Following the introduction of the ‘Speed Kills' mantra (by the new Labour Government in 1997), we have seen a wholesale dumbing down of more than 50 years' worth of the Governments' approach to properly engineered roads with minimum standards of complimentary speed limit signing that was backed up by empirical research.
In place of ‘Circular – Roads 01/93′ which more and more highway authorities were choosing to ignore, the Government produced new guidelines – ‘Circular – Roads 01/06′. The earlier guidelines revolved around the concept of the 85th percentile. That is to say that the speed at or below which 85% of drivers drive a given stretch of road defines the most appropriate speed limit for the road. This is because drivers generally respond to the engineering of a road and not desiring to have an accident drive at a speed appropriate to what they can see.
The new guidelines instead used the principle of mean speed for setting speed limits – clearly a significantly lower measure…but why?
The current fashion for a ‘blame the driver' culture and the imposition of vast swathes of applied speed limits tends to lead drivers to believe that as long as they obey the speed limit (however low), nothing will go wrong. This is surely a dangerous culture to instil in drivers in place of a constant awareness of all risks and the skills to manage them. This is particularly so when, unbeknown to most drivers, they are driving on less safely engineered roads than in the past.
Meanwhile, signing regulations have recently gone through an extensive national consultation, review and amendment programme with the result that the minimum signing requirements have not changed.
But focused as they are on their ‘policing by numbers' approach to speed enforcement, local authorities and safety camera partnerships don't seem to be very bothered by the minimum requirements. Worse, they are apparently blind to widespread safety failures, where proper roads engineering have been abandoned.
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