Goodbye Messrs Common Sense and Freedom

20 03 2009

LAST week (Tuesday 10 March, 2009), there was one piece of news that has got me in a bit of a paddy.

It was this: Labour have plans to lower the speed limit on rural roads and enforce this with average speed cameras.

The story has been reported in various places. A quick search throws up The Times, The Daily Telegraph and PistonHeads. The Times and PistonHeads in particular seem confidently against Labour’s plan.

Freedom

By freedom I don’t mean, “don’t set up speed cameras so we can all drive really fast.” No, I simply mean ‘freedom.’

I just want to be able to drive without the feeling of a series of speed cameras tracking my progress. I want to have the freedom to drive at a speed suitable for the road. Yes, I am under 21, yes, I only passed in February 2008, yes, my home is in a village in the countryside, so yes, the statistics suggest I should be dead, but one of the very reasons I love driving is the freedom of it. So, Government, I’d appreciate it if you could trust me enough to have a pleasant drive in the country.

Common sense

Now, I fully realise that there are accidents on rural roads, the majority of which are serious, and a considerable proportion are fatal. I am not ignoring that fact. However, lowering the speed limit from 60 to 50 seems to be denying people of their common sense.

Near to where I live there are some very tight corners. The speed limit is 60mph. However, I take these corners at around 20-30mph. Why? Because I look at the road and think, “I need to slow down here.” So that’s what I do.

Just because the speed limit is 60 doesn’t mean that’s the speed that everyone travels at. Yes, there are some (/too many) cretinous morons who will just drive as fast as they can, regardless of their skill, experience and judgment, and yes, there are some unbelievably dim, brainless and thickheaded simpletons who will drive at a constant speed, for the whole duration of a drive, regardless of all factors on the road, but there are those of us out there who know when to slow down (and will a 50mph limit really stop the aforementioned idiots from being dangerous? I am doubtful).

I’m not saying I have the judgment of a driving master because I certainly don’t! I make mistakes, we all do, it’s part of the learning process. What I am saying is that many drivers have enough judgment to be able to tell what speed is suitable for the road and the relative conditions.

Just remember this: speed alone doesn’t kill. It’s driving too fast for the conditions and one’s own skill that leads to accidents (yes, accidents – people generally don’t crash on purpose).

It’s also worth remembering that accidents are just that – accidents. Nobody intended to do anything wrong. So…

What to do

If the Government is genuinely concerned about the figures of accidents, and don’t see this is as a wonderful new way to increase their funds, then I have some suggestions.

How about better driver education? The test alone could be made more stringent – in fact, even though I got four minors, so not the perfect drive, I don’t think it was hard enough with hindsight. I am sure plenty of accidents, and the risks of accidents, could be reduced with better education.

As The Times Online reports:

“Robert Gifford, director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: ‘Drivers are still killing themselves despite driving at less than 50mph. Lowering the speed limit on its own is not going to save many lives.

‘We need engineering measures to help drivers read the road better. There is also a risk that drivers will not realise that the limit has changed because there are no new signs.'”

I think it is best to end on this note, as written on PistonHeads:

“’This is nothing to do with road safety,’ says the ABD’s [Association of British Drivers] Nigel Humphries. ‘Anyone can see that hazards vary along rural roads, and so speeds must vary with them. A blanket 50 mph speed limit does not recognise that roads vary enormously in character and that a limit as low as 50 is totally unnecessary on many rural roads.’”

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