June 01, 2004


Collingwood footballer Cameron Cloke was recently caught travelling at 144 km/h in a 100 km/h zone. Thatís a terrifying twenty-six miles per hour over the limit! Check the humiliating apology Cloke, whose club is sponsored by the Traffic Accident Commission, was forced to read:

"I totally accept that my actions were inappropriate and contrary to the message that the club and the TAC have given to players and the community. There are no excuses for speeding. I was fortunate that neither myself or anyone else was injured and I accept the penalty handed down by the club."

Cloke is injured more frequently playing football than he is ever likely to be while driving at civilised speeds in a safe, modern car on a freeway. Speeding paranoia swamps the nation.

Posted by Tim Blair at June 1, 2004 05:09 AM

Isn't that ritual self-condemnation creepy? It's the sort of thing the Soviets used to do when some unfortunate was undergoing a show-trial.

Posted by: David Gillies at June 1, 2004 at 05:11 AM

Public apologies for speeding? I weep for Australia.

One of the few blows for freedom in the United States in the last 20 years was the Republicans forcing Clinton to sign a transportation bill which removed the federal 55/65 speed limits and returned authority to the states.

Hell, for a while in Montana, there was no speed limit, just a requirement to drive in a "reasonable and prudent manner" until some wise-ass wouldn't take his medicine, and sued the state claiming the law was "unconstitutionally vague" -- which it was, but the bastard won -- so now Montana is 75 rural (although, from what I know, barely enforced below about 90-95).

Posted by: Andrew at June 1, 2004 at 05:33 AM

I've got a friend from montana- he says it was an ass with a lamborghini who was responsible for the end of 'reasonable and prudent' out there.

Posted by: rosignol at June 1, 2004 at 05:48 AM

ps: a punishment by someone other than law enforcement for speeding? WTF? My employer doesn't give a damn about my driving record, and shouldn't unless driving is part of my job description. What's going on down there?

Posted by: rosignol at June 1, 2004 at 05:52 AM

Looked it up. It was in fact a fellow driving a 1978 Lincoln Continental at 121 mph that screwed up Montana's speeding law. State v. Stanko, 996 P.2d 881 (Mont. 1998)

A Lincoln Continental.

God. Bless. America.

Posted by: Andrew at June 1, 2004 at 07:04 AM

Tim, is it that you don't believe there should be any fixed numerical speed limit at all (leaving every driver free to interpret for him/herself what "reasonable and prudent" means, including footballers whose judgments about reasonableness and prudence have been so widely reported in recent weeks...), or that there should be some limit but it should be more like 150 km/h?

I agree, a lot of the posted speed limits are too low, especially in rural areas. And it's stupid for the cops to ticket someone for going 5 km/h over for a few seconds while going down a hill, say, or to avoid being tailgated. But you don't get up to 144 km/h without really trying.

Maybe there should be a special licence category for drivers who can prove, objectively, that their reactions are quick enough to let them drive safely at those speeds. But for those whose only proof is their own self-estimation... uh-uh.

Posted by: Uncle Milk at June 1, 2004 at 07:07 AM

I just spent 2 weeks in italy and as chaotic as driving in the cities is, the driving on the autostrada is amazingly civilized. The slow guys stay on the right, the speeders on the left. The limit is 130kph, but speeds up to 160 are routine. I suspect you don't get a ticket until 160+ as long as you aren't continually changing lanes - as american speeders tend to do.

In fact, you can get a ticket and points on your license for passing on the right. You start with 20 points, and when you lose them, you have to retake the test. Fairly draconian, but sounds better than the Aus version.

Posted by: Kevin at June 1, 2004 at 08:13 AM

Cloke's apology to the public is beyond absurd. But I'm still waiting for one from the Italian photographer who sped at 185 km/h between Milan and Florence late at night and through high hills, while making gestures at everybody we were passing, talking on his cellphone to transact (heated) business deals, and carrying on simultaneous conversations with passengers in the front and back seats. Often, his head was turned 180 degrees to his captives in the backseat. Multi-tasking hasn't been the same for me since

Posted by: survivor at June 1, 2004 at 09:06 AM

G'day tim,

I'm sorry if I'm being impossibly thick, but could you please explain to me why travelling at 144km/h in a 100km/h zone is 26km/h over the speed limit. I could understand how it could be 44km/h, I could understand how it could be 34km/h (with a 10% allowance), but I can't understand how it can be 26.

I'm not being sarcastic I really want to know.

Posted by: Russell at June 1, 2004 at 09:30 AM

Tim's comment mentioned 26 **miles per hour**, Russell. It's an international blog. Cheers, By

Posted by: Byron_the_Aussie at June 1, 2004 at 09:36 AM

Part of the reason Cloke copped the fine (the maximum allowed under the players code of conduct) is that one of the team's principal sponsors (for whom the coach and captain have done anti-speeding adverts for) is the transport accident commission (responsible for administering our compulsory third party insurance scheme over here). Their current advertising slogan is "Wipe off 5 or wipe out lives"
I disagree with the approach to speeding in Vic, but when Cloke was caught doing *44* over the speed limit, the club had to do something pretty severe, otherwise the sponsor would be very pissed.

Posted by: attila at June 1, 2004 at 09:41 AM

Oh, and tim you fact checking new south welshman - it was Cameron cloke, not Jason.


Posted by: attila at June 1, 2004 at 09:44 AM

G'day Byron,

I'd just seen the answer myself as you posted. Units, very important.

Posted by: Russell at June 1, 2004 at 09:47 AM

Friend of mine on a bike did the same thing, got pinged at 145 in a hundred zone and lost her license for 6 months. Shit happens, it was her fault.

Cloke's problem is that his boss is sponsored by the TAC. Doesn't look too good when an employee so blatantly disregards the sponsor's message. The additional fine is an unfair wank but Collingwood want to appear tough on their players' indiscretions given the current climate surrounding all codes of footy.

Posted by: JakeD at June 1, 2004 at 09:54 AM

Cloke Two also knowingly chooses, as do most of the other players on the field (I have doubts about the mental capacity of Damien Hardwick), to risk injury by playing football.

I'd suggest quite a few people killed or injured by drivers doing "civilised speeds in a safe modern car", didn't have that choice.

Posted by: LD at June 1, 2004 at 11:04 AM

But speed is not a proxy for danger. It's speed differential that's the killer. I've been nearly killed a half-dozen times being stuck behind some jackhole who entered the freeway at 25 mph, only to be nearly rear-ended by some well meaning motorist tooling along at 60mph.

Posted by: Andrew at June 1, 2004 at 11:08 AM

But speed is not a proxy for danger

Not at all? As distinct from simply "not always a close proxy for danger"? You really mean to say that, if a sudden hazard jumps out, your reaction-time would be just as fast when you're doing 150 or 200 as when you're doing 100?

How come no serious political party has ever campaigned for office on "Vote for us and we'll abolish speed limits, or raise them to 250 km/h"? (Outside Northern Territory and the German autobahns, anyway.) Face it, guys: we hate them individually, especially when we get caught, but as a society, drawing up rules to cover a wide range of unforeseeable situations, fixing some kind of measurable speed limit (preferably a realistic one) is the worst rule to adopt -- except for all the others.

Re Cloke's "forced" apology: if it he did it to keep his high-paid job and his sponsorship -- ie, if his only "punishment" would've been to look for new work, like Bro. Hopoate -- then, according to what our Marxist pals call the "logic of capitalism", that isn't "forced" at all. It's a free choice.

PS: Why couldn't John Hopoate get an injunction to make the ANRL reinstate him?

Because he who seeks equity must come with clean hands.

Posted by: Uncle Milk at June 1, 2004 at 11:33 AM

144 km/h a civilised speed? Debatable. Though the public apology is a bit excessive.

Posted by: Stewart Kelly at June 1, 2004 at 12:48 PM

Is it just me or does anyone else feel it's dodgy for my compulsory, government controlled insurance to be inflated so that the richest football club in Australia can benefit financially? Besides, it seems the TAC is not getting much bang for its buck when a direct beneficiary of its largesse with other people's money ignores its highly expensive messages.

Posted by: slatts at June 1, 2004 at 12:50 PM

Andrew is spot on. It is indeed the speed differential, not the speed itself. Speed limits have been arbitrary and largely pointless ever since the Red Flag laws in Blighty 100 years ago. Read LJK Setright on how there is no actual linkage bet. absolute speed & safety. Here in Ontario the provincial govt raised the issue of re-introducing speed cameras (Gatsos to some of you) as a "revenue enhancing measure" - not even a pretence to public safety or any of the usual excuses proffered. Thankfully, they are embroiled in another fine mess and otherwise engaged, so the cameras' reappearance is unlikely. You are less lucky: I have heard from many sources that Australia is one of the worst places for over-zealous pursuit of speeders & much general nannying of the driving populace. Pity, as you have good cars, fine weather, good roads, and wide open spaces.

Posted by: JGS at June 1, 2004 at 12:57 PM

My mistake, attila. Cameron it was. (Weird that the link doesn't work anymore BTW; the Age must be using some new registration process)

Posted by: tim at June 1, 2004 at 12:57 PM

Good point, Slatts!

Posted by: kae at June 1, 2004 at 02:21 PM

LJK Setright is surely one of the finest writers. Is he still around?

By the way, parts of Australia are speed unlimited, including Northern Territory. Incidentally, a Northern Territorian visiting Melbourne was heard on radio yesterday bemoaning Victorians' bad driving habits including tail-gating - whereas in NT, the practice was rare.

The more regulation, the less personal responsibility and common sense.

Same old story.

Mind you, my speeding days are over. I and a friend - a policeman - once raced each other from Geelong to Melbourne, he driving a then-new VL turbo, me a Nissan sports.

Can't do that any more.

Posted by: ilibcc at June 1, 2004 at 02:31 PM

Get the latest edition of Car magazine, ilibcc -- the 500th edition. Contains a piece by Setright, and an astonishingly photograph of the man.

Posted by: tim at June 1, 2004 at 03:26 PM

Thanks Tim, I'm off to McGills - you mean the beard, no doubt.

Posted by: ilibcc at June 1, 2004 at 03:43 PM

The outrage felt by some us on hearing about this story has nothing to do with the speed limit and whether Mr Cloke was driving too fast. I think we all accept that the law is the law, and that Mr Cloke should cop the fine like anyone else. No, what I object to is this new notion that if a
person in the public eye in some way offends some lefty holy writ, he is required not only to take his punisihment under the law of the land, but also to be pilloried and punished at the bar of lefty opinion. In this case, some poor chap who is caught speeding has to read a stupid apology. The are those, like Roy Kilroy-Silk or Peter Hollingworth, who had to lose their jobs to placate a few PC twerps who wanted to make an example out of them.

Your average lefty can't wait to let a murderer or terrroist go free, and is quite happy to give the lightest smack on the wrist to most habitual criminals; but let some poor sod contravene one of the left's laws of discourse and it's goodbye to reputation, livelihood and anything else they can rip off you.

Sinistra delenda est!!

Posted by: toryhere at June 1, 2004 at 04:14 PM

Uncle Milk, I will rephrase.

Enforcing speed laws is cheap, easy, and revenue generating. Enforcing safe driving (i.e., bad driving, speed differential, bad lane changing, etc.) is expensive, hard and not revenue generating. Naturally, the government does the former and pretends it is doing the later.

Posted by: Andrew at June 1, 2004 at 04:34 PM

Not just the beard, ilibcc. Wait till you see the suit..

Posted by: tim at June 1, 2004 at 04:38 PM

Speaking of making people apologise and governments getting their priorities back to front, here's what a Victorian Government committee is now considering.

Posted by: ilibcc at June 1, 2004 at 05:33 PM

Byron-the-aussie: if this is an international site, then Tik doesn't need to translate kms to miles, because the rest of the world like us, uses kms. Even in the USA, most people understand kms.

Posted by: narkynark at June 1, 2004 at 05:37 PM

I agree, a lot of the posted speed limits are too low, especially in rural areas. And it's stupid for the cops to ticket someone for going 5 km/h over for a few seconds while going down a hill, say, or to avoid being tailgated. But you don't get up to 144 km/h without really trying.

Nonsense. With a well-designed car and a good engine, you can get up to 144kph pretty easily- it's the economy models that have to work at it.

Posted by: rosignol at June 1, 2004 at 07:19 PM

Very well. I'll read Setright on speed/ safety -- but it does seem very counter-intuitive. But then a lot of things in the world turn out to be counter-intuitive.

I'll re-phrase "... without really trying": You don't get up to 144 in a 100 zone without knowing what you're doing (whereas you can easily drift to 105 or 110 in a second or two, if you're not watching the speedo). So Cloke knew, or should have known, he was breaking the law. Some laws deserve to be broken, if they're outstandingly unjust. Other laws, less unjust but still bad, call for a response such as lobbying MPs or even standing for office yourself. I've never come across anyone, though, who's been willing to expend their own time and effort on getting the speed limits raised or abolished through the usual democratic channels. Speed limits only bother them when they get ticketed themselves.

Posted by: Uncle Milk at June 1, 2004 at 11:34 PM