Tag Archive | "speeding"

Driving Between The Lines

It seems hard to understand but new research seems to show that removing the white lines down the middle of the road actually reduces speeding.

These findings have come out of government work to reassess road markings and street furniture generally because, they believe, drivers are being confused by the plethora of signage out there. For now, this page will ignore the issue that they clearly think that most of us are as thick as two short planks and look at what they are up to.

Transport for London – for it is they who are doing this work – believe that by removing central white lines that separate two lanes of opposing traffic will result in a significant decrease in the speed of vehicles. They are suggesting that rubbing out lines will ‘introduce an element of uncertainty into the minds of motorists’, thus causing us to slow down. It’s like some sort of reverse Pavlovian exercise.

They’ve tried it on three roads in London. At all three test sites it was shown that traffic slowed down. The biggest decrease on the Seven sisters Road was by just over four miles per hour.

Their psychology appears to suggest that we motorists think that white lines, hatching and the like, provide some sort of magical barrier over which cars on the other side cannot cross. They take no account of the fact that most drivers don’t trust any other drivers on the road to do anything right and are, therefore, alert to dangers, but there you are. Such is their opinion of the great unwashed public.

This all stems from finding out in the bosky avenues of Wiltshire in 2003 which appear to show similar reductions in accidents. If it was so good then, how come it hasn’t been picked up earlier? This is another knee-jerk reaction to the perils of speed because, as we know, officials like to blame speed for all motoring ills, seemingly forgetting about the phone users, texters and all the myriad other reasons why people have accidents.

Most drivers have mostly become inured to the constant fiddling with the rules of the road but pretty soon now they are going to take umbrage for being treated like idiots. Mind you, they have got one thing right – there are indeed too many unnecessary signs.

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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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“Sorry Officer; It Won’t Happen Again.”

Yeah, right. Did you hear about the man whose wife ran away with a policeman? When he saw the flashing blue lights in his driving mirror he put his foot down because he thought they were bringing her back. Or how about the woman who assumed her speedo was deficient because she was at high altitude in the mountains?

“It never does that at home!”

Just two of the many excuses used to try and get away with a speeding offence.

No doubt any experienced traffic officer will be able to regale an audience with excuses, both clever and lame, that motorists use when caught going too fast. He probably will not reveal those where he was in the wrong – that’s another story.

The trouble with an excuse is that there is no excuse. Sure, you might get away with it if your passenger is about to give birth, but that’s about it; and anyway, there’s never a pregnant woman around when you need one (Curiously, there sometimes is when you don’t!). So, apart from matters of life or death your card will be marked, matey. Names will be taken. Heads will roll.

Modern cars have very accurate speedometers but they don’t measure how fast a vehicle is going; they work on how many times a wheel, or axle or driveshaft rotates. Then, by the power of electronics, they convert that to what a driver sees on his or her gauge. There is a variable. New tyres make the wheel ‘bigger’, if that makes sense, as does increasing the tyre pressure.

As a consequence the car will appear to travel further which will extrapolate to a greater speed. The same thing happens conversely. Thus, a small difference in wheel diameter gets exaggerated because the wheel is turning maybe six or seven times a second. Compounded, this can mean a difference of a few miles per hour. It’s a good idea to really learn the science of this. You can explain it to the boys in blue; they love a good lecture at the roadside. Can’t get enough of them.

Some people prefer to use the information provided by their navigation devices. These work by measuring the exact distance covered over time by GPS tracking. They can be affected by signal quality and, in some instances, struggle to factor in steep hills. Whichever system a driver uses there is always a margin of error.

The law requires that speedos must never show less than the actual speed and must never show more than 110% of actual speed. To counter this, manufacturers tend to calibrate their gauges high, thus helping to save drivers from themselves. This is also why the cops allow a margin of error although the same can’t be said of speed cameras which, as you know, have no soul.

Overall then, car speedos tend to read higher than sat-navs. It is not however the place of Motor Blogger to recommend one device over another. If you remain resolutely below the advertised speed limit you should be ok. If all else fails you could try slipping a fifty pound note on the ground and ask, disingenuously, if the officer had perchance dropped it. This is an especially good plan if you need a bed for the night.

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“690BHP – You Lose!”

The next time you are in Dubai and taking advantage, Richard Hammond style, of that nation’s magnificent desert black-tops, be warned. You will not outrun their new cop car because it is a Lamborghini Aventador. The speed limit in Dubai is seventy five miles per hour. If you exceed that they will look for you, they will find you and they will nick you.

Presumably, in a nation of many supercars, the police need something that can trounce most of the miscreant vehicles. This is not, however, the first time a Lambo has appeared on the streets in official guise. In 2004 the Italian company donated a pair of Gallardo sports cars to the Polizia di Stato. They were used ceremonially and on active service – that is until an over-enthusiastic driver wrote one off!

Down under in the Land of Thunder, Sydney to be precise, the lower North Shore echoes to the sound of a Porsche Panamera. Allegedly the car is used solely for community purposes but, frankly, that’s hard to believe. Meanwhile, German police have a twin turbo Brabus tuned CLS Rocket which they no doubt put to good use on the Autobahns.

In Texas – where else? – everything is bigger and better and one sheriff (not exactly a small dude himself) chose as his cop car of choice a nice big Hummer. Not content with the basic motor he upgraded it to a 6.9L V8 with an increased displacement amongst other modifications; the car delivers 150 mph and a torque figure of 910. He also wears a big hat.

In fact, American Police have always had good cars. Many great cars have been observed in police livery including a few of the outstanding muscle cars of legend. The interstate highways of America have seen Corvettes, Vipers and Mustangs, but mainly the cruisers of preference since the 1950’s were the Chevrolet Caprice and the Ford LTD. They were cheap to buy and, most importantly, were rear-wheel drive and had the obligatory V8 engine.

In the 1970’s, the heyday of hot cars and CB radio, a popular choice was the American Motor Company’s (AMC) Ambassador with the 401 cubic inch four barrel power plant. A very capable performer. Meanwhile, in the UK, our cops were trundling around in Austin Leyland Allegros – consistently voted the worst car ever. Occasionally, off-duty British traffic policemen were seen exiting screenings of Smokey and the Bandit with tears in their eyes and wishing they drove the Pontiac LeMans with the four litre V8 just like good ‘ole Sheriff Buford T Justice. Now that’s a cop’s name!

Attempts have been made to put police onto roller skates or bikes, an idea which nobody but the originators took seriously, but the car still rules. These days traffic cars in the UK seem to be a bit thin on the ground but if you’re going to get stopped for speeding what could be better than an Aventador to do the job?

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The Good News And The Bad

You know those nasty and invidious speed cameras dotted around the countryside? Well, fear them no longer – help is at hand. You may use radar detectors with impunity, for now. Remember, don’t take our word for it, we’re not lawyers – check the facts for yourself; but it seems that following a change of law in 2006 ministers were allowed to ban radar detectors without recourse to Parliament. Nobody has actually done it and, according to the present government, they don’t intend to.

This means that the devices may be sold openly in shops. Gatso’s and mobile cameras apparently emit radar or laser signals which can be scanned for and picked up by these gadgets, unlike sat-nav’s that work from a database of recorded sites, making them accurate at all times. The latest incumbent minister – they change so often – at the Department for Transport has formally declared that these legal powers will not be used as they want to be seen to be open and fair about speed enforcement.

This is likely to see the devices back in the retailers ASAP, although some commentators believe that it might make drivers more confident when speeding through accident black spots. A fair point. The fact remains though that most drivers feel persecuted by the present rules and will appreciate the heads-up when approaching a speed trap and will still, in any case, slow down. That’s the good news.

Were you aware of the fact that if you break down and request the police to arrange recovery, they’ll charge you a fee? You’d think, wouldn’t you, that they would want to see to it as a priority to make the road safe and not to use it as a cash enterprise.

Well, it appears that a fee is being charged to cover – don‘t laugh -‘administration costs’. This is not a set figure, curiously, but will depend on the force in question, presumably based on how much they think they can get away with. This fee is payable to the recovery firm who pass it on to the police, possibly in a plain, brown envelope. The cost may or may not be picked up by your insurer, depending upon how lucky you are.

The Association of Chief Police Officers have stated that the recovery fee has been agreed by the insurance industry. Why is it then that the insurance companies are wondering why the fee is so high? Something’s not right. Anyway, the outcome is that, last year, the boys in blue trousered a not insignificant £3.7 million! How naïve we must all be to think that we have already paid through taxation for a police service. It seems that, in Britain today, just about everybody is at it.

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