September 30, 2004

120YAY!

All hail the Datsun 120Y, the finest automobile ever. Sure, the 120Y may have endangered thousands due to its lack of brakes, power, and traction, and some aesthetes possibly were made suicidal simply by looking at it, but the noble Datsun has subsequently served a higher purpose. During 2002, one of them set in train events that undermined Victoriaís speed-camera madness:

The camera crisis emerged in the middle of last year when a fixed camera on the Western Ring Road recorded a 1975 Datsun 120Y travelling at 158 km/h. Independent mechanical testing showed that the car could reach only 117 km/h.

Almost 165,000 motorists caught by fixed speed cameras will have their fines waived or be paid compensation, costing the State Government $26 million.

Iím one of those 165,000. In your face, Steve Bracks! Hereís the letter from Victoriaís Department of Justice:

The Victorian State Government recently announced that all motorists who received a speeding infringement detected by a fixed digital speed camera on the Western Ring Road would have those infringements withdrawn and associated fines refunded and demerit points cancelled. I refer to the above infringement notice, which you have paid.

Canít remember the amount; a couple of hundred bucks, probably. Thank you, Datsun! Your sublime engineering has returned food to my table.

Posted by Tim Blair at September 30, 2004 05:49 AM
Comments

I wonder if the death rate on Victorian roads has gone up since they announced the cameras are out of action?

Posted by: Jonny at September 30, 2004 at 06:14 AM

Love the line about "costing the State Government $26 million." Is a reduction in an improper windfall actually a cost?

Posted by: Doug Murray at September 30, 2004 at 06:15 AM

What happened? Couldn't they find a bicyclist willing to test the camera system before deploying it?

Posted by: KBiel at September 30, 2004 at 06:39 AM

My mum had a lime green 120Y. Great car for a learner, excepting - as you say - brakes, steering and general road worthiness.

Bracks earns a Weasel Award for (a) not apologising, then (b) blaming his government department, and (c) blaming their private contractor. Surely a premier should say sorry when his government fails on his watch?

Posted by: Alan Green at September 30, 2004 at 07:08 AM

I once had my lawyer get me out of a jam with an explanation like that. He asked the cop in front of the judge to produce the daily calibration test of the radar gun. Hid did not. Then he asked the cop how he could be certain I was going at a certain speed if the gun was not calibrated, the cop could not answer and the case was dismissed.

Posted by: cubanbob at September 30, 2004 at 07:30 AM

I once had my lawyer get me out of a jam with an explanation like that. He asked the cop in front of the judge to produce the daily calibration test of the radar gun. He did not. Then he asked the cop how he could be certain I was going at a certain speed if the gun was not calibrated, the cop could not answer and the case was dismissed.

Posted by: cubanbob at September 30, 2004 at 07:31 AM

Apparently it's all about revenue, not safety.

...costing the State Government $26 million.
Posted by: Kevin at September 30, 2004 at 08:34 AM

Apparently it's all about revenue, not safety.

Which is why all fines collected thru ordinance enforcement should be applied directly to paying down principal on government debt.

Posted by: triticale at September 30, 2004 at 08:39 AM

"Despite the speed camera woes, the Government will increase speeding fines by 2.25 per cent in July."

Heh.

Posted by: Hal Duston at September 30, 2004 at 09:49 AM

An even bigger cost, and bigger problem, is the increase in insurance premiums - even cancellations - that motorists undoubtedly got when getting tickets from the speed cameras. Ought the government also to order car insurers to refund increased premiums resulting from the wrongfully issued tickets, or refund the premiums itself? I'm not a fan of litigation generally but this seems like a great case for a class action lawsuit against the government and its private contractor. Somebody over there could finally put a plaintiff's lawyer to good use.

Posted by: lazlot oth at September 30, 2004 at 01:01 PM

About a year ago, as an experimental traffic reduction measure, some of the carpool lanes in the area would be opened to all traffic after 7pm. When this was announced, the news article said that this was being done at a cost of $12 million. Exactly why it would cost $12 million to tack a few extra bits onto some road signs, and even toss in a traffic study or two is beyond me. I figure that a majority of the stated amount is to account for lost ticket revenue generated from carpool violations. There's the government mindset for you, it's our money until you can prove otherwise.

Posted by: Vexorg at September 30, 2004 at 02:17 PM

Oops, I should probably clarify, this is in the Seattle area. We've got a fine mess of DOT and transit beauraucrats around here who exist primarily to waste taxpayer money on ineffective transit systems. The commuter train that runs to Tacoma from Seattle daily costs $6 a passenger to ride, but according to the figures I've seen, in order to cover all expenses the tickets would have to cost something closer to $30.

Posted by: Vexorg at September 30, 2004 at 02:19 PM

Tim, for your sake I hope you were actually UNDER the speed limit and aren't simply getting out of a legitimate fine on a technicality. I know only too well the fatal effects highway cowboys have.

Posted by: Karl at September 30, 2004 at 02:35 PM

Dumb question for the car obsessed:

What's the difference (besides the name and that the steering wheel is on opposite sides) between a Oz-market Datsun 120-Y and U.S.-spec Datsun B-210?

I usually know this sort of inane minutiae, but I'm flummoxed for source material on this infinitessimally trivial question.

Posted by: John Pearley Huffman at September 30, 2004 at 02:42 PM

"I know only too well the fatal effects highway cowboys have."

Yes, Tim, let's keep that herd of prime steer off the highways! All those cars will spook your horse anyway.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at September 30, 2004 at 03:34 PM

This is the sweetest stick-it-to-the-man story in all the history of speeding. Awesome.

Posted by: Matt in Denver at September 30, 2004 at 04:00 PM

Was that supposed to be funny, Andrea? Because I can tell you the reason for my comment is no laughing matter. I wasn't calling Tim a cowboy, just hoping he was unfairly fined rather than escaping a legitimate one.

Posted by: Karl at September 30, 2004 at 07:12 PM

I never owned a Datsun 120Y, but my first car was a Datsun (Nissan) Stanza... slightly sexier [less ugly?] and more powerful than the 120Y, but still not much good. It had the redeeming feature of being an automatic, which was good, because I still can't drive a manual.

The funny thing is though I kind of miss the 'intimacy' that you'd have with the driving process in those sort of cars. You only get that sort of fun in modern cars when taking very windy roads at fairly high speed. The Datsun provided that same sense of danger and challenge no matter what the road conditions... ;-)

Posted by: Troy at September 30, 2004 at 08:30 PM

Too right! I had a Datsun 120Y when I was a teenager. You could thrash the crap out the thing and still start it up in the morning.

Was barely worth insuring, though.

Posted by: Quentin George at September 30, 2004 at 09:19 PM

Karl - regardless of your "actual" speed, no fine is legitimate if it is imposed through bad equipment. Legitimacy depends on whether the state has good information on which to bas its actions.

And, BTW, it is speed differential that is the real risk factor. A highway where everyone is going 80 mph is safer than one where some are going 60 mph and some 40 mph.

Posted by: R C Dean at October 1, 2004 at 12:25 AM

Karl,

I was driving my elderly mother to the airport. Naturally, I was driving as quickly and recklessly as possible.

Posted by: tim at October 1, 2004 at 01:01 AM

Karl. Yes it was supposed to be funny. It's not my problem that you have a stick up your ass.*

*For the non-Americanese-speaking persons here, that refers to the portion of the body known as the gluteus maximus, the posterior, or as the British would have it, the "arse."

Posted by: Andrea Harris at October 1, 2004 at 01:52 AM