One of the big “nanny state” hot button topics is road safety and enforcement. Too many armchair experts think that they’re qualified to pass judgement on what is and isn’t safe driving. See for example the reactions to the government’s recent ban on cell phone use while driving, raising the driving age, or the proposal for a zero alcohol tolerance for drivers under 20.
Last Queen’s Birthday 10 people died on the roads, 32 were seriously injured. Last Easter another 12 dead, the highest toll in 18 years. This Queen’s Birthday police announced a crackdown on speeding. Police Commissioner Howard Broad said:
… We will be out in strength this weekend doing everything within our powers to stop you making poor and dangerous driving decisions. Sometimes we will be obvious sometimes we won’t be. We make no apology for this. If you dismiss it as revenue gathering then you are shrugging off your responsibility of care, and saying it is acceptable for you and other drivers to put you and your family at risk. … Police don’t want to spend another holiday weekend dealing with carnage on the roads, so please help us in our goal of saving lives.
Pretty sensible in context right? Stop speeding and save lives? But there is no idea so sensible that some opinionated idiot won’t complain. Just as Broad anticipated, DPF dismissed this initiative as:
Naked revenue gathering
How many road deaths are caused by people driving at 56 km/hr in a 50 zone? Or 106 kmhr on a multi-lane motorway? This is naked revenue gathering, which will see thousands of people fined for driving just over the speed limit, unaware that the tolerance has been lowered. … I can guarantee you the number of accidents caused by people driving 5 km/hr over the speed limit on straight roads is minimal.
Armchair “experts” who pontificate on topics that they know nothing about annoy me, particularly where safety is involved. DPF and any others like him who were critical of police tactics have been proven very wrong by events. At time of writing (late Monday night) the Weekend road toll stands at 1. Not 12 dead, or 10 dead, but 1, the lowest toll in 54 years. Police are “trumpeting their zero tolerance approach to speeding as a factor”.
Let’s get some sanity back into the “nanny state” arguments. Yes we the people need to keep a wary eye on the powers of government, and hold them to account. But in many cases (such as sensible proposals relating to public safety or conservation) individual freedoms that might be constrained have to be weighed in the balance with much greater collective freedoms that are gained – in this case the collective freedom of increased safety on the roads. Those who demand the individual right to exceed the speed limit, how many lives is that right worth?