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Abolition of all statutory speed limits, replacing these with increased penalties and prosecutions for reckless or dangerous driving

Comment 1st July 2010

As a professional, driving about 80,000 miles annually, I have concluded over the years that speed limits are more trouble than they are worth.  I therefore propose the abolition of ALL statutory speed limits, and in their place a dramatic increase in the penalties for reckless or careless driving.  Examples of such behaviour are seen every day, but rarely do we notice anything being done to apprehend the maniacs who drive with such limited thought for other road users.

On all roads, at some arbitrarily defined point, the limit increases or gives way to the ‘national limit’ (which is dependent on the type of vehicle being driven rather than the road).  At one place it is illegal to travel at 31 mph at point ‘A’, while at point ‘B’, only a foot further along the same road, it is legal to travel almost twice as fast.  What can justify such a significant change at a particular point?

Why does this matter?

I’m sure we all know of places on urban roads where 40mph would be quite safe most of the time.  However, these same roads might be treacherous at 15 or 20mph at certain times, e.g. at school arrival and leaving times, in heavy rain or fog.  At such times, safety is dependent on driver consideration, and not on the statutory speed limit, which is probably set at 30mph irrespective of time or conditions. 

I readily acknowledge that speed is unquestionably a significant factor in road safety, but speed per se doesn’t cause accidents.  What it does do is to enhance dramatically the effect of some other fault.  This fault may be a defect in the mechanical condition of the vehicle, resulting from unrecognised wear or inadequate maintenance; or it may be due to lack of control of the vehicle arising from lazy driving technique, or from inconsiderate driver behaviour, such as the use of a mobile phone, apple, water bottle, make-up brush, shaver or hair dryer.  Only a moment’s inattention to performance of the vehicle on the road and other road-users could cause an accident.  The consequences of this will almost inevitably be more devastating the higher the speeds involved, but the speed itself isn’t, in my view, the cause of accidents.

There are many complaints about so-called ‘safety’ cameras by our roadsides.  Some people allege that they are there solely to provide a source of income for those who install them.  Whether this is true or not, we must accept that they enforce a statutory speed limit indicated by the nearby roadside signs. If there were NO statutory speed limit, the resources presently deployed in maintaining speed cameras, and prosecuting speeding offences could be put to better use in the monitoring and reduction of behaviour thatis actually dangerous on our roads.

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