Speed cameras' new demerit sting

By Mathew Dearnaley

Under present law, motorists caught by speed cameras are only fined, but Transport Minister Steven Joyce has raised the prospect of demerit points as a tougher penalty. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Under present law, motorists caught by speed cameras are only fined, but Transport Minister Steven Joyce has raised the prospect of demerit points as a tougher penalty. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Speedsters snapped by police cameras face demerit points on their licences under road safety proposals being investigated by the Government.

Officials are also considering wider use of restraint seats for older children and an even tougher crackdown on drivers on learner and restricted licences.

Under present law, motorists caught by speed cameras are only fined, but Transport Minister Steven Joyce has raised the prospect of demerit points as a tougher penalty.

Mr Joyce thought that would have a greater impact on high-risk drivers such as boy racers, with whom there was a problem with fines accumulating to a point where they could not be paid.

"If we can get to a position where the two things they covet most, which is their licence and their vehicles, are at risk, then I think that will improve behaviour of a group of high-risk drivers that are causing a lot of the carnage on our roads."

Owners of vehicles caught on camera would have to prove they were not driving by making a statutory declaration giving details of the driver.

Drivers who accrue 100 demerit points within two years have their licences suspended for three months.

Demerits for those caught speeding by police patrols - rather than by cameras - range from 10 points for up to 10km/h over the limit to 50 points for exceeding it by 36km/h or more.

Mr Joyce said no commitment had been made on the demerit points proposal.

But he said other countries did it, and officials would investigate that, while considering a "further rebalancing between fines and demerits generally".

The Ministry of Transport says on its website that car owners are ultimately responsible for who they allow to drive their vehicles, and speed camera fines are already based on owner liability.

"Vehicle owners can be exempted from an infringement if they make a statutory declaration with the driver's details," it says. "Other jurisdictions extend this to demerits and this is an option we will consider."

Another change being investigated is extending child restraint requirements to children aged between five and 10, although this is unlikely to be made law.

Mr Joyce said last night the Government needed to consider whether education was preferable.

"I think we have got to have a close look at whether it's more an informative situation for parents than a regulatory requirement," he said.

The Automobile Association has welcomed an indication from Mr Joyce that police will rely more on speed cameras to free up more resources to focus on high-risk drivers, and gave the Government an eight out of 10 score for yesterday's safety proposal announcements.

The measures follow changes passed into legislation last week, including raising the minimum driving age in August to 16, introducing a zero-blood alcohol limit for drivers under 20 and repeat drink drivers and toughening up the restricted licence test.

But AA motoring affairs manager Mike Noon said his organisation would oppose putting car owners at risk of losing their licences for the actions of others.

"What do you do about a pool car at work - who gets the demerits when 10 people are driving it?"

Twelve digital speed cameras were added last year to the previous national police stock of 43, contributing to a 90 per cent increase in infringement notices after several years of declining figures.

That raised just over $50 million, up by $22 million from the 2009 total, while fines from officer-issued speeding tickets fell from $43.7 million to $36 million.

Mr Joyce - who admitted to gathering "a few" speeding tickets as a younger man but none for about 10 years - said there were no immediate plans to buy more cameras.

"But over time we do want to look at the mix," he said.

"We don't really want as much as possible a well-paid couple of police officers sitting on the side of the road just generally doing tickets for speeding when we could have them dealing with some of these high-risk offenders.

"We get a lot of bad accidents happening in the early hours of the morning, and prioritising police resources to enable them to deal with these sort of people is, I think, really important."

SAFETY PROPOSALS
* Rebalancing speeding penalties in favour of demerit points.
* Investigating maximum time limits for learner and restricted licences.
* Further evaluate extending the learner licence period from six to 12 months.
* Researching the impact of - and ways to combat - drug-impaired drivers.
* Encouraging the use of child restraints.

- NZ Herald

Your views

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 20 Sep 2014 14:07:00 Processing Time: 528ms