Malcolm Flynn | Nov 20, 2012

Visible highway patrols are more effective in reducing the road toll than speed cameras, according to a recent NRMA motorist survey.

The survey highlighted mobile phone use (77 percent) and drink driving (75 percent) as the two greatest concerns for motorists surveyed - both of which can only be policed by patrolling officers.

NSW’s peak motoring body surveyed over 1700 motorists, 69 percent of which nominated visible police patrols as the most effective approach to tackling bad driver behaviour.

Just 10 percent nominated fixed, mobile, red-light, or safety cameras as the best option.

Similarly, 66 percent of motorists surveyed nominated on-the-spot fines or warnings as having the greatest influence on their driving behaviour, compared with 13 percent suggesting the same for cameras.

These results are in accordance with the NRMA’s push for a greater police presence on NSW roads.

"Our Members consistently tell us, and the evidence consistently shows, that having more clearly marked, visible highway patrols on the roads at all times saves lives", NRMA President Wendy Machin said.

The survey also suggested that a visible police presence encourages 83 percent of motorists to slow down, while 60 percent are more conscious of using their mobile phone, and 73 percent are more conscious of their driving behaviour.

"While fixed, mobile and red light/speed cameras have a role to play in keeping the roads safe it is clear that the community wants more police on our roads and we urge the NSW Government continue with an aggressive recruitment of more officers and more cars", Machin added.

Some 50 new highway patrol cars have been added to the NSW fleet since 2011 (bringing the total to 520) and a corresponding 100 new highway patrol officers to be recruited by the end of the year, but the NRMA is seeking more.

The report cites a recent Queensland trial of expanded police patrolling that resulted in a 15 percent reduction of fatal crashes.

If such patrolling could be replicated across NSW, the NRMA estimates that 55 lives and $180 million economic cost could be saved annually, while police response times could be cut by two-thirds.

The survey and report, High Visibility Policing, can be viewed here: http://www.mynrma.com.au/assets/About-PDF/High-Visibility-Policing-and-its-Impact-on-Driver-Behaviour.pdf (link opens in new window).