Instinctively we all know that driving too fast is dangerous.
A car is a very heavy piece of machinery and is capable of causing catastrophic damage, injury and death if out of control. Perhaps for this reason alone, driving is a highly regulated activity requiring formal training and testing of competence. A multitude of specific laws exist that drivers must comply with – contraventions attract penalties up to and including imprisonment.
NMAG does not seek to shirk the considerable responsibility that is associated with holding a licence to drive, but…
How fast is too fast? The speed kills message has been shouted at us for many years – it is an easy political mantra to sell. Very many subscribe to speed kills and accept its corollary of ever lower speed limits without question. So how fast should we be permitted to drive? 20 may be safer than 30 (unless slow speeds breed inattention), but why not 15, or 10, or even a ban on driving all together?
What is an acceptable speed on a motorway? Clearly 40 would be quieter, more fuel efficient and probably result in less accidents with less severe consequences than 70, but does that mean that all right thinking people should support the idea of a 40mph limit on all motorways? What about the issues of journey time and indeed the sense of frustration, even boredom that long journeys at 40mph would invariably involve?
The Isle of Man has no speed limit outside of built up areas, but that does not mean that the police cannot stop and report for prosecution those who’s driving is dangerous, reckless or without due care and attention. Clearly, relying only on such subjective judgements for answering the how fast is too fast question would be unrealistic but perhaps no more so than applying blanket 20 mph limits across cities, irrespective of time of day, width of road, sight lines, driver training and experience and traffic levels.
So yes, of course speed kills (or at least has the potential to kill), but that insight does precisely nothing to help us as a democratic society decide how fast is too fast. And why have we forgotten about the other practices that clearly kill – like driving too close to the vehicle in front on a motorway or dual-carriageway? There’s no specific law against it, and the practice is effectively un-controlled, by police or automated enforcement.
And the argument extends to other areas of motoring regulation. How much alcohol – if any – should a driver be allowed to have in his or her blood? Do car tyres need a minimum tread depth on a dry road? Should it be illegal to cross a double white line if done with no undue danger? Why does the law so often turn a blind eye to cyclists jumping red lights when they can see that it is clear, but not to drivers?
Most enforcement of speeding offences results in monetary penalties. In the case of camera enforcement this invariably means that the enforcers derive financial benefit from each fine. NMAG believes that this, along with the indoctrination of society with the over-simplistic ‘speed kills’ mantra, has led to worrying deficiencies in speed enforcement practices.
NMAG’s problems with speed limits and enforcement
- Speed limit signing frequently does not conform to the minimum legal standards
- Traffic orders that create speed limits are often defective
- Enforcement authorities sometimes know about, but choose to ignore deficiencies
- Other enforcement issues such as non-legal cameras or procedural improprieties
- Some speed limits set too low
- Obsession with speed only has marginalised other issues such as tailgating, on-going driver training and roads properly engineered for safety
- Thousands of drivers unaware of refunds due to deficient enforcement
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