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Traffic Fury: Let The Need For Speed Recede

In light of the recent tragedy of three lads killed at a bus stop it seems reasonable to look again at the issue of speed. At the time of writing this the facts about this accident are not clear but the words ‘high speed’ have been reported. On today’s busy roads in this troubled country, as much as it might go against the grain, the need for controlling some drivers’ baser instincts is clear. In the case of this appalling accident it seems that even speed cameras festooned like fairy lights along that road would not have made any difference because the car was driven by a runaway coward for whom the law would probably not be a consideration.

Speed cameras are clearly necessary; that’s one of the facts of motoring life, but there should also be a modicum of fairness about it. A case in point is the news that Yorkshire Police have announced that on the 18 mile stretch of the allegedly ‘smart’ M1 at any time of day they will prosecute motorists if they exceed 70mph. So seventy-one and you’re done presumably.

They are, they say, intent on ‘catching speeders’. Speeding is rightly proven to be dangerous and drivers should avoid it or face the fine and sometimes other tragic consequences; but for the police to then add, “The cameras are not there to generate money. They are there to catch speeders, get reckless drivers off the roads and ultimately lead to a reduction in collisions”, well, I’m not so sure.

Speed Kills But So Do Other Things

The cameras are not there to generate money…”. I wonder sometimes. Drivers should have their eyes on the road not on their speedometers. Who among us has not slipped inadvertently over the limit a bit from time to time? To be that draconian with enforcement is unfair and I hope they realise this.

Speed certainly kills and on our busy roads it makes sense to control it but the quote goes on, “get reckless drivers off the road…”, and this is the point. As this page has recently pointed out there are many more ways to be reckless on the road. Mobile phone use, lane hogging, lane switching and other driver distractions; all things that cause accidents. Yet we so rarely see a police presence on the roads. Sure, a few people get prosecuted but as this article points out, those prosecutions are just the tip of the iceberg.

If they want to be seen to be even-handed the police need to crack down on all forms of driving abuse. Important though the issue is, blaming speed for everything is not the solution. This is why the ‘not about the money’ statement seems disingenuous. The dangers of the modern road need an holistic approach and not a sticking plaster.

To balance this, it is clear that the police are seriously undermanned and the blame for this lies at both local and national government level and is what happens when accountants take over the madhouse. I doubt that the over-stretched bobbies on the beat would argue with that. This country has changed hugely and not for the better this century and our vital services need to change too. If you want the punishment to fit the crime and allow that sometimes an admonishment will do, then you need boots and tyres on the ground. It is the only answer.

Speed Is Not Smart

Many, many motorists have been penalised on so-called ‘smart’ motorways. I’m not really clear on what is ‘smart’ about them. Is removing the hard shoulder ‘smart’? Will our cars only breakdown adjacent to the 1.5 mile spaced ‘refuges’? That’s not smart, that’s just being cheap and not willing to spend money on the sort of road network a modern, allegedly ‘first-world’ country should have as the ongoing and never-ending saga of the pothole problem demonstrates.

It seems to me that ‘smart’ simply means overhead gantries that can control speed variably depending on the conditions. That isn’t a bad idea as it stands on notoriously busy motorway sections but sometimes you have to wonder on some of the decisions of the button pusher as regular motorway drivers will no doubt attest.

Whatever, that’s how it is, which is why the solution, I believe, is to change your car and make life easy on yourself.

Why Do We Need Speed?

There is certainly a thrill in driving fast. If you love driving then going fast is part of that; but we can’t, so there. That’s what track days and circuit experiences are for. The opportunity to speed legally and still be safe. So why not just do that?

This writer gets to drive different cars. A lot of, but not all of, the time it is enjoyable yet my own car remains the Citroen C1 city car I’ve had for a few years now and I’m keeping it. Fast it is not, cheap to run and easy to park it is and once the elastic band is wound up it keeps pace with traffic. I have even done the unforgivable because it seems to be a bit of a trend: I have named it. Henceforth my car will be known as ‘White Fury’, and don’t you forget it.

Take Me Home Country Roads

With a wheel at each corner it nips about like a hockey puck and handles splendidly. On the lesser routes and country lanes of Britain it is outstanding fun and the real joy is that I don’t have to break any speed limits to do it. I can drive within the rules and still have a good time with my motoring.

It serves no purpose any more to buy big, powerful and expensive motors (as wonderful as some of them are to be sure) that cost a fortune to insure and will likely drop you in the deep, dark doo-doo on those ‘smart’ motorways.

Also, with some manufacturers seemingly intent on producing a range of cars that are like Russian Dolls (all identical but getting smaller each time) why not consider saving cash and buying an older car? It might not have all the bells, whistles and distractions being built-in to the latest models but it will cost less overall and in the UK with it’s increasingly strict monitoring of motorists, it seems to me to make increasing sense.

Alternatively, look at less expensive motors like the comfortable, easy-going cruiser named the Citroen C3 Aircross which, at the time of writing, I’m testing. Let your need for speed recede, sit back and just enjoy the drive. Geoff Maxted