Editorial: Road safety won't suffer

By Michele McPherson

My trusty 1997 Mitsubishi Mirage has served me well.

After a split-second decision to buy her at auction, I believe the auctioneer's claims of "one careful lady owner" may have actually been true.

But as my silver sedan and I prepare to part ways, another factor is now stacked against her earning me a good re-sale price - she will continue to require six-monthly warrant of fitness checks.

But the money will soon be recovered in the savings I make on her newer replacement.

I support the Government's decision to make WoF checks annual for cars registered after January 1, 2000 and disagree with those suggesting road safety will pay the price.

As a former police reporter I have been to more road crashes than I care to remember. Extremely rarely have police even raised the suggestion that the cause of the crash may have been mechanical.

This is not because they have failed to do their job, but because they have been to hundreds of crashes, sat through hundreds of court cases and broken tragic news to hundreds of families.

More often than not, speed, alcohol and driver inattention - or a lethal combination of all three - are undoubtedly to blame.

The money spent, both by police and local councils, on dishing out $200 fines for an out-of-date WoF would be better spent cracking down on drink drivers and speedsters.

Better still, on equipping our young drivers with the skills they need to drive smarter on the road.

I'm aware not everyone agrees.

Clive Mathew-Wilson, of the car review website dogandlemon.com, has accused government scientists of "deliberately excluding research that didn't support the Government position".

Referring to himself as an "expert" he claims that by police blaming driver behaviour for crashes, they often miss vital factors that may have prevented an accident from occurring.

I find it difficult to believe the Serious Crash Unit is not well versed in checking for mechanical faults or wear and tear that would have prevented a crash.

In New Zealand only 2.5 per cent of accidents involve a mechanical defect, and in only 0.4 per cent of cases a mechanical fault is the sole cause.

Even with these changes, New Zealand will still have the most frequent WoF inspection regime in the world. Most other countries only inspect vehicles every two years, or only when they are sold.

The $55 or so about 900,000 Kiwis will now save each year could be better spent on new tyres, car repairs or a defensive driving course.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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