What part of “zero tolerance on speed” is so hard to understand?

Over the last few years, the New Zealand Police have played with stricter enforcement of the speed limit during the peak holiday periods. Most of the year, they’ll tolerate drivers go to 10km/h over the posted limit. In the holiday periods, the tolerance was dropped to 4km/h. This year, it dropped to 1km/h. In other words, it was pretty much zero tolerance on speeding.

Judging by the traffic on Auckland’s streets and motorways over the last couple of weeks, you’d be hard-pressed to see this in action. I was very careful to keep to the limit, because I’m not an idiot and I don’t like getting speeding tickets. That made me one of the slowest cars on the road. There were 50km/h surface streets where I’ve seen people doing more than 60. There were 80km/h sections of motorway where people were doing at least 95 (and then continue at the same speed when the limit changes to 100km/h). Speeding was everywhere, and the police were barely seen.

It’s not like the lower tolerance was a secret, either. It’s been in all of the major news media, and while I don’t watch broadcast TV any more, I’m sure that there would have been ads saying what was going on. The only excuse for speeding has to be that you don’t care about tickets.

As a side note, I’m not a big fan of the police enforcing speed limits more strictly. There’s no real evidence that it has appreciable effect on road safety and the number of accidents. It’s like the 100ml liquid limit on international flights – it doesn’t really do anything to improve safety, it just gives the impression that something is being done. That being said, I’d rather follow a toothless policy than break it and face punishment.

I’m really not sure what frustrates me the most about all of this: the safety-related policies that do nothing to improve safety, or the people who just don’t care and blithely flaunt the law anyway.

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