29 Jun 2015

Good drivers merit reward under revamp

11:23 am on 29 June 2015

Drivers who keep to the speed limit could soon be rewarded with merit points, as the country's road agency looks to revamp its demerit system.

Wellington motorway.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Transport Agency is also looking at handing out demerit points to speeding drivers caught on fixed cameras, and escalating fines for repeat offenders.

The agency's road safety director, Ernst Zollner, stopped short of saying the demerit system was not working, but admitted improvements were needed.

He said the agency was working on several ideas, including a merit system for drivers who never get tickets, and demerit points for those caught by fixed cameras.

"There's a few other ideas, for example you have stepped fines: on your first offence you've gone 60 km/h in a 50 km/h zone and you get a $30 fine, your next ticket might be $60 and your next one after that, $120."

Though no decisions on changes had been made, the ultimate goal was to prevent accidents and save lives, and also keep up with overseas trends, he said.

Leeann Brink commutes from Paraparaumu to Wellington every week day, and said the idea of cracking down on drivers rumbled by fixed cameras was flawed.

"I have children that drive my car, so who will they choose to take the demerit points off? Me? My children?" she said.

"How are they going to know who's driving the car at the time?"

An image from the new police speed camera in Wellington's Ngauranga Gorge.

An image from a police speed camera in Wellington's Ngauranga Gorge. Photo: Supplied

Clive Matthew-Wilson, who edits the Dog and Lemon car buying guide, said the demerit system had never worked.

"When you behave well they pat you on the head, and when you don't behave well they pat you a little lower down," he said.

"It's a very infantile and simplistic view of what motivates people.

"The majority of people who cause accidents are basically immune to road safety messages - you can give them a ticket, they don't pay it, you can give them merit points but it won't affect their behaviour whatsoever."

He said the answer was to ramp up police presence on the country's roads, and install more of the machines that tell drivers how fast they are going.

Mr Zollner agreed with the last point, and said more speed awareness machines were on the way.

He said for the most part, people do want to keep to the speed limit - they just make mistakes.

The chief executive of the freight industry's Road Transport Forum, Ken Shirley, said there was nothing wrong with rewarding good driving.

"I think you've got to have a look at how it would impact on professional commercial drivers because they're on the road more and do a lot more miles, but as an industry we'd be prepared to have a look at it," he said.

But Lincoln University professor Chris Kissling said drivers should not be praised for obeying the law.

"Is this so you can store up points so you can then have a binge and get off doing something stupid?" he said.

The Transport Agency said it hoped to wrap up the research and introduce any changes in about two years' time.

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