Thought for Thursday
Having had plenty of interest in my posts on road safety and speeding. I thought I’d work it up into a column for the Fin (Subscription required). Thanks to everyone who participated in the debate, on all sides of the question. This ‘road test’ certainly helped to sharpen up my arguments, and maybe also helped people on the other side of the question to clarify their position. Here’s the closing bit
One of the great strengths of the campaign for road safety has been the bipartisan support it has attracted. Labor, Liberal and National Party Transport ministers have been willing to brave the mindless reactions of those drivers who consider that their special skills should exempt them from the rules applying to the common herd (80 per cent of drivers class themselves as ‘above average’). Even more remarkably, their political opponents have refrained from trying to score cheap political points at the expense of public safety.
Until now, that is. Victorian Opposition Leader Robert Doyle pandered to the leadfoot vote at the last election with a proposal to legalise speeding, in the form of a 10 per cent tolerance above speed limits. Despite a comprehensive thrashing, he’s returned to his ‘soft on crime’ line, with complaints that the Bracks government is enforcing speeding laws too vigorously.
Doyle raises the tired argument that speeding fines are motivated by ‘revenue raising’. Even if this were true, what would be wrong with that? Governments have to raise revenue, and dangerous drivers are at least as good a tax base as gamblers, homebuyers and wage employees, the targets of the main taxes left to state governments. In fact, however, the increase in fines seems to be contributing to a renewed decline in road deaths, which have fallen sharply in 2003.
If he had any chance of being elected to office, Doyle’s irresponsible demagoguery would be dangerous. As it is, it gives his long-suffering colleagues yet another reason to dump him.