Not before time the police seem to have altered their modus operandi in promoting road safety by taking the emphasis off speed and drink-driving.

In a 24-hour, 84-checkpoint police road safety blitz in central Auckland on Wednesday police teams issued more than 640 fines to motorists in central Auckland.

They included 103 for speeding, 63 for not wearing seatbelts, 85 for running red lights or not stopping at intersections, 177 for licence breaches, 72 for using mobile phones and six drink-drivers. And eighteen vehicles were impounded.

As well, according to a New Zealand Herald report, one driver was over the legal alcohol limit, and 34 were just under it.

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A large police presence across the Auckland central region throughout the day and late into the night stopped cars at busy intersections in both residential and commercial areas of the city.

Now that's a big improvement surely on the "booze bus" system that has been the emphasis for yonks.

It is no doubt just one result of the continuing controversy which has arisen since the holiday road toll came in an 17 - more than double the previous year's tally; and the 2014 annual toll at 297 deaths, up 43 on 2013.

Most of the argument has been over the police move to eliminate the 4km/h holiday speed tolerance to zero. And as far as I'm concerned this is a dangerous thing to do.
Because I believe that the biggest cause of road accidents, fatal or otherwise (next to stupidity, of course), is inattention. Setting the speed limit at an exact figure surely encourages drivers to constantly glance at the speedometer, and at 100km/h taking one's eyes off the road for even a split second is highly dangerous.

Not all cars are fitted with speed warning beepers and I suspect that most of those in Japanese imports have been turned off.

The same goes for tuning a radio, eating and/or drinking, admonishing children or arguing with passengers - and any number of other distractions, all of which can kill.
As for stupidity, we read almost every day in the press about drivers and passengers who do idiotic things, one of the latest of which was to allow a small child to sit on the roof of a moving car with his legs dangling down through the sunroof.
But back to the road toll. I believe we have reached an absolute minimum of road deaths each year - between 200 and 300 - and we will never see it any lower.

When you set the road toll against the billions of kilometres travelled each year by every form of road transport, much of them on substandard roads, and driven by hundreds of thousands of drivers of varying competence, last year's road toll comes out as an infinitesimal - indeed immeasurable - fraction of a per cent of vehicle/kilometres.

But that is no reason to let up on the education campaigns undertaken each year by the police and Land Transport Authority and the close attention to driving offences paid by the police.

Because they do work. In the 1980s road deaths numbered between 766 and 599; in the 1990s that dropped to between 729 and 501; in the first decade of this century it came down to between 462 and 384; and in the first four years of this decade to between 375 and 208.

As the figures show, altering public perceptions takes a long time and it seems it has happened to road safety slowly but surely over the past 35 years.
However, I very much doubt that the road toll will get much lower, no matter how much time, imagination and energy are put into road safety campaigns.

The stupid and mindless with always be with us. They are the ones who remain victims of the deep-seated human psychological deception which tells them: "I'm different" and "It can't happen to me".

Garth George is a veteran newspaper journalist, retired and living in Rotorua.Email him at garth.george@hotmail.com