Speed trapping is probably the single most used law enforcement method to combat road deaths.  One might however question whether this does in fact save lives or whether it is merely window dressing enforcement to generate general compliance with the rules of the road.  For want of a better word the imposition of fines gets a wee bit ‘pedantic’ for those who are travelling at say 65kph in a 60kph zone.   We all know how easily and indeed comfortably one can creep up 5kph without noticing, but one supposes that rules are rules.
 
We need to take a step back from trapping to the actual setting of speed limits.  This is where the ‘do-gooders’, the politicians and councillors step in.  Some may suggest that speed limits are set too low, thus making trapping ‘easy meat’ for traffic law enforcement officers, and that cognisance should be taken of certain other factors, such as age of drive, experience and the type of vehicle they are driving.  Many are designed for speed.
 
Many of us are in metric speed limit zones and, generally, town centres are set at 60kph as a general limit and 80kph on dual carriageways.  The open general limit on highways is 120kph.   In the United Kingdom built up area are 30mph, while dual carriageways and highways get the 70mph approval.  Yet we are all driving vehicles which manufacturers have designed to travel upwards from speeds of 200kph/124mph, almost twice speed limits.  That is criminal!
 
One often wonders what science is applied to speed limiting, or whether in fact nations have just pursued limiting as a case of ‘those have always been the limits’.  Statistics have been quoted on United Kingdom based speed limits which suggest “Accident statistics show that at 40mph nine out of ten children hit by cars either die or receive life changing serious injuries. At 20mph nine out of ten survive.” <a href=”http://http://www.smartdriving.co.uk/Driving/DefensiveDriving/Speed/UK_Speed_limits.html”><b>**</b></a>  Should 20mph be the general limit in built up areas?

Clearly, many people reading this will be thinking that their local speed limits are a little dull, when they come to consider it.  Nobody would propose that speed limits be abolished, because there are very good reasons not to travel at high velocity through, for example, built up areas where pedestrians dominate, especially the young.   But control does not lie in law enforcement trapping.  Given the amazing feats of engineering we enjoy in motor vehicles today, and considering aspects of age, driving experience and training, one wonders if speed limiting legislations has been left behind in the 1950s mindset.  It is very much contingency limiting, for that tiny minority who may suffer an accident, which cannot be adequately controlled.

Given all this, it would seem that more fundamental issues are still ignored.  These are that most people who take to the wheel of a car generally intend to be law abiding citizens and have no intention of using their vehicles as a weapon.  No cognizance is taken of those who are seasoned drivers, nor the propensity of the very young or the very old to be more accident prone.  No one cares about expansion of vehicle brake capacity or efficiency, vehicle design and the elimination, to a reasonable degree, of drink-driving (which combined with speed is a sure killer).
 
The potential impact fatality figures on children are often quoted.  With measures like gun control in the United Kingdom, when it was discovered that guns can kill in large numbers in populous communities, guns were banned outright.  Yet when it is evident that the higher the speed the more likely impact deaths occur, with vehicles, which are apparently more lethal than guns, vehicle are not banned.  Even recommended speed rates for hitting children are not imposed, less enforced, around areas where children predominate.   Compare legislation controlling health and safety on the roads with that imposed on the tobacco industry.  The principle objectives are similar, to save lives, except motor vehicles kill mostly third parties rather than cigarettes kill smokers themselves, if they choose to smoke.

As ludicrous as that may seem, legislators still have not considered limiting vehicle manufacturers with the speed that their production vehicles may travel.   There are no health warnings in the cockpits of these killing machines on four wheels!   To achieve ‘do-gooder’ status, really no vehicles should be allowed to travel beyond a nation’s speed limits.  Their ability to do so actually encourages, if not causes, crime.  With geo-positioning technology vehicles could be limited easily to speeds outside driver control, right down to that magical 20mph in areas where children might be likely jump in front of motor vehicles.  Yet nothing is being done with this line of thinking.

There are just so many variables, one might guess it would make traffic law enforcement just a little too difficult, but speed trapping will unlikely contribute to the reduction in road deaths.   More scientific speed limiting will and vehicle manufacturers should have been more involved in that process.

Censorship: Transparency versus Ethics


Last week a controversy exploded in the South African media concerning the alleged muzzling of the press by a high flying politician with an apparently shady background involving arms deals corruption.  In Zimbabwe, a partisan police force invaded the offices of a local weekly newspaper looking for evidence which might incriminate journalists who wrote a piece about an apparently failed medical aid society that has political connections.

The Mail and Guardian splashed a white on black headline which simply read “CENSORED” across an entire page of one of its editions, but the story goes a little deep than pure censorship.  The paper was about to break a story concerning a presidential spokesman, Mac Maharaj, and his involvement in the notoriously corrupt South Africa arms deal.  Allegations have been made that Maharaj had received funds from French arms dealer, Thomson-CSF.  

The information leading to the intended exposure had been sourced from documents pertaining to an ‘in camera’ interview of Maharaj in terms of section 28 of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act.  Evidence gathered in camera is sacrosanct, and it is illegal to possess or publish the contents of such an interview.  The Mail & Guardian’s self imposed censorship, under threat of criminal prosecution, would suggest they knew this. Government, and indeed Maharaj, appeared gleeful that they can slip under the protection of the NPA Act… a statute that even Maharaj has deemed unconstitutional!

The South African media has been quick to condemn this latest onslaught against the Mail & Guardian.  The press corps is particularly sensitive about the promulgation of a new Secrecy Bill, which will gag press transparency.  The media have been pushing for a waiver of certain sections of the Secrecy Bill where information might be exposed which would be vitally in the public interest to do so.  Government have no intention of brooking such loopholes, spreading the fear that press freedom will likely be suppressed as a result, a sure sign that the political elite are hedging against their past and future corruption or incompetence.

Coming back to Zimbabwe, the conflict between press exposé and an autocratic regime has been long standing, if not outrageously obvious.  Clearly, old habits die hard.  The more recent transgression against freedom involved a weekly newspaper, The Standard.  They had the apparent audacity to publish an article concerning the likely demise of a floundering, but allegedly partisan or ‘connected’ medical aid society.  No sooner had the piece been published, in rushed the ‘storm troopers’ to secure evidence and arrest those who dared to expose the truth.  Unlike the South African breaking issue, there was no subtlety in Zimbabwe’s purge. Two journalists suffered the indignity of detention in filthy police cells for their efforts.

This is not new in Zimbabwe.  The nation is on record for being one of the worst places in the world, at one stage, for journalists to practice their craft.  There are many reported incidences of journalists suffered brutal torture at the hands of the regime, previously in full power.  At least 15 journalists have been victims of arrest, attack and intimidation during the last six months alone according to the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ).   The dominant party, which has ruled with iron fist over the last three decades, has wilfully suppressed the private press and nurtured its own puppet mouthpieces to generate its vitriol and garbage to the party faithful.  An echo of Hitler’s offering that ‘the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one’ would be apt.
 
The two initiatives smack of politically inspired press muzzling to protect the backs of those who have evidently transgressed the law or suffered bouts of incompetence.  This must, however, raise the motion that press ethics are being breached in their illicit solicitation of material, be this for the noble cause of creating transparency or simply to expose filth and corruption.  The conundrum here is which of the two evils is better: suppression of information exposing the truth about corrupt public officials and politicians; or the unethical collection, thievery or bribery by the media to tap such sensitive information?

The public has a right to know when those they have elected fall down the slippery slopes of turpitude or fail in their duties.  Does this, however, allow the press to breach the law, or indeed their ethics, to achieve an otherwise estimable purpose?  It would seem that while it is abundantly clear that the public need to know of, and the press has a duty to expose corruption and incompetence, at the highest levels, this should not be tolerated if they have blood on their hands.   That would be tantamount to lowering themselves to levels of illicit activity conducted by state intelligence collection agencies, which we are so quick to condemn.


Censorship: Transparency versus Ethics

Last week a controversy exploded in the South African media concerning the alleged muzzling of the press by a high flying politician with an apparently shady background involving arms deals corruption.  In Zimbabwe, a partisan police force invaded the offices of a local weekly newspaper looking for evidence which might incriminate journalists who wrote a piece about an apparently failed medical aid society that has political connections.

The Mail and Guardian splashed a white on black headline which simply read “CENSORED” across an entire page of one of its editions, but the story goes a little deep than pure censorship.  The paper was about to break a story concerning a presidential spokesman, Mac Maharaj, and his involvement in the notoriously corrupt South Africa arms deal.  Allegations have been made that Maharaj had received funds from French arms dealer, Thomson-CSF.  

The information leading to the intended exposure had been sourced from documents pertaining to an ‘in camera’ interview of Maharaj in terms of section 28 of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act.  Evidence gathered in camera is sacrosanct, and it is illegal to possess or publish the contents of such an interview.  The Mail & Guardian’s self imposed censorship, under threat of criminal prosecution, would suggest they knew this. Government, and indeed Maharaj, appeared gleeful that they can slip under the protection of the NPA Act… a statute that even Maharaj has deemed unconstitutional!

The South African media has been quick to condemn this latest onslaught against the Mail & Guardian.  The press corps is particularly sensitive about the promulgation of a new Secrecy Bill, which will gag press transparency.  The media have been pushing for a waiver of certain sections of the Secrecy Bill where information might be exposed which would be vitally in the public interest to do so.  Government have no intention of brooking such loopholes, spreading the fear that press freedom will likely be suppressed as a result, a sure sign that the political elite are hedging against their past and future corruption or incompetence.

Coming back to Zimbabwe, the conflict between press exposé and an autocratic regime has been long standing, if not outrageously obvious.  Clearly, old habits die hard.  The more recent transgression against freedom involved a weekly newspaper, The Standard.  They had the apparent audacity to publish an article concerning the likely demise of a floundering, but allegedly partisan or ‘connected’ medical aid society.  No sooner had the piece been published, in rushed the ‘storm troopers’ to secure evidence and arrest those who dared to expose the truth.  Unlike the South African breaking issue, there was no subtlety in Zimbabwe’s purge. Two journalists suffered the indignity of detention in filthy police cells for their efforts.

This is not new in Zimbabwe.  The nation is on record for being one of the worst places in the world, at one stage, for journalists to practice their craft.  There are many reported incidences of journalists suffered brutal torture at the hands of the regime, previously in full power.  At least 15 journalists have been victims of arrest, attack and intimidation during the last six months alone according to the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ).   The dominant party, which has ruled with iron fist over the last three decades, has wilfully suppressed the private press and nurtured its own puppet mouthpieces to generate its vitriol and garbage to the party faithful.  An echo of Hitler’s offering that ‘the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one’ would be apt.
 
The two initiatives smack of politically inspired press muzzling to protect the backs of those who have evidently transgressed the law or suffered bouts of incompetence.  This must, however, raise the motion that press ethics are being breached in their illicit solicitation of material, be this for the noble cause of creating transparency or simply to expose filth and corruption.  The conundrum here is which of the two evils is better: suppression of information exposing the truth about corrupt public officials and politicians; or the unethical collection, thievery or bribery by the media to tap such sensitive information?

The public has a right to know when those they have elected fall down the slippery slopes of turpitude or fail in their duties.  Does this, however, allow the press to breach the law, or indeed their ethics, to achieve an otherwise estimable purpose?  It would seem that while it is abundantly clear that the public need to know of, and the press has a duty to expose corruption and incompetence, at the highest levels, this should not be tolerated if they have blood on their hands.   That would be tantamount to lowering themselves to levels of illicit activity conducted by state intelligence collection agencies, which we are so quick to condemn.