Guns, revenue, speed, “towards zero” and police driving standards…

DRIVING ON A SECTION of road near Ballarat recently, I saw a speed camera off to the left as I was engaging cruise control. Typically, in my work car (a Toyota Hilux) I have preset my speed for 100km/h and every time I hit ‘resume’, it will creep over and settle back into the desired speed.

Not a problem in the real world but for the police, its a punishable act. My work car is covered in logos that clearly displays the fact I am from a driver training company.

So, there I am driving along the highway at a break neck 104km/h for a few seconds, while my cruise control flutters and then settles back to 100km/h, and I am fleeced of my hard earned and dearly loved points. Australia’s crash rate is OK (but not brilliant), the fatality rate is not as good as Europe’s, but its not exactly China either. 

My question is; “Whats the point?’

Road safety experts in universities around the country tell me that travelling 5km/h over the limit makes us all three times more likely to be involved in a serious injury incident. At 10km/h over this rises to four times more likely. When I have asked for a simple explanation the response was the emailing of a 1000 page study with the email suggesting I read it. Mature, I thought!

So I start reading and find things that don’t make sense. For example, the figures came from past incidents and if the driver had behaved, their injuries would be less. OK, I agree. How does this work going forward? Why not have average speed cameras (point-to-point) everywhere and then even the traffic flow will be better? 

When we go fully automated and thus driverless cars, the speed won’t be our choice. The government will have to find ways of extracting money from the public.

In Europe, where the roads are better and the licencing standards make Australia look quite pedestrian, even India has tougher requirements in some respects, the speeds are higher, they are not policed, they crash less often and have lower serious injury/fatality rates. Now this is fact and it makes no sense to be so policed when our performance is worse because speed is not, and cannot be the problem. It is back to front.

A bit like saying that if guns are safe, then America must be the safest place in the world!

Travelling down a motorway in Europe will normally see limits around the 120-130km/h mark. Rarely is the traffic doing that speed, in fact there are times when 150km/h is the norm, and I haven’t mentioned Germany yet, they are faster again! In parts.

If I choose to drive at 130km/h when those around me are doing 150km/h, then I am potentially causing a problem. It appears that when I read the 1000-page report from the ‘university’, its as much to do with speed differentials in vehicles as it is ‘speed’ and conditions – traffic volume, dry/wet, sealed, illuminated etc.

We already know the faster we go, and the more significant the stop, it can kill you. In fact, falling just two meters can kill you. Speed itself cannot kill in the case of driving and the focus needs to be on safer systems, technology in cars and better drivers.

You won’t believe me if I say that going 30km/h over the limit in parts of Europe will attract a fine of just €90. In Australia, we pay a lot more. It is also accepted practice, in some places, that every speed zone, when policed has a 10% fudge factor (often to do with the speedo calibration). I got 4%.

It is an attitude problem. The poor attitude of our commitment to roads, poor attitude of our experts to more modern safety methods and a lack of pressure on governments to enforce that all cars sold here must be available with the companies full active safety features as in other markets.

But, mostly our attitudes to driving is abysmal. We want a permit to drive, the shortest number of lessons to get it and then hit the road. It will take about 20 hours of learning, 3000km of exposure through practice and a test to get a licence in Europe! 

Finally, how often do you see a police officer driving with one hand resting at 12 on the wheel, I counted five in just one trip recently, and all were driving like this. Are they so disconnected with proper technique that 100 km/h bores them? Highway patrol officers, of all people, must show the highest possible standard yet they don’t, or at least the ones I’ve seen don’t. Utter hypocrisy when I know what they do for training and ‘re-training’, certainly not best practice!

It is time for change and a review of our approach. The current and most pious campaign for zero deaths is admirable but delusional. Roads and driving are a risk, how we manage that risk is up to adults and across this whole subject, I don’t see objective or adult behaviour. Its pious and pretentious.


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About Author

Cameron Wearing

Cameron Wearing is a driver trainer, driver coach and occasional pro-driver. The training usually involves the garden variety fleet driver but he likes to get his teeth into training instructors.
Cameron has a strong passion for road safety, driver competence, infrastructure and how these can be combined.
He has a stronger and personal and enthusiastic passion for driving, including 4 wheel drives but more so, motor racing (from the track to rallying). Despite being more comfortable on the race track, he has carved out a part time career in rallying classic cars for rich people 'around the world' and loving it.


  1. Take it to court Cameron. You won’t win, but you can argue your case and make the above points officially.

  2. I know… it pissed me off when twice I got fined due to sound barrier breaking speed of 56 km/hr in 50 km zone. Who cares about cyclist, pedestrians or stray pets crossing the neighborhood streets. It is the speed camera you have to keep an eye for.

    1. Exactly. There are bigger issues out there on the road than speedo-gazing. The day that keeping speed down ranks higher than defensive driving and hazard awareness where we are right now will always mean people will die unnecessarily on the roads.

      That’s not to say that speed is OK but excessive speed is asking for trouble. But bottom line is, if you’re being a d-head on the road, then you’re not doing it right but of course Govt Pty Ltd can’t trust the public to determine what d-head behaviour on the road means.

    2. Driving is not a part time job. If you can’t muster the attention required to both watch the road AND monitor your speed then you must be male. You should also consider the surrender of your licence because you may not be up to the task.

      1. A recent study by a Perth Universty took 3 sample groups in a driving simulator. They gave each a different speed tolerance. Those with a tolerance of only 1kph over the speed limit posed the greatest danger as the focus on their speed made them less observant of peripheral and approaching hazzards. That’s a proven case study.
        Maybe you consider using your mobile phone while driving multi tasking too.

  3. It is painful and completely agree with all your points, pure revenue raising. I would have thought you could question the tolerance they have allowed as it would seem if your speed was truly an indicated 104 kmh to allow you 4% would mean their equipment was perfect and you were actually dead on the limit. If you were doing 104 kmh indicated and your speedo was reading 4% over the true speed which seems quite likely at 100kmh and their equipment had a 1% error then you were doing only 99kmh. I doubt their equipment is that good and when was it last calibrated anyway? As Dan says may be worth giving these questions an airing?

  4. The facts speak for themselves. The coffers overflow with money extorted from motorists, all of whom should be dead according to the Road Authorities.

    1. The questionable intelligence of the speed cam operators which I suppose is on par with of our politicians who did not get enough votes is another issue. I am sure those operators are local residents from low to middle income earners who should be aware of what is going on in the community.

      They should target the time of the day and which quite road being used by over speeding hoons. Put the bloody camera there if you are serious in bringing down fatality from motor vehicle accident.

      How ever I am sure there’s no “bang for your buck” of doing that. Seems like any lowlife scums, easy to extort money from others and whinging about unfairness in this world rather than doing a real jobs.

  5. It is more than a little concerning that someone involved in driver training may be passing such very poor attitudes on to trainees. Frankly my dear, I wonder if you are in the right job.
    1. A speed limit is the maximum legally allowed speed not a speed which must be achieved and maintained at all costs. I believe that the general policy is to cut a few percent of of slack but when push becomes shove our legal system is about the letter of the law not the spirit of the law.
    2. Blatant revenue raising it may be but if you don’t speed (or adjust your instruments while driving) it won’t be possible. They will have to put tobacco tax up again instead.
    3. Comparisons with other countries and their laws and lack (or otherwise) of enforcement are irrelevant.
    4. To argue that it’s not the fall that kills but the sudden stop at the end is quite infantile.
    5. The campaigns such as QLD “every K over is a killer” are deceptive tripe. Speed limits are however necessary as much as even I like to blow the cobwebs out of my EH ute occasionally. I doubt if you will get much traction with the idea that they are too low.
    6. Police hypocrisy. Nothing new there but irrelevant. Most of them are only there for the overtime but I can understand that they would be well and truly over dealing with the results of car crashes.
    7. Just how safe do you think cars can be made? It seems to me that every advance that is made just encourages people to use up the extra margin provided. The primary and secondary safety of a modern car is extremely good. I often wonder about the carnage which would result if everyone had to drive Mk1 Zephyrs on cross plys without even seat belts. Interesting that nobody bellyaches about wearing seat belts anymore.
    8. The answer is not in ever safer vehicles but removing the entrenched cultural and social attitudes which encourage accident causing driving. e.g macho fools, rev heads and boy racers, the idea that “sports” driving is somehow compatible with public roads, danny deadline, commercial pressure, texting with one hand and changing a nappy with the other, rural invincibility/stupidity, the ‘superior’ driver syndrome, the ongoing compression and speed increase of traffic etc etc
    xxxxxxx Doris

    1. Aunty Doris,
      I will be responding in another article. I have qualified answers for all your points and think you might see the relevance especially when compared to the best and safest drivers in the world. You raise some fair points from attitudes to competence and compliance so I will give you the decency of a sound response.

  6. As someone who has been a trainer, instructor, coach, mentor, assessor for many years. And someone who has driven on the roads in the countries you mention. I’m a little concerned as to your temperamental alinement’s on such a matter as road carnage. With out wanting to exhibit too much preachiness, I would have thought your primary consideration would have been, always, safety, safety, safety. The safety of your family. The safety of of your family friends and the safety of Australians.
    Its not that long ago that fatality’s and lost time injury frequency rates were, in many Australian workplaces very high. And, through legislation change, training, industry best practice, attitudinal and cultural change there has been a huge improvement in safety in Australian workplaces.

    I have also detected a big push in the Australian community for the carnage on Australian roads to reduce quickly and measurably and ultimately cease. The pressure is on driver training, automotive manufacturers, road constructors and maintainers, Politicians, Industry advisory bodies who through many means, improve safety on Australian roads. There has been many people engaged to this end over many years. And of late much good work has been accomplished.
    I see much courtesy and professionalism on Australian roads every day. Stupidity and discourtesy is no longer tolerated. The Australian ethos today is clearly all about better safety on our roads.
    Cameron, you appear to be if you don’t mind me saying, swimming against the tide. You would do well to acquaint yourself with the Industry Groups that work tirelessly through scientific means and accomplishments to improve road safety in Australia. There are some remarkable people working to this end. You might like to get to know them and learn about their work and the considerations for the future.
    Whilst at it, you may also want to get to know those First Responders and Emergency Services personnel who tirelessly attend the road ‘crash’ to save lives (First Responders, Police Officers, Fire and Emergency, Ambulance and in some cases SES Officers. Then their is the staff in our Regional Hospitals. Doctors and Nurses who accomplish the most remarkable work. And then their is the ancillary and liaison people who help a family though the crises of having a family member laid low through head injury, spinal injury or fatality. And in some cases funeral arrangements.
    You, of course Cameron, would be able to quote the number of fatalities that occurred in Australia last year, state by state. Also the number of serious injuries. Then, you should multiply each incident by fifty. Because that is the number of professional people involved in saving a life or putting a person back together or commiserating and providing services for each family affected or assessing the road conditions at the time of the incident for users such as insurers safety advisor bodies and legal practitioners. Just to name a few.

    An Accident or crash happens so quickly most drivers cannot remember how it occurred.
    In closing, may I offer this advise. Engage or re-engage the cruise control of your Hi-Lux at a kilometre or two below the desired speed and then tap, up or down, as the case may be, to the desired set speed. I trust this should keep you out of trouble.

  7. Given Australian standards regard speedo tolerances and my experience in hiluxs if you were caught doing 104 in a hilux it is likely the speedo was reading closer to 110.

  8. I don’t know who determines where the speed cameras are parked. To be fair, (in Victoria) the measured speed is reduced by 3 Kph before it is decided that you’ve gone over the limit. I use my GPS as a speedo as most modern speedos read a good deal lower than the actual speed. So if you get pinged, you don’t have much excuse. It does not change the fact that the limits are ridiculously low and all the other legitimate complaints. Get rid of speed cameras and put police back on the road! A driver can easily be dangerous without exceeding the limit and you can’t put speed cameras everywhere. Yet.

  9. Oh come on!
    The speedo over reads by ~ 4 kph.
    There are four speeds to consider:
    1/ indicated speed
    2/ ground speed
    3/ detected speed
    4/ alleged speed
    If you were ‘indicating’ 110 your actual speed was probably 106 and your alleged speed would be detected minus 2
    104 kph……which just happens to be what you were allegedly doing.

    1. Hi Rye an,
      You raise good points. What I am doing is another article to respond and I think you you (and some others) will appreciate more the position we are all in.

    2. ADR 18 on vehicles complianced before 2006 were not required to have speedo accuracy this good. I’m surprised this hasn’t been tested in court and fines overturned. tyre wear and aftermarket tyres also degrade this level of accuracy.

      Therefore it is engineering stupidity to enforce a tighter tolerance. Since 2006 the requirement has been tightened up.

      1. The speedometer is required by law to not UNderread.
        They all OVERread.
        An indicated 5kph over the speed limit in a Europe car will generally ensure you won’t be booked.
        What would you challenge in court?.

  10. Was this submitted by a troll, because it doesn’t add up.
    ……and CCs don’t overspeed and get you booked.
    …….and speedos OVERread.

  11. Toyota cruise control is rubbish as it will not stay at the speed you set when you are going down the hill and the speed will be 20 or 30 km/h more than what you set. Some cars when you set the speed limit at 110 km/h and when going down the hill the speed stays the same and it will not go up at all.

  12. The Australian approach is all about revenue raising by the nanny state. Cameron you know me and my background.

    Your assessment is spot on. Having conducted vehicle development across the US, Europe, Japan and Australia I have both the engineering cred and empirical experience of what safe and being safe is. What it isn’t is the Australian approach. The most deplorable aspect is the so called science on road safety from our academic institutions. I have also taught vehicle dynamics and have experienced the irrelevant outputs of the Centre for Automotive Safety Research on speeds and accident data.

    I have also spent time in the Mercedes Berlin Driving Simulator conducting real crash and high limit dynamics research including validation on the proving ground. The Berlin simulator even conducts drug and alcohol testing which is also validated on the proving ground. This real research doesn’t correlate with how road safety is enforced in Australia. It’s no surprise that road safety is not great in Australia by world standards and just keeps deteriorating.

    Lack of spending on infrastructure is a key issue. Most auto manufacturers rate Australia’s road as equivalent to the worst in the world. We even have emergency room doctors in the media giving road safety advice. As a professional engineerI don’t give medical advice so it’s completely inappropriate for doctors to give engineering advice. And no medicos reading journal articles does not make them competent to give professional advice in this area.

  13. Fixed & average speed cameras that 99% of drivers drop their speed by 30% & then speed back up again are no different to any other roadside hazard. Roadside hazards frustrate driver behaviour & create accidents !!
    Are we not all warned by traffic safety ‘experts’ to not slow down & rubber neck at road side incidents? This is just what drivers do… slowing down dramatically, while staring between their speedometer & a speed camera that might blindingly “Flash” them as they drive in the vicinity of a speed camera? Meanwhile they in their distraction create havoc on the road. Go figure!

    After driving many different vehicles while using the very same portable GPS sat nav device, I can report that all the vehicles I drove had speedometers which read higher values than the GPS.
    Every car I drive past the speed check device on the Hume Highway just south of Albury indicates a faster speed than the checking device. Every time, my GPS reads the exact same value as the checking device.

    Even my own personal car (i30) with inbuilt sat nav with overspeed warning set to 100% of the posted speed limit will set the warning off at a speed 7k lower than the indicated speed on the speedometer.
    My summation is that modern vehicle speedometers do over read by as much as 7kmph.

    The list of vehicles driven includes bog standard models not greater than 5 years old:
    – VF Commodore
    – Kia Cerato
    – Nissan Pulsar
    – Hyundai i30
    – Hyundai i40
    – Toyota Camry
    – Toyota Aurion
    – Mitsubishi Lancer

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