22 April 2009

Round the Bend

I was a bit steamed when I first the resurgence of Labour's plans to cut speed limits

These popped up late last year and I assumed they were just filler, but the idea to reduce the national speed limit to 50mph still lingers

Although my anger has somewhat subsided as I can find little that notes the drop in the national speed limit, only this brief mention in the Mail

The BBC focused on the urban areas and schools, the Guardian put up a ridiculous survey and are only interested in the 20mph bit, so I'm not sure any more

I personally find the 50mph on rural roads idea ridiculous - the assumption that speed is somehow the primary factor in accidents is nonsense

Now I am going to use anecdotal evidence, because frankly that's all this needs unless someone proves to me that all those rural crashes happen as a result of people travelling between 50 and 60mph, and because I live within a vast array of rural roads

Long and windy, deserted, stretches of road where crashes are infrequent (on a road by road basis, rather than the thousands of miles nationally) - the sort of road where you can put your foot down and blast along at 80, or that can force you to go round tight, blind corners at 30

This is true of the roads that I drive along every day - you cannot travel down these roads at 60 the whole way, on certain stretches I 'could' go faster because I know the road and have good visibility, while at certain points if I was going at 60 I would fly off into a fen

And this is the idiotic part - neither can you travel round these tight bends at 50mph - you would still come off the road, I can think of one particular stretch near my pub where there are those black and white arrows to warn you, I always slow down to 40 to go round there, and that's at the limit of what you should be doing - at 50 you would career onto the wrong side of the road and probably hit those useful signs

Now I'm pretty sure that most drivers know to slow down (it also says 'SLOW' on the road), without being forced to watch the speed limit - they are, on the whole, good at avoiding crashing, the last fatality on that bend was over ten years ago, and were you to be at 50mph and crash you still probably be done for dangerous driving

So what exactly would a 50mph speed limit on such roads achieve? - I have sat behind many weekend drivers who drive at 40 and 50mph on those roads, waiting for a chance to overtake and drive properly - it is simply too slow (assuming conditions are fine) for any normal driver to handle - 60 is an ideal speed for much of the road, at points it isn't but is it worth changing it all to 50, especially when even that isn't appropriate for those parts? By the same logic we may as well make the whole road system 20mph to be on the safe side

Or how about dropping the limit to 30mph at the bend I described - would it be worth it? Would it even save a life? And how would you enforce it over a stretch of about 100 metres on a road that probably only gets 30 cars an hour at best? Personally I'd be worrying about 'speeding' rather than focusing on driving appropriately for the conditions

A degree of common sense is required here - by all means target the black spots, but I'd love to know how they intend to police the bulk of rural roads - the usage is low, and there's no way the police or speed cameras could adequately cover the huge stretches of empty road across our countryside and so if they did it would be grossly inefficient compared to policing our motorways and major A-roads

But I will hold fire for now, until I get a whiff of the national speed limit actually changing to 50mph

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