The following letter to Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu was on Motorcycling Australia letterhead. It has been sent to media. It is published here with permission from the Manager of the Riders' Division, Rob Smith. It is supported by the major rider representative groups in Victoria.
The letter protests the Transport Accident Commission's anti-motorcycle campaigns and calls for the legislation that set up the TAC to be reviewed and changed so that TAC bureaucrats won't be allowed to discriminate against motorcycle & scooter riders again and our money can be spent on road safety initiatives that actually work.
TAC sponsoring ambulances instead of TV shows like "Bikie Wars" or reducing premiums for safe drivers and riders would be a good start. Real research and better rehab facilities and methods would help.
TAC should get out of showbiz.
If you support the MA Letter please email the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu MP and Daniel Andrews MP and let them know.
Damien Codognotto OAM
Independent Riders' Group
Tel: 03 9846 8621
Office of the Premier
1 Treasury Place
Dear Premier Baillieu
TAC ‘Reconstruction’ campaign
Sir, as you are doubtless aware, in recent weeks the TAC has been running an advertisement aimed at motorcycle riders. This ad has caused considerable angst amongst riders as it represents the most offensive in a long line of ads that contain arguably disingenuous representations of facts and figures; as well as inaccurate, prejudicial and dangerous stereotypes. Coupled with an institutionalised disregard for consultation between TAC, rider representatives and riding safety experts, the recent ad ‘reconstruction’ has led to a total loss of faith by riders in the integrity of the TAC and by association, Victoria Police. Any future campaigns will be tainted by this ad for years to come. Whatever good will there may have been, has now been lost and will take years to rebuild.
How are the ads disingenuous?
In the first instance, despite assertions that the ads to date are aimed at riders with a view to changing behaviour, it would appear that the real aim is to terrify and dissuade prospective riders through the graphic and insensitive presentation of the horror associated with being a vulnerable road user. If the aim was truly to improve rider safety, then there would be an even handed approach to the campaigns that deals not just with the usual dogma of speed and irresponsible riding on the part of riders, but also the impact on riders’ safety by bad driving. The ‘Put yourself in their shoes’ campaign showed that the TAC are in fact capable of such things, but it would appear that the long term vision carried a different agenda.
Over the past two years we have seen a succession of ads following the now tired but traditional format of shock, shock and more gore accompanied by gut wrenching sound effects. We have been shown images of riders with injuries that are not representative of the injuries normally sustained in crashes, we have been shown crashes that verge on the laughably implausible and we have been subjected to selective use of statistics coupled with some very dubious pseudo-science. Some of the statistics have even been described in the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into motorcycle safety by renowned research organisations as ‘disingenuous’.
To make matters worse, the TAC actively seeks to promote the abdication of responsibility for drivers when it comes to being responsible for riders’ safety. Examples are readily available and one particularly ugly example can be found in the recent campaign that stabbed a finger in the chest of riders with the catch phrase "It's up to you to reduce the risks." No hint of ambiguity about drivers sharing responsibility in risk reduction there. I am sure you will agree that road safety is the shared responsibility of all road users and for any road safety organisation, and for the TAC to promote such a one sided and prejudicial philosophy is contrary to the greater good.
TV ads and billboards are obvious to all, but the loudly denied prejudice permeates throughout the TAC’s many forms of media. Following a similar vein and perhaps more insidiously, the following example can be found on the TAC Spokes website
Road Safety Links
About the crash scenario
In this crash scenario, was the driver at fault?
A driver facing a stop sign control under the Road Rules must give way to all vehicles travelling along or turning from the intersecting carriageway. However there is a case law that states, "You cannot give way to something you cannot see”. In this ad scenario, the driver looked but the motorcyclist was out of the field of view of the driver because of his 68km/h travel speed.
If a vehicle is found to have been speeding in this circumstance, fault is attributed more to the speeding vehicle rather than the vehicle facing the stop or give way sign.
Discounting the irony of a ‘no fault’ organisation delving into the realms of blame and the suspect claim regarding field of view, the motorcycle rider shown in the ‘Reconstruction’ ad is speeding by 8Kph, an offence that carries a demerit point total of one. According to the Road Regulations, the total demerit points that could be issued to the car driver disobeying the Stop sign and failing to give way is three.
Despite the fact that the law clearly regards one act as being more heinous than the other and penalises accordingly, the TAC through the inclusion of the case law example implies that somehow the act of failing to give way is less irresponsible - and indeed tacitly forgivable, than exceeding the speed limit by a small amount. In order to support its position they then cite the case law in order to provide the driver with the following ‘get out of jail free’ card of ‘You cannot give way to something you cannot see”. Handy in this case when you are the driver and not the rider - and equally as handy when the rider is not speeding at all and through inattention a driver pulls into the path of a rider and kills him or her.
The case in question is Moulton v Williams and Moulton v Baxter
and concerns a collision that occurred in 1967 at a residential intersection in Geelong at night. In this case, two vehicles pulled into the path of a Police car from two separate carriageways in the same road. As vehicle A blocked the view of vehicle B by being alongside and the view of the Police car was obscured by an iron fence until the last moment, the circumstances were relatively unique. Following advice from legal sources it is now known that since that time, the case law has never been used as a precedent.
This absolution of drivers is an insult to all those who have lost loved ones through the negligence of a driver and is a gross irresponsibility that should not be tolerated from a government sanctioned organisation allegedly seeking to improve road safety through the promotion of shared responsibility.
How do these ads vilify and marginalise riders?
Vilify – from the Latin “to hold cheap”
No person should be held lower in estimation or importance for race, colour, religion or gender. Nor should they be vilified for their choice of transport. Yet it would seem that if the cause is road safety, then those championing that cause are able to dispense with decency and integrity and become as discriminatory as they see fit. One only has to compare the ads produced showing other road users groups to those depicting riders, in order to see that there is an unrelenting theme throughout the TAC ads dealing with motorcyclists that presents a consistently negative stereotype.
Is it any wonder that the TAC ads fail so miserably at street level, despite the carefully engineered attempts at self-validation through the use of cleverly constructed questionnaires and focus groups? Is it any wonder that riders feel so marginalised and oppressed on all sides when they are misrepresented so consistently by the people who should be striving to bring them into the road safety fold by encouraging tolerance and responsibility?
The result of these campaigns is that drivers now behave far more aggressively towards riders than they have ever before. Anecdotally more riders report acts of aggression on a daily basis from drivers who deliberately swerve at them, cut them off, tailgate and abuse them than ever before. Many riders feel that rather than making their lives safer, the TAC has made the legitimate use of a motorcycle on Victoria’s roads more dangerous and consequently the TAC and those involved in this propaganda have blood on their hands.
Why is this so?
Through the use of negative stereotyping by presenting motorcyclists as universally irresponsible and in all likelihood to be speeding at all times, the TAC is guilty of cultivating prejudice on the part of jurors in appeals and of decision makers generally, when it comes to receiving a fair hearing to determine fault or compensation. This is unacceptable and goes beyond the remit of the TAC act.
It is true to say that the TAC is seen by motorcyclists as completely unaccountable and that the organisation has a government sanctioned mandate to ride roughshod over any road user group, so long as the banner of road safety is waved vigorously enough. No organisation should be unaccountable to the public it serves and while there is always the option of reporting complaints to the Advertising Standards Board, the process is seen as long and unwieldy by the general public. Yet this is the path that must be taken. It is the feeling of riders throughout Australia and of the parties shown below that we can no longer stand silent in the face of the iniquity that emerges when public servants start to feel that the public is there to serve them.
We have therefore lodged a complaint against the TAC to the Advertising Standards Board. In addition a copy of this letter has been sent to the Victorian Premier.
Further, we the undersigned call upon the TAC to:
• Discontinue and permanently remove the current ‘Reconstruction advertisement and associated material.
• Discontinue the current one dimensional ‘Shock and Gore’ approach to road safety campaigns.
In addition we call upon the Victorian Government to:
• To initiate a Parliamentary Inquiry to review the scope and administration of the Transport Accident Act 1986.
• As part of the inquiry, also examine the equity of compensation paid to motorcyclists compared to drivers involved in identical cases.
• Establish regulations that govern the content and ethics of Road Safety campaigns in order to prevent misrepresentation or vilification of any road user group.
• Instruct the TAC to consult in a meaningful and constructive way with rider representative groups on the creation and content of future motorcycle safety campaigns.
• Establish an independent TAC watchdog committee comprising ministerially appointed representatives from all road user groups.
Manager – Australian Riders’ Division - (VMAG member)
This letter has been endorsed by:
· Peter Baulch – Chairman Victorian Motorcycle Council
· Damien Codognotto OAM – President, Independent Rider Group
· Grant Delahoy - 2012 President of the MRA(Vic)
· Tony Ellis - Victorian representative on the Ulysses Road Safety Committee (VMAG member)