I’m blogging from the Park Hyatt in Melbourne today, about to hit the tennis with a client. But as I drove here in my rent-a-Holden Astra—a car which the Avis girl told me was Australian, but I am very sure is Polish—and re-learned how to use wind-up windows (ﬁrst time I have encountered that in 16 years), I noted how many signs were all over the freeway.
Signs warned us about tolls, red-light cameras, speed cameras, road works, enforcement of the above, the number of days’ grace we had if we did not get the equivalent of the E-Z Pass—and it reminded me how different Australia is from New Zealand.
I may criticize New Zealand through blog entries, but there is one thing the country should not change: its trusting nature, where people are presumed to be smart enough to watch themselves. It doesn’t always work, but it works more often than one thinks.
Public safety is not being able to see a cop on every street corner, and civility is not about the number of laws being enforced—but the absence of both.
A civilized nation should, ideally, not need to remind its citizens at every turn that they are being watched, and that every act they commit might be under scrutiny.
The Victorian Police is probably delighted that I was so seized with fear (and fatigue due to working 45 of the last 48 hours before I ﬂew out) that I stuck to 100 km/h on the freeway—but I found that caused more problems for safety.
I dislike the fact that the safety lobby conveniently ignores that around four per cent of accidents in Germany happen in places with no speed enforcement, on the famous autobahnen. I recall taking an older but far better equipped Opel Astra to 205 km/h in Frankfurt, safely.
And has New Zealand’s obsession with speed worked? While the mainstream media are all too quick to point out the success of New Zealand Police campaigns with road-toll falls, they conveniently forget to make the same connection in one of the highest road-death periods in the 2005–6 holiday seasion. Yet Police continued to run a strong advertising campaign? Dare we say it is a waste of money, or that money should be put in to driver education?
Education is always the key to a civilized, functioning society—and perhaps this example, too, serves to show the futility of advertising. Whether it’s signage threatening penalties here in Melbourne for speeding, or blanket advertising in New Zealand with crashes galore, the fact is if you don’t get at the underlying behaviour, ads don’t work. No matter how gross these ads get, if 12-year-old kids are still being told that aggression is acceptable behaviour—and not leaving it on the rugby ﬁeld—then it all becomes habitual.
Still, I look a little jealously here: interest rates are low, with the country’s economy strong and able to weather a lot of crap—in dire contrast to the doom of lay-offs that has been reported by the mainstream media in New Zealand over the last few days. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:18
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