Police and the Victorian Government have restated their position this week in response to a report by the state’s Road Safety Camera Commissioner, Gordon Lewis, which suggests that tailgating could be more effectively curbed by adding camera technology to current education and enforcement strategies.
“I'm a strong believer in further driver education in road safety matters, but I also acknowledge that enforcement complements education in the long run,” Lewis told CarAdvice this week.
There would also be no prohibitively expensive investment required to institute tailgating detection. “The specialist engineers I've discussed the idea with agree that the [existing] cameras systems are adaptable and the changes would not constitute a prohibitive cost,” Lewis said.
He added that any move to introduce tailgating detection would also require a change to road rules, which currently only require drivers of light vehicles (passenger and light commercial) to maintain “a sufficient distance behind a vehicle travelling in front of the driver so the driver can, if necessary, stop safely to avoid a collision with the vehicle”.
Victoria Police remains insistent, however, that “automated enforcement” by camera systems is not sufficiently advanced to be made a priority.
A study into the idea, carried out in 2013 by Victoria Police, VicRoads, and the Department of Justice and Regulation, found that tailgating detection technology “was not the most effective tool to change driver behaviour”.
“It recommended more focus be placed on educating drivers to safely share the road, and to communicate the dangers of following too closely to the public,” a Victoria Police spokesperson told CarAdvice.
To that end, VicRoads launched its Travel Happy website earlier this year, designed to offer a fun and easy means for road users to better educate themselves. (A quick poll of the CarAdvice office, however, revealed that none had heard of the website, suggesting that more could be done to get Travel Happy in front of road users.)
The Victorian Government is unlikely to take a different view, with a spokesperson for roads minister Luke Donnellan telling CarAdvice this week that government takes ”the advice of Victoria Police in these matters, and this option is not something that has been raised with us”.
“Police advise they do not believe road safety cameras are an effective way to reduce tailgating,” the spokesperson added.
Tailgating penalties issued in Victoria totalled 3024 in the 2014-2015 financial year - up from 2884 in the period before.
Lewis concedes that number is “insignificant” when compared to penalties issued for other types of road offences - over 7500 Victorian motorists were caught speeding in the 22 days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Eve in 2015 - but he said that, based on general experience, “it is fair to say these figures represent the tip of the iceberg”.
LINK: A video on YouTube shows a Victoria Police patrol vehicle tailgating a regular road user, closer and for longer than should be needed to view the vehicle’s number plate. “The police car had actually been tailgating this car for a while before I decided to record this on my phone,” the Youtube user notes. (Link opens in new window.)