Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Half-Baked Cake of AES

Sometime back, I figured that I would say "I told you so" over the AES (Automated Enforcement System) issue that most Barisan Nasional MPs would certainly scream about then making a U-turn later on. When it was mooted in about 1-2 years ago many of them, without thinking deep further except from the nutshell  / surface would scream yes and gave the one common answer of why the need of having AES. And then when the negative buzz over the system goes over and over the top, those politicians, whose mouth is faster than the brain would then say - stop the press / hold the implementation. When Khairy Jamaluddin and Bung Mokhtar started coming out - from their own turf to say that AES should be put on hold, I knew that these bunch of people have already eaten a half-baked cake and made a bad mistake.

Many have said that the system was too rushed, and there's a perception of how hidden costs or the timetable of implementation as well as how the government brushes (bulldozes) through the system without a thorough check and stakeholder consultation has given to the fact that not many people are well receptive to the system. I am actually fine to the system, particularly for the red light camera part but the major parts of the system that I am not very well receptive of and this brought a interesting thought - something that it was well ignored around 2002.

Unrealistic Speed Limits

Recently, the KASE (Kempen Saman Anti-Ekor) highlighted a case where a speed camera is placed on a road with the limit of 30 km/h. Many believed that having an absurd and illogical limit there is what will irked a lot of road users. The present road limits on the road is more or less outdated. Contrary to what many people generally think about speed limits, this short FAQ seems to speak otherwise than what MIROS said. For example:

"Inappropriately established speed limits cause drivers to take all traffic signals less seriously. The brochure also points out that unrealistic speed limits create two groups of drivers. Those that try to obey the limit and those that drive at a speed they feel is safe and reasonable. This causes dangerous differences in speed. "

The subsequent questions actually depict the scenario and on the road emotions of many road users:
(note: taken from National Motorist Association, U.S.A)

Q. Isn't slower always safer?
A. No, federal and state studies have consistently shown that the drivers most likely to get into accidents in traffic are those traveling significantly below the average speed. According to research, those driving 10 mph slower than the prevailing speed are more likely to be involved in an accident. That means that if the average speed on an interstate is 70 mph, the person traveling at 60 mph is more likely to be involved in an accident than someone going 70 or even 80 mph.

Q. Wouldn't everyone drive faster if the speed limit was raised?
A. No, the majority of drivers will not go faster than what they feel is comfortable and safe regardless of the speed limit. For example, an 18-month study following an increase in the speed limit along the New York Thruway from 55 to 65 mph, determined that the average speed of traffic, 68 mph, remained the same. Even a national study conducted by Federal Highway Administration also concluded that raising or lowering the speed limit had practically no effect on actual travel speeds.

Q. Don't higher speed limits cause more accidents and traffic fatalities?
A. No, if a speed limit is raised to actually reflect real travel speeds, the new higher limit will make the roads safer. When the majority of traffic is traveling at the same speed, traffic flow improves, and there are fewer accidents. Speed alone is rarely the cause of accidents. Differences in speed are the main problem. Reasonable speed limits help traffic to flow at a safer, more uniform pace.

Q. Aren't most traffic accidents caused by speeding?
A. No, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that 30 percent of all fatal accidents are "speed related," but even this is misleading. This means that in less than a third of the cases, one of the drivers involved in the accident was "assumed" to be exceeding the posted limit. It does not mean that speeding caused the accident. Research conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation showed that the percentage of accidents actually caused by speeding is very low, 2.2 percent.

Q. Aren't our roads more dangerous than ever before?
A. No, our nation's fatality rate (deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) is the lowest it has ever been. The total number of fatalities has also stayed relatively stable for several years. They do occasionally increase, but given that our population and the distance the average person drives are also increasing, this is not surprising, nor is it cause for alarm.

Q. If nobody follows the speed limit, why does it matter that they are underposted?
A. According to a speed-limit brochure published in conjunction with the Michigan State Patrol, inappropriately established speed limits cause drivers to take all traffic signals less seriously. The brochure also points out that unrealistic speed limits create two groups of drivers. Those that try to obey the limit and those that drive at a speed they feel is safe and reasonable. This causes dangerous differences in speed.

In actual truth, because of the improved car technology over the last 25 years, the car performance of newer vehicles are far better and has better safety standards than the models made prior to that period. This doesn't match with the present speed limits on most roads which are still using the outdated vehicle count percentile data as in the early 90s. Highways for example in France is now allowed up to 130 km/h while in Germany, each lane is designated a minimum limit that has to be followed in each lane, so as to give those who in fast the priority.

Use of the 85th percentile speed concept is based on the fact that:
  • the large majority of drivers:
    • are reasonable and prudent
    • do not want to have a crash
    • desire to reach their destination in the shortest possible time
  • a speed at or below which 85 percent of people drive at any given location under good weather and visibility conditions may be considered as the maximum safe speed for that location. 
Sometime in 2002, the timing of raising speed limits was ignored, and even until today with the calculation not up to date. In fact most ministers are wrong in determining it because the driving is not experienced first hand by themselves but instead their chauffeurs do the driving instead. The perception of being a passenger vs being a driver behind the wheel differs much. For example, the passenger may say that the driver is veering too much on the left, even touching the boundary line of the emergency lane whereas in contrary the driver says otherwise.

A gist in that measurement is that it has be done on a very frequent basis.

I came across a document on the 85th percentile measurement. However, I am unsure if MIROS would bother looking at this as to match the claim or so. 

The other part is about how the system would affect the existing equipment being used. As examples, there's still the existing red light camera that uses film to capture images and the mobile speed detection devise that is being used by traffic police (not JPJ) people that it creates confusion over who is actually doing the system or shall we say that the usage is being overlapped by the two parties. 

However, the attitude of those politicians whose haste to have things bulldozed for nothing should be blasted on stage.

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