CR 214: Survey on Speeding and Enforcement (2003)


This report provides the results of a survey of Australian residents on a range of issues relating to driving speeds, speed infringements, perceived and preferred speed enforcement tolerances, and attitudes towards speed enforcement measures. Findings from the survey were derived from telephone interviews conducted during May 2002 with a sample of 2,543 people aged 15 years and over residing in the mainland States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia. A summary of the main findings from the survey is provided below. More detailed results are provided in the main body of this report. Further information can be obtained from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

1.1. Main Findings

  • While most people say they normally drive within the speed limit, six in ten indicate that they sometimes drive at higher speeds.
  • Many admit to exceeding posted limits by 10 km/hr or more, in both urban 60 km/hr zones (33% of drivers) and rural 100 km/hr zones (46% of drivers).
  • On average, one in five drivers has been booked for speeding in the past two years, though this varies between States: from a low in NSW (12%), to a high in Western Australia (30%).
  • Three-quarters of the community assumes that speed limits are enforced with some degree of tolerance.
  • Half the community believes the enforcement tolerance in 60 km/hr urban speed zones is at least 5 km/hr; and four in ten think the tolerance in 100 km/hr rural zones is at least 10 km/hr.
  • NSW residents are more likely than others to assume the tolerance is 10 km/hr or more, in both 60 km/hr zones (20%, compared with 9% from other States) and 100 km/hr zones (45%, compared with 35% from other States).
  • Victorian residents tend to nominate lower permissible speeds than people who live elsewhere; many believe the enforcement tolerance is set at 3 km/hr, particularly in urban 60 km/hr zones.
  • A majority of people in all jurisdictions think that speed limits should be enforced with a tolerance of 5 km/hr or less; substantial minorities favour a zero tolerance approach, in both urban (29%) and rural (24%) speed zones.
  • The community generally believes that enforcement intensities should either stay the same or increase; there is little support for any reduction in current enforcement levels, including the number of speed cameras and the severity of penalties.
  • There is a strong view in the community that speed is given too much emphasis in television commercials for new cars.

1.2. Driving speeds

When people were asked to compare their driving speed with that of other drivers, most said they normally drive at average (40%) or below average (38%) speeds. However, the response to this question was strongly age-related. Almost 40% of 20 to 24 year-olds claimed to drive faster than average, a proportion that steadily declined with increasing age.

A majority of drivers said they commonly drive at or below the speed limit in both 60km/hr urban and 100km/hr rural zones. Just over half (54%) said they normally drive at the speed limit in a 60km/hr urban zone, and a further 28% said they drive below the limit. Similar proportions said they commonly drive at (45%) or below (25%) the limit in 100km/hr rural zones.

However, when asked about their highest speeds, six in ten drivers indicated that they sometimes drive above the limit. A third (33%) admitted to driving ten km/hr or more above the 60km/hr urban limit and almost one in two (46%) admitted to speeds of 10 km/hr or more above the 100km/hr rural limit.

Speeds at the higher end of the range were more likely to be reported by males, drivers under 40 years of age, and (for 60 km/hr zones) people who live in major urban centres.

1.3. Factors influencing speed choice

Most licensed drivers agreed that the possibility of being fined (83%) or the possibility of losing demerit points (75%) are important factors in speed selection. At the same time, most people (80%) agreed that driving safely for the conditions is more important than staying under the speed limit.

Less than a third (31%) of people agreed with the proposition that keeping up with traffic is more important than driving within the speed limit, however males (41%) were much more likely than females (22%) to hold this view. Support for this statement was also more prevalent among people who had recently been booked for speeding, particularly those booked in the previous six months (48%).

1.4. Drivers booked for speeding

Overall, close to two in ten drivers (19%) said they had been booked for speeding in the last two years. A further 2% said they had been cautioned in that period.

Two-thirds (67%) of those who had been booked said they were detected by speed camera and almost a third (30%) by a mobile patrol vehicle (police car or motorcycle). This was consistent across all States except for Queensland, where half (51%) said they were booked by speed camera and 43% by mobile patrol.

Licence holders who had been booked for speeding were typically males in their early 20s. Almost three in ten 20 to 24 year olds reported being booked or cautioned for speeding. There was a clear linear decline in the likelihood of being booked after the age of 24, culminating in less than one in ten being booked after the age of 59 (9%).

Males (26%) were almost twice as likely as females (15%) to have been booked or cautioned for speeding in the previous two years. This gender relationship was consistent across age groups and place of residence. The research also showed that those who drive every day were twice as likely as those who drive less often to have been booked or cautioned.

Drivers in major urban centres were more likely to say they had been booked for speeding than were licensed drivers in smaller locations (20% versus 15%). This difference was evident in all States except Queensland where community members were equally likely to say they had been booked regardless of the size of the centre in which they resided.

Western Australians were significantly more likely than drivers in the other four States to report that they had been booked in the last two years. Some 30% of Western Australian drivers had been booked, compared with an average of 21% from Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. The least likely to have been booked were drivers from New South Wales, with a frequency of only 12%.

While drivers who had been booked for speeding generally admitted a tendency to drive faster than the average, they did not show a significantly different perception of speeds generally permitted over the posted limit, when compared to those who had not been booked.

1.5. Speed enforcement tolerances

Most people believe that speed limits are enforced with some degree of tolerance in both urban 60 km/hr and rural 100 km/hr zones.

For 60km/hr urban areas, just 17% of drivers thought that no tolerance was generally allowed. Half of all drivers assumed that at least 65 km/hr would be permitted, including 13% who believed that they generally would not be booked at 70 km/hr.

Even greater tolerance was assumed in 100 km/hr rural zones. Two in three drivers (65%) said that at least five km/hr over the posted limit would generally be tolerated by police, and almost four in ten drivers (39%) believed that speeds of 110 km/hr or more would be permitted.

On average, one in four drivers (25%) under the age of 60 years believed it was allowable to drive above 65 km/hr in a 60 km/hr urban zone without being booked. This declined to 14% of community members who were 60 years or over.

Similarly, 38% of those aged 15 to 59 years considered it permissible to drive at 110km/hr or more in a 100km/hr rural zone, compared with 28% of older people.

Residents of NSW were more likely than people living elsewhere to nominate tolerances of 10 km/hr or more, both in urban speed zones (20%, compared with 9% from the other States) and in rural zones (45%, compared with 35%).

On the other hand, perceived tolerances tended to be considerably lower than average among Victorian residents. Two-thirds (67%) of Victorians said the maximum allowed speed in 60 km/hr urban zones was less than 65 km/hr, compared with 33% of people across the other four States; and 60% of Victorians thought the maximum speed allowed in 100 km/hr rural areas was 105 km/hr or lower, compared with 42% of non-Victorians.

These differences were most likely influenced by a highly publicised announcement in Victoria (in March 2002) that speed camera tolerances were being reduced to 3 km/hr: 35% of Victorians specified a maximum permitted speed of 63 km/hr in urban zones, and 19% nominated 103 km/hr in rural zones.

When asked how much leeway should be given before drivers are booked for speeding, a majority of people nominated tolerances of 5 km/hr or less for both 60 km/hr urban zones (78%) and 100 km/hr rural zones (53%). In both situations, a substantial proportion of people advocated a zero tolerance approach (29% and 24% respectively).

1.6. Attitudes towards speed enforcement

Overall, 40% of the community supported an increase in the number of speed cameras, 42% supported an increase in speed limit enforcement and 23% supported an increase in the severity of speeding penalties. Relatively few people favoured a reduction in any of these items.

Residents from NSW were more supportive of increases in speed cameras (48%), speed limit enforcement (46%) and penalties (27%) than were residents from the other four States. People from South Australia and Western Australia were least likely to support increases in speed cameras (26% and 31% respectively) and speed limit enforcement (31% and 38%). This finding is perhaps not surprising for Western Australian residents, given that they were much more likely to have been booked for speeding than drivers elsewhere (30% versus the national average of 19%).

1.7. Attitudes towards speed in car commercials

A clear majority of people (56%) agreed that there is too much of a focus on speed in television commercials for new cars. Community support for this view was unusually emphatic, with 41% of people indicating that they agreed strongly with the proposition. By contrast, only 17% of respondents said they disagreed strongly.

This pattern of response was consistent across States and types of location, but did vary somewhat by sex and age. The belief that speed is over-emphasised was more prevalent among females (61%, compared with 51% of males) and people aged 40 years or over (69%, compared with 43% of younger people).

Type: Research and Analysis Report

Sub Type: Consultant Report

Author(s): Mitchell-Taverner P, Zipparo L

ISBN: 0 642 25511 3

ISSN: 1445-4467

Topics: Comm attitudes, Enforcement, Speed

Publication Date: 01/01/03