Sunday, March 08, 2009

Cutting the speed limit to 50mph? Why stop there? Why not cut the limit to 40 or 30?

The government's latest road safety initiative bears all the hallmarks of an administration living on borrowed time. Knowing that it's unlikely to win the next election, it has little to lose from introducing unpopular policies. Its latest plan is to cut speed limits on country roads from 60mph down to 50mph early next year. The roads minister was quoted as saying:
There will be some in the driving lobby who think this is a further attack and a restriction on people’s freedom,” he said. “But when you compare that to the fact we are killing 3,000 people a year on our roads, it would be irresponsible not to do something about it. I’m sure that the vast majority of motorists would support the proposals.”
I have a suggestion for the government minister. As the Sunday Times Leader argues, If he thinks that "speed kills", why stop at 50? Why not cut the limit to limit to 40 or even 30? And while he's at it, why not cut the motorway limit to 50? Better still, why not take driving licences away from everyone except professional drivers? Surely that way we really could save 3,000 lives a year.

The "speed kills" slogan is as old as red flag act, and is based on a simplistic assumption that the slower you drive, the safer you are. But anyone with an ounce of common sense knows this is utter nonsense. Why for example are our motorways the safest roads despite being the fastest roads? And has anyone figured out how Germany, with its limit free Autobahnen has fewer deaths than other European countries with lower speed limits? True, the majority of road deaths in the UK occur on country roads, but that's because the standard of driving is appalling and many motorists simply don't know how to drive on them. Some of our country roads are bendy, narrow and dangerous and really should have their speed limits reduced, but others are straight and wide and perfectly safe within the current speed limit. Clearly the design of our roads and the poor standard of driving is a factor, not just speed.

Many of us in the "motoring lobby" are not against this policy because of the restriction to our freedom, but because it's a clumsy ill conceived law that will criminalise millions of motorists whilst doing little to improve the standard of driving.