New South Wales and Victoria police have hit back at claims by Mazda Australia boss Martin Benders that the focus on speeding has created a nation of distracted drivers.
Speaking at a press event in Japan this week Benders said he believes Australian drivers have become too focused on not speeding at the detriment of driving standards.
Benders, who spent six years working in Mazda’s operations in Japan and Europe, believes that the Australian law enforcement’s decision to focus so heavily on low-level speeding has contributed to a significant drop in driving standards.
“I have to say, having been away six years, I’m amazed how bad the driving has gotten in Australia in terms of a focus on not going 1km/h over – it’s just shocking,” Benders said at a press conference in Japan. “And yet we’ve got the police standing up saying ‘we can’t have distracted drivers’ – we’ve got nothing but distracted drivers. They are so focused on whether they are 1km/h out on the speed limit or not, it’s shocking. It is a real problem in Australia.”
Masashi Otskua, project leader on the CX-5 and CX-9 SUVs, said he was surprised by the strict nature of Australian police about speeding during his fact-finding visits here.
“Before I went to Australia I thought Australians would be very tolerant,” Otsuka said. “That was not the case.”
But police in both NSW and Victoria are adamant that their focus on speeding is necessary to cut the road toll.
“Speed is a major killer on our roads,” Victorian Roads Policing Superintendent Neville Taylor told Fairfax Media.
“Research shows that you are more likely to collide with another car, hit a pedestrian or run off the road if you exceed the speed limit.
“This is why maximum speed limits exist and police will be enforcing them. If you are travelling above the posted speed limit, you can expect to be stopped by police.
“You may not think that a few kilometres extra will make a big difference but research shows that it does. We are trying to change the culture and make all speeding socially unacceptable, the way we did with drink driving and not wearing seatbelts.”
New South Wales police directed Fairfax to recent road safety data from Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics that showed a 25 per cent drop in road deaths between 2004 and 2013.