Tag Archive | "speed limit"

Is It Time To Sort Out Speed Once And For All?


The Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, one Stephen Bett, recently said in an interview that experienced drivers should be allowed to travel as fast as they want to. He went on to say he would, “abolish speed limits on motorways and other major roads” and, “take down all the signs and say all villages are 30mph and you drive on roads like they do in Germany and Italy, as road conditions say (sic). We ought to drive to road conditions rather than set limits.” Why, thanks, Stephen.

Later, when his world inevitably came crashing down around him, he back-peddled faster than Sir Bradley Wiggins on maximum re-wind and said his comments were ‘tongue-in-cheek’ and a tad flippant. Later he fully retracted – thus saving his career – and said, “I fully acknowledge that speed is regarded as a contributory factor in determining the outcome of collisions.”

Therein lies the whole problem. On the one hand we have the school of thought that we should increase the speed limits on motorways, and on the other we are told that speed is largely responsible for accidents. This is not always so: it is inappropriate speed that may cause accidents coupled with people’s inability to drive properly for the prevailing conditions.

The male 18 to 25 age group are, and always have been, on the receiving end of the big statistic numbers when it comes to accidents and fatalities. This is the gung-ho nature of youth. Clearly there is a need for greater driving education because the driving test is just that. Only experience improves driving standards.

In a sense, Mr Bett was not entirely wrong. He may have been trying to suggest an idea and it simply came out the wrong way. Most people, if left to their own devices, can drive perfectly safely and do not need to be perpetually nannied or bossed about. What complicates the issue is that young drivers lack experience and older drivers become lazy. The modern cars we all drive are safer than the automobile has ever been but they can’t protect us against our own complacency.

The faster a car is going the less time the driver has to react. The dangers of speed are directly related to the prevailing conditions. If it is raining then stopping distances increase, for example. Knowledge of how a vehicle works, coupled with an awareness of surroundings and an ability not to be distracted by all the features of the car are key. Speed cannot be blamed because some idiot is texting.

The solution can never be simple but it needs to be found. We must control speed in built up areas and villages – that’s a given – but there is nothing wrong with an 80mph speed on, say, a dry lightly used motorway but when conditions change so should the driver’s response.

This is probably what Mr Bett was getting at. Greater emphasis needs to be put on education. Young drivers should have a probationary period in low-powered cars and so on. Older drivers need to buck their ideas up and pay attention. What we don’t need is more signs and increased regulation. Views are conflicting and as confused as ever. Time to sort it out.

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