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Herald on Sunday editorial: Speed cameras - not speed traps

Photo / Steven McNicholl
Photo / Steven McNicholl

The law was on the cop's side, but most New Zealanders would think it was a bit on the nose that Taupo man Paul Gamble was pulled over after flashing his lights to warn another driver that he was approaching a speed camera.

It turns out that it's against the law to "flash dazzling, confusing or distracting vehicle lights", though the other motorist would have to have been dimmer than a dashboard light to have been confused by the high-beam moment. More likely the officer in an approaching car didn't like the idea that Gamble was assisting a speedster.

The incident has to cast some doubt on the police denial that the speed-camera regime is geared towards revenue-gathering. Gamble's headlight-flash could have accomplished only one thing - to make oncoming traffic slow down. He should surely have been complimented on his public-spirited attempt to assist police in their mission - unless he was frustrating them in their attempts to impose fines.

The incident occurred in the same week that police announced speeding tickets in 2010 were up 90 per cent on the previous year. The official explanation is that it was the first year of both zero-tolerance on holiday weekends and the deployment of new digital cameras to gather precise photographic evidence.

But motorists have the evidence of their own eyes that the cameras are often sited in spots - at the end of downhill stretches or on the first piece of open highway to greet drivers who have been grinding through long and winding road - where speeding is most likely, least dangerous and easiest to detect.

Everyone knows that speed kills and getting speeds down is important. It's also perfectly obvious that, if you keep within the limit, you won't get pinged no matter how many cameras you pass.

But the police need to take the motoring public with them. They should encourage the idea that they're in partnership with drivers - not on the warpath against them.

- Herald on Sunday

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