... on my commute to Sacramento, if you aren't driving 80 mph (65 mph nominal limit, enforced at about 85+), you are a road hazard.

Posted by: Andrew at April 2, 2004 at 03:42 AM

I punch out around 1000klms per week. The golden rule for staying out of trouble, is to stay on the pace. Simple. McLean obviously doesn't drive.

Posted by: jafa at April 2, 2004 at 03:43 AM

The Neo-Totalitarians use the ridiculous "double the risk" argument with all sorts of things. It's particularly offensive when they attribute disease risks to certain behaviors they wish to encourage or discourage.

Say your risk of dying in a car traveling 37 mph is 1 in 10 million. If you accelerate to 40 mph, you might stand a 2 in 10 million chance of suffering the same fate. Double the risk! Sometimes, not content to scare you with a simple "double the risk", a concerned Totalitarian might say your risk has increased by 100%

The fact is (although rarely acknowledged) if you double a very small number you end up with another very small number.

Posted by: Kurt at April 2, 2004 at 04:16 AM

I'll let you in on a little secret about Volvos...they're the ultimate stealthmobile. Like Nick Cage in "The Rock," I drive a Volvo. A beige one. I also go about 25 mph over the speed limit on highways when weather/road conditions allow, sometimes (not intentionally, mind you,) right by state troopers. None of them bother to point the radar gun at me. They'd never beleive that it was a beige Volvo that just blew past them. :-)

Posted by: Dave at April 2, 2004 at 04:24 AM

Speaking of Volvos, I hear that S60R is a complete monster. Zoom!

Posted by: Sigivald at April 2, 2004 at 04:32 AM

The real public risk is Professor McLean probably wants taxpayers to double his research funding.

Posted by: perfectsense at April 2, 2004 at 04:35 AM

I'll second Andrew. I also live near Sacramento (California), and if you're want to drive at less than 80 MPH (posted freeway limit = 65 MPH in most areas) you'd better mount a ramp on the back of your car.

Oddly enough, our roads aren't littered with flaming wreckage and body parts, and the police generally seem happy confining themselves to hammering down the nails that stand above the rest.

Posted by: Harry at April 2, 2004 at 05:05 AM

Nice pic, tim, but does that thing got a Hemi? It looks like a mid 70-s Plymouth.

Posted by: Roger Bournival at April 2, 2004 at 05:25 AM

Hey, knock it off wit da Volvo cracks !

I get pulled over on a regular basis in my 1992 244 4-cylinder brick-shaped hot rod.

Posted by: Carl in N.H. at April 2, 2004 at 05:49 AM

My Volvo was supposed to be rev-limited to 130mph. I've gotten it up to 144. Beat that, McLean!

Posted by: Matt in Denver at April 2, 2004 at 06:12 AM

For years, Big Jack McClean could be seen driving around in his car in Adelaide wearing a helmet - yes, that is true. He also advocated compulsory helmet wearing for car drivers for some years.

Posted by: Daniel at April 2, 2004 at 06:13 AM

All good arguments. But how, then, should the traffic laws be written to accommodate this? Should driver's licence applications include a question "Are you a safe, competent and skilled driver?" so that everyone who ticks YES gets to go up to 10 k over the posted limit? Should the cop on the spot get discretion to weave fines "if the officer is satisfied that" the driver is safe, competent and skilled enough to handle the extra speed? Should we just bump speed limits up to 110 in all areas (and then hear the inevitable arguments by the safe, competent and skilled drivers about how they can handle 120)?

Poor Fred Hayek, spinning in his grave while his conservative and libertarian heirs argue that uniform rules aren't nuanced enough to accommodate their own particular circumstances, because they're different from the herd. And you guys want to abolish Abstudy and Native-Amerindian-only scholarships because "everyone should be treated equally"?

Posted by: Uncle Milk at April 2, 2004 at 06:14 AM

Caveat. Andrew -- I agree with you. It should be a statutory defence (open to any driver) to point out that the rest of the traffic was doing that speed. Unfortunately, at the moment "Because I didn't want to be rear-ended by the lunatic behind me" cuts no ice with the grim-faced constabulary. They appear to adopt the Judge-Dredd-like approach that "Yes, you woulda bin killed. But it woulda bin legal."

Posted by: Uncle Milk at April 2, 2004 at 06:18 AM

Tim, is that you in the Holden Calais heading down to the F1 race? Luv that engine placement, (but the styling is a little to retro for me).

Funny how the same people that want to “protect” us by forcing everyone to drive slow, are the same ones trying to force us into smaller and smaller cars. Someone in the U.S. did a study (which I can’t find) that showed a link between smaller cars and higher rates of injuries. The bureaucrats pummeled him to death (and the press went along for the ride).

Posted by: mike at April 2, 2004 at 06:29 AM

Clearly the guy's never studied the ACT. I drive to work consistently at 100km/h everyday on an 80km/h road (and get overtaken a lot).

On our 100km/h roads, we go 120km/h. However those roads are more prone to police presence, so there's not many who'll go faster than that. I had to brake hard on my morning trip the other day, cos the cops finally put un-marked car on the road. We can all see Vans (for ACT readers, I'm talking about Hindmarsh Dr, Woden->Fyshwick stretch) and when a marked cop car is around we all go no faster than that car (truely, to see 3 lanes moving at the same speed with a cop car at the front is pretty funny). But unmarked, thats a little scary. Hopefully it was just a coincidence.

Posted by: Ken at April 2, 2004 at 07:28 AM

We've been through the same rather bizarre circular logic here in New York State with regard to drunk driving laws.

(Disclaimer: This is not a defense of drunk driving!)

Formerly, if your blood alcohol content (BAC) was .10, you were charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). Between stiff penalties (incl. $5,000 fines) and public education, most folks got the message and accidents and eventually arrests went down. The only people still getting drunk and then driving were full blown alcoholics whose BAC was often 50 to 100% over the .10 limit.

The solution? Lower the BAC to .08! Now the coppers can bust more social drinkers and those whose driving is unimpaired but have the misfortune of being stopped at a check point. Meanwhile, the hardcore lushes continue to drive and otherwise law abiding citizens like me are discouraged from having a drink with dinner.

I like "safe" roads but I still can't figure out the arbitrary and capricious arrival at .08 instead of .10. Why not .05 or .03 or like Sweden, zero tolerance?

It's a powergrab and a revenue enhancement scheme as far as I can see and nothing to do with improving safety; same as what you got there, Tim.

Posted by: JDB at April 2, 2004 at 08:00 AM

it's an early 70's dodge challenger. do i win anything?

Posted by: roscoe.p.coltrane at April 2, 2004 at 08:09 AM

This is the problem with any action group that is successful. MADD has basically stamped out drunk driving in the U.S. (which wasn't a foregone conclusion at all. Ralph Nader thought driving drunk was too ingrained in the culture to eradicate, instead he concentrated on restraint systems and the like. Wasn't the last time he was wrong). So what do they do now? They've changed their mission, they want lower and lower BACs, and I'd bet good money they won't quit until we are at zero tolerance.

Same with your McLean guy. He gets the speed limits lowered to a ridiculous point, so what can he do now? Whine about enforcement until everyone, everywhere gets ticketed.

Posted by: Matt Moore at April 2, 2004 at 08:24 AM

35 miles from home to work, and I get there (door to door) in 35 minutes.

Twenty-odd miles on the autobahn baby. The Germans got that one right. I'm taking it with me when I leave.

Posted by: Greyhawk at April 2, 2004 at 09:07 AM

What this boffin is going to find is that the slower the speed the less probability of a crash causing injury (in a laboratory). Surprisingly enough this probability is at its lowest at 0 km/hr!!! Problem solved - everyone can go home now...wait you will be walking - but not too fast as new research has shown that fast walkers have a higher chance of being injured than slow walkers.... in fact it has conclusively been shown that if you crawl instead of walk your chances of injury are minimal!! However statistics then come out showing how fast crawlers are more likely to injure themselves than slow ones. So slow crawl home everyone and enjoy your weekend!

Posted by: Rob at April 2, 2004 at 09:31 AM

For a critical look at MADD, check out DUI Gulag


Posted by: Andrew at April 2, 2004 at 09:31 AM

Saftey-Nazis like McLean are all over this country like vermin. They live off the body politic like ticks, and every pontification is geared to scrabble more research grants from taxpayers. Fuck everyone else who has to live with their stupidity.

I hope one day to see a link between advocating reduced speed limits and horrible, bloody, screaming death. Maybe then they'll have themselves banned.

Posted by: Craig Mc at April 2, 2004 at 09:41 AM


Can you provide an answer to the real question about Big Jack McClean and his hemet?

Does he have tinfoil in it?

Posted by: Fool to Himself & Burden to Others at April 2, 2004 at 09:42 AM

I bet Jack drives a Daewoo Matiz.

Posted by: Tex at April 2, 2004 at 10:20 AM

For all you metrosexual Eurocar weenies, that's Lou Sgro's 1970 Dodge Challenger fuel funnycar. Fiberglas Trends flopper shell, chrome moly Woody Gilmore tube frame, Keith Black aluminum Hemi, 1471 Jimmy roots blower, 3 speed Lenco planetary thru a Dana 60 spool; Halibrand "kidney bean" mags.

Tim, I have to send you pics of where I've been hiding this week.

Posted by: iowahawk at April 2, 2004 at 10:38 AM

I have been on the receiving end of two acts of dangerous driving in the last fortnight.

Speed can be dangerous as in recklessly driving at a speed which either conditions nor traffic or both admit of as safe driving. It is also the case, on some roads at certain times, 10kph over is still safe.

The simplistic Dick and Dora , explanation, speed kills fails on the main reason for crashes: reckless to dangerous driving. Nor does it account for the second but far less common one of driver mistake, which is inadvertant.

In this fortnight, bye the bye, at night, I was approx. six car lengths before a set of intersection lights when they changed to amber , naturally I slowed down and stopped. Not another driver in the right hand lane, at a minimum of 8 lengths before the crossing who accelerated and crossed when the lights had been red for some 10 seconds and cars opposite were about to start off.

There is another intersection which I turn right at some days and I never do until, the light is red for some seconds, there is no doubt all opposing traffic is stopped because: drivers in the opposing lanes have a habit of running red lights when, up to 10 car lengths ebfore the lights as they turn amber. Now what is this business about speeding.

Oh, must recount, again, a driver who tried to force in fornt of me on a bridge. Drivers who about to miss a turn - off slew across one or more lanes, witnessed that many times,or slam on the brakes, including on highways.

Then there is tail-gating, failing to give way, and overtaking cars re-entering lanes barely leaving any clearance between the overtaken car and their own. Slow cars in fast lanes, slow cars fullstop.
Next, roads are not for bycicles - they are hell to deal with. Then motorcyclists squeezing in between lines.
The list goes on. What is surprising is not how many accidents, serious ones, deaths there are , but in reality how few there are.

And what do the moralising fuckers in Spring St. and the halfwit in Adelaide put down all the accidents to, speed.These spivs never got beyond the bilge like Dick and Dora readers of prep years.

Posted by: d at April 2, 2004 at 10:52 AM

I bet Jack's Volvo is electric, and lined inside and out with bubble-wrap. I'd like to introduce Jack to the joys of motorcycling, preferably chained to the back of my 850 Norton- I think a quick drag up the freeway would give him a new insight into the horrors of contact with bitumen.
How come dickheads like this don't want motorcycles burned and their riders swung from the nearest tree? Just looking at a bike is potentially lethal.

Posted by: Habib at April 2, 2004 at 11:05 AM

D, you've got a point. But it all comes back to the question I raised earlier: What can legislators do about it?

I agree, speeding is less dangerous in almost every individual case than is tailgating or cutting in without indicating or other dickhead acts. But these others are all one-offs that are hard to police. Unless Smart-Arse Teenager With Glued-On Baseball Cap commits his infraction in front of a copper in mufti, he gets away with it. Whereas speed limits are something the state can enforce and punish people for breaking. And cumulatively, lower speeds will reduce accidents. (With the big proviso that they be (1) posted on readable signs, and (2) not ridiculously low -- there's a hill not far from me with a 60 limit, despite bushland on one side, and the descent coming suddenly after a steep ascent that requires high speed to avoid being rammed in the rear. Not surprisingly, the speed cameras love that spot.)

Posted by: Uncle Milk at April 2, 2004 at 11:06 AM

Easter is just around the corner and we will here that old slogan "slow down" Half a statement, were it should be "drive to the speed limit and or the road conditions! Also people who are towing a 300 foot caravan should be encouraged to drive in the not so peak time periods.

Posted by: Fred at April 2, 2004 at 11:16 AM

One thing that all these safety lobbyists/weenies have in common is that they focus on the benefit side of the equation (ie, fewer crashes) and completely ignore the costs (increased travel time, increased running costs since cars run most efficiently at around 70km/h).

I've seen cost-benefit analyses of lower speed limits that ignore travel time costs since taking account of these costs would lead to a net cost overall and invalidate the policy.

If you ignore costs, the 'logical' policy option is to ban cars altogether. Imagine the drop in the road toll...

Posted by: Art Vandelay at April 2, 2004 at 11:18 AM

It's worse than that Tim. It's not just academics saying this. The Australian government is also saying it, and driving teaching company Trent (the largest driving teaching company in Sydney, if not Australia, for the benefit of overseas readers) gave me this in "Key facts for new drivers".

Posted by: Andjam at April 2, 2004 at 11:29 AM

Does it occur the Australians who wrote "Key Facts for New Drivers" that you might, you know, swerve to avoid hitting a child, rather than relying entirely on the brakes?

Posted by: Andrew at April 2, 2004 at 11:54 AM

Uncle Milk, had missed your first post.I agree, the two obstacles are defence and how to act against dangerous driving.
Reducing speed limits is convenient ; we are doing someting baout the reducing the number of crashes and, it is cheaply enforced - no cost at all because of the rate of fines, with gargantuan profits going to the Spring Street Spiv gangsters.

That the `speed kills' policy is contradicted by the reality of what occurs on roads is in the order of like blowing a dinghy with a torpedo.

There is one additional factor, road design: lack of. Even some sections of some highways are dangerous. Try entering Dandenong freeway from Bourke road. Then, of course,what is calssified as road building today and I give the following instance:

she can only be the beneficiary of `anti-discrimination laws' for one thing is , one bitch in charge o a council's ropadbuilding receipts is screwing the shire's ratepayers into the ground and motorists are also at risk. Why, she spreads the money far and way and what is built is shit.
I am very familiar with this. Oh, bye the bye, she is, from my source, an ALP blow in who,once the fuckers on the council work up the nerve to ditch her, she, no doubt, will simply move on to the next pack of spineless cretins of another council, and screw rate-payers and motorists all over again.
With such fuckwits as that in charge, why do councils bother employing engineers and men capable of laying down very good, enduring raods at all. Why not just put a lot of greeny cock sucking teenagers under her fat arse and they can shit out what the call raods - which is virtually what she is doing any way: proof is, some newly laid road is already crumbling - one month after it was put down.

Posted by: d at April 2, 2004 at 12:01 PM

Oh, should add, large sections of road building which that femmo-nazi careerist bitch is responsible for retain dangerous sections. She has done zip of bugger all, viz good raods and better design. And that bitch expects a salary and all the other attached emoluments. What a fucking joke.

Posted by: d at April 2, 2004 at 12:06 PM

"The Neo-Totalitarians use the ridiculous "double the risk" argument with all sorts of things. It's particularly offensive when they attribute disease risks to certain behaviors they wish to encourage or discourage."

Here we call those Republicans. They pass laws pertaining to driving safety, and DUI laws, while investing in ignition interlock devices, and breathalyzer companies. One of the latest laws pertains to "all" vehicles sold in America to come pre equiped with an ignition interlock device.

"It's a powergrab and a revenue enhancement scheme as far as I can see and nothing to do with improving safety; same as what you got there, Tim."

Well yes. Yes it is. When you see how much money comes in from fines. Then compute into the equation how much is spent by the community at large for the mandatory schools you begin to wonder who owns the schools. When you find out it's the state and funneled back into the state budget one starts to wonder if the new form of taxation is to arrest, fine, and probate.

"Double the risk? Where do they get that?"

Well usually they fund a study to come up with the answer they are looking for and then ram it through legislation so we end up with a new law usually intended to protect the stupidest of our species. Those who evolution would normally have taken out by now.

Welcome to the world police state. Republican, Torrie, Labor, Democrat, Liberal. Whatever. Stay the hell outta our lives.

Posted by: IXLNXS at April 2, 2004 at 12:21 PM

With you on that IXLNXS
Elections ivnolve only one consideration: which pack of socialistos are most likely to do the least damage . On this count, in Oz, I've always voted coalition excpet one fed. poll when I put in a donkey vote.

Malcolm Fraser, despite all that he had said prior to 75 proved as big a socialisto in the end as Whitlam, Cairns and co. Put in the donkey vote because Hawke and Keating were worse. Their socalled market liberalising policies were a sham, they merely dealt with what was unavoiadable by then. They were still committed to socialsito noddy land but through other routes.

Posted by: d at April 2, 2004 at 12:27 PM

Factoid: Research from both Melbourne's Monash University and the United States proves that motorists are more likely to waste themselves or others by fiddling with on board entertainment systems than straying a few klicks over the limit. No shock there - in the Monash trial, drivers thus distracted slowed by an average of 10km/h and lurched almost a metre in and over their lanes.
Australia's road safety regulations are designed purely to raise revenue for the states.
Implement driver training worthy of the name? Too much trouble.
Render our roads worthy of a first world country. That would mean spending the billions accured from registration, fines and stamp duty on something that would actually benefit the public.

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at April 2, 2004 at 03:44 PM

His absurd theory allows for no variables; all drivers are equal, all vehicles the same, and the only factor determining their fate is speed -- three miles per hour, in fact, which is all that stands between wonderful safety and double the chance of brutal hideous death! Just three miles per hour -- the rate recommended for beginner-level, “very very overweight” Christian music walkers.


You are an Australian aren't you, Tim?

Posted by: Big Ramifications at April 2, 2004 at 04:09 PM

But what about the chiiiiildrennnn(tm)?

The worst thing about the road tax by stealth is not so much the fact that it is a road tax, but it discriminates unfairly against heavy users of roads via the points system. Sure, tax me every now and then for exceeding the speed limit, fine. What's a couple hundred dollars if you get a lot of use out of the roads.

When it's not funny any more is when your livelihood or leisure commitments depend on having a driver's license. Govt has become more aggressive in fining, but the points system has stayed the same (perhaps to justify it not being a road tax, ironically). If they are going to do that, then remove the points penalty for going up to 20-25kph over. Keep the points the same for speeds above 25kph, maybe fair enough. (Although that should not really be extended to passing cars, as it's safer to pass at 140kph if you can than 105kph).

Just as big a wank is the way govts are loath to save their money for five years to eliminate black spots. Meanwhile they implement a bunch of cosmetic improvements that do nothing to reduce the road toll, inconvenience motorists with both unecessary roadwork and the existing poor/windy roads that lead to the blackspots existing in the first place.

Posted by: taspundit at April 2, 2004 at 07:56 PM

The correspondent "D" could have been talking about my country, S Africa. Here in Cape Town it is absolutely plain that while speed may play a role (because of stopping distance and varying driver competence, etc) the main cause of accidents is sheer bloody lunacy and ignorance.

We joke that the rule on an amber light is, accelerate immediately. Three cars may pass through after the light turns red.

Weaving, tailgating, bog standard. But the one I hate most is failure to signal. Few drivers in this c ity ever indicate they are about to turn or undertake any other manoeuvre. This causes countless accidents.

The worst road for accidents is the N1, on the longest straight stretch of two-lane highway in the country. The main cause of these is kamikaze overtaking of anyone doing less than 120k, resulting in head-on collisions. Falling asleep is another contributor.

Posted by: Dave F at April 2, 2004 at 08:39 PM


You are an Australian aren't you, Tim?

It's best to use the units which make your argument look good!
In this case, 3 miles sounds better than 5 km.

It reminds me of a cartoon in Playboy years ago, where the busty blonde says to her underendowed escort "Think of it as a full 100 millimetres"

Posted by: peggy sue at April 2, 2004 at 10:48 PM

It's not speed that kills. It's relative speed that kills...

...like coming to a dead stop from 150 clicks per hour against the back of a 1962 Volvo with a bumper sticker saying, "Arms are for Hugging."

Posted by: Theodopoulos Pherecydes at April 2, 2004 at 11:29 PM

It's like my father told me, and that I have passed on to my own son: If you're gonna drive fast, at least put your beer down.

Posted by: Doc at April 3, 2004 at 12:05 AM

Don't even think about moving, a speed of 1 is infinately faster that 0.

Posted by: Grommit at April 3, 2004 at 12:27 AM

roscoe - Dodge Challenger it is! I should've known that (I posted on Tim's 426 Hemi thread), since my buddy used to own an old 383 Challenger. Funny that the car looks different enough when painted with a puke-like green.

Posted by: Roger Bournival at April 3, 2004 at 05:04 AM

When did IXLNYXSXYSX reinvent himself from cannibal into extreme libertarian?

I was away too long!

Posted by: Quentin George at April 3, 2004 at 07:58 AM

Dave F, seems if any of us visits the other's country, each is well prepared.

I'd overlooked failing to signal, or not allwoing sufficieny signalling, and , kamikaze overtaking.

Your what to do at traffic lights rules sums up accurately what drivers in Oz also do.

At the end of each day, many intersections and giveway approaches are littered with the evidence of crashes. Bracksie just can't get a grip on, his simple simon answer, speed ( well, yes it is to a money stealing swindling govt), has bugger all effect on crashes.

Grommit, you shouldn'tve said that, Bracksie will slap a fine on speeding from 0 to 1kph.

Posted by: d at April 5, 2004 at 11:34 AM