Road safety, DriveWrite Automotive, car blog, motoring blog

A Limit Not A Target: Why Motorists Will Never Agree.

If you haven’t done anything wrong then you have nothing to fear”. This statement is absolutely true. Conversely, it could be seen as the mantra of the moaning minnies for whom any minor transgression is tantamount to treason. Rules are rules but they are not necessarily good or sensible rules.

Rules are there for a reason, you know”. Yes, indeed they are. Without rules our country (and the world) would be in an even greater state of hopeless chaos than it is now. Conversely, this is the sort of thing you hear from the huge and growing army of perpetually affronted people who could find fault in Mother Theresa.

The solution to this ‘us and ‘them’ scenario is to take a long look, not at the rules, but rather the circumstances under which they were introduced and at the people who introduced them.

Good driving is about training and the old-fashioned concept of common sense. Remember common sense? Older folk will recall their days at work when they had to make on-the-spot decisions about their job and environment, then stand or fall by that decision. Today the answer lies in a manual. We need to be told what to do. We don’t want to have to make decisions. That’s why there is no point in grumbling when the book is thrown at you.

Not so long ago we had a national discussion about an 80mph speed limit for motorways. The 70 limit was fully introduced in 1967 because, it was felt, too many people were dying on our roads. That’s a fact. Subsequent figures prove it. In 1958 there were 4.5 million cars on the road and 5970 people were killed in road accidents . In 2008 there were 28 million cars on the road and 2946 poor souls died (Source AA). Road safety rules work without question.

On the other hand, in 1958 cars were fragile things. In later years of industrial strife they were built by workers who couldn’t care less about quality control. Cars broke down a lot and when involved in a crash they crumpled like a politician’s resolve.

Vehicles today, as we know, are so much better made. They are stronger, safer by far and generally more efficient. They are also faster. So Why not have an eighty speed limit? Some will argue that we’re doing it anyway.

The government thought this a wizard idea until the day they didn’t. Many drivers thought, ‘and about time too’ but it was the anti-brigade who won the day, as they mostly do. Because from one craven government to another the bottom line is their own popularity. They fear the dementors of driving. They don’t seem to get that we have minds of our own. We understand that speed limits are just that. They are not a target that must be achieved. We are sentient beings; we realise that just because we can do forty or fifty doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. It all depends on the varying prevailing factors of the road. It’s just common sense.

It is this fear of upsetting a certain proportion of the population (i.e. those that shriek the loudest) that informs their decisions. This is why we get such bizarre road safety decisions both locally and nationally. Almost all of us can point to a road where a limit or a restriction is plain daft and is the result of a fearful administration whose common sense went out of the window in the wild wind of political correctness.

Motorists would be much happier if an element of sanity crept back into road safety rules. Most of us drive properly and well. Our own common sense tells us that to be negligent is to die or kill by way of stupidity. We get why there are 20mph limits outside schools: we know that there are men working at the side of the road because we can see them and we honestly don’t want to maim them. We don’t need Nanny telling us what to do. Did you know that the number of permanent average speed cameras has doubled in the last three years? According to the House of Commons Transport Committee, that is what we want; but who are they asking?

Road safety should be about education and training not panicked decisions because Mr Disgusted of Bromsgrove doesn’t like something. It should also not be about the truly cynical and nasty money-grubbing that goes on in the name of road safety no matter in what disingenuous terms politicians couch it. Motorists are not there to make up the shortfall for lame financial decisions and incompetence.

Of course we must have road safety rules to protect us from the fools. It’s just that they should be more fairly and sensibly applied. But of course we’ll never be able to agree amongst ourselves about that will we? Geoff Maxted