Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Police road vigilance kills NZ teenager

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This is an interesting story from the NZ Herald. A 17yo teenager, Fenn McCoach, want killed driving to school on NZ roads – distracted as he collided with a truck. The question is – what caused the distraction. There is no question in my mind that the driver was distracted by a police patrol car. This is the 'psychological war' upon speeding drivers. Not just speeding drivers, but drivers who drive near the speed limit and react instinctively when they are over or close to it. The police presence on the road is regarded as the reason why people don’t speed. I have a different perspective…that the punitive policy of fining speedsters causes anyone who drives close to the speed limit, who has ever received a speeding fine, to jump or ‘react’ when they see a road (police) patrol car, and then to become paranoid about whether they got caught or not. This results in them incessantly looking in their rear-view mirror to see if the police are following. In the meantime there car is careering over the double-lines into oncoming traffic.

The problem is two-fold:
1. Police rely on fear (of fines) – which is not a desirable response in a speeding car
2. Drivers are vague about the technology which police use, and they have imperfect knowledge about whether they have been fined.
So how ought police to respond to speeding. Well, they ought to trust in the judgement of the driver, and to adopt an education program which actually empowers people. Our entire education system is fear-punitive based, and this causes people to be defiant in their personal lives. It’s a sad reality than ‘boring responsible parents’ have simply lost the courage and conviction to fight against these silly punitive laws, which is destined to destroy their effectiveness as thinkers (in their broader social activities), as parents, and as moral agents in the community. The punitive, fear policies of our schools, parents and government are keeping us in a mini-Dark Ages. We want our kids to behave, but our societal strategy for achieving this end is counter-productive.
The risks do not end with the vigilance of police; it continues long after. I recall getting a speeding fine on a country drive. I was driving in freeway conditions, and I was driving up a 20deg inclination, 15kmph over the limit. I received a fine. It did not occur to me the reasons at the time. I was a little intimidated by the police officer because he is an authority figure. The cost of court is excessive, and no one expects justice from our system. We have all seen evidence of its failures. Justice dies when 'justice is not seen to have been done'.
For the next 500km of driving I was distracted by persistent anxiety about the unfairness of the system. That response lives with me today because I still think its wrong, and yet I am powerless to do anything about it. For that 500kms I was at risk of an accident because of an supposedly 'police' intervention which was intended to protect me. I am confident that I am going to die 5 years earlier not because of speed because I am a thinking person, with good judgement. I think I am going to die of heart failure or cancer because of the incessant anxieties that arbitrary statutory (legislative) law is placing me under. NZ is moving in the same direction as Australia. The expansion of statutory law is turning NZ into a police state. This means more discretionary power to police because arbitrary law only creates loopholes. That means greater misuse and distrust of the law. I think you can draw a parallel between refereeing a football game and government. When you have a referee intervening in the game, as a player, you just lose respect for the referee and interest in the game. The legislature in Western democracies is bringing about not only the death of teenagers, but the destruction of people's minds. The legislature is the 'fundamental problem'; as it is the basis of our centralised decision-making. All systems and even values tend to be shaped by it. Sadly this is the case because government destroys critical thinking skills through its control of public education. Religious institutional control of private education mean you have a very unsavoury choice for educating your kids.
Andrew Sheldon

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