RANT – Proposed New Speeding Penalties in the UK – What are they doing?

I am one of life’s silent majority – I do not normally rant about anything and take life as it comes but I can’t help feeling that the new proposals for speeding fines, outlined in this BBC report, are perverse at a time when there is a campaign, and need, to reduce casualties on the road. If you question why such a campaign is necessary I think you will find that if you add up all the people injured and killed on the roads the numbers are higher than all the people who are victims of other violent crime. And it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the cost of damage in crashes outweighs the cost of damage by other crimes. Be aware as you read, although you have probably guessed already, that this post is a long one and it is intended to be about Built Up areas.

Take a look at the two charts on the report, which show the proposed graded level of speeding penalties:

In a 30MPH zone (in town, lots going on, kids playing etc) doing up to 40MPH will get you 2 points and a £40 fine – up to 45MPH you get the current 3 points and £60

In a 70MPH zone (Duel carriageway or Motorway, everybody going in the same direction) doing up to 83 will get you the 2 points and £40, 94 the current fine.

Lets put that into context….

30MPH Zone – 40 is a 1/3 again over the restriction, 45 is 1/2 again.

70MPH Zone – 83 = 1/5, 94 = 1/3 (roughly).

It takes 13 meters further to stop at 40MPH than it does at 30MPH.

Hitting a pedestrian at 40mph is highly likely to maim or kill, 30mph much less so.

Now I do not have any evidence myself, not having done the research, but it seems to me that it is more dangerous to do 45 in a built up area than 94 on a motorway. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority crashes occur in built up areas. Some would argue that the faster you are going when you crash the more horrendous the injury and that is true if the one injured is not in a vehicle, but modern vehicles do have much better survivability and often even a 100mph crash causes only bruising. I can vouch for that having come off a M/C at 80mph with the only injury being to my pride.

If you are wondering I used ‘crashes’ above and I do not differentiate for injuries because every crash has the potential to cause injuries.

Whenever any one starts a discussion about speeding someone will always shout out that speed is not dangerous and they are absolutely correct – it is the hitting of a soft object (the body) with a solid object (the vehicle) at speed that does the damage. In a former life I was a parachutist and we used to say that jumping out of a plain is not dangerous – it only hurts when you hit the ground (or for those who have experienced a ‘rivet inspection’ the side of the aircraft).

The report goes on to talk about the poor innocent motorist who inadvertently breaks the speed restriction…again that worries me.

In the UK your speedometer has to be accurate to within +- 10% so you can be doing 33 but your Speedo is reading 30. On top of that English law has the concept of not dealing with trivial maters, i.e. if a policeman took you to court for doing 31 or 32 mph (pre ticket days) s/he would get a right ear bashing from the beak. Because of this it is a good bet that no one gets a ticket for doing less than 35mph (despite the fact that we all know a friend of a friend that has)

Now ask the question: which is more dangerous, the motorist that knows what speed s/he is doing and deliberately breaks the law or the motorist who is not paying attention and inadvertently exceeds the restriction. On the (undoubtedly flawed) assumption that the deliberate offender is at least watching what they are doing, if only to see the police or camera, I’ll take my chances with them. If someone does not know what speed they are doing, how can they drive defensively? How can they be prepared to stop within a safe distance?

I travel a fair bit and see a lot of idiots who cut across bends and corners and squeeze passed bikes with on coming traffic, don’t indicate or, worse still, believe that indicating gives them the right to overtake into the path of oncoming traffic or accelerating despite the fact they have to slam on the breaks just up the road. It is obvious that a lot of these manoeuvres are based on going too fast for the conditions. I also see a lot of people turning into a road forcing oncoming vehicles to slow down making it obvious that either they have no concept of speed or there are a lot of dangerous lunatics out there.

You know the type: your travelling at the speed limit and they come flying up behind you and then sit there so close you can’t see the car lights but you can see in their expressions and attitude the question ‘why is he going so slow?’. They sit behind you despite the empty road, poking their nose out and then burst past, it always seems as though they wait until they can see an oncoming vehicle to do it. Often as not you catch up with them at the next roundabout without increasing your speed.

It would be nice if there was a way for the camera to make distinction so penalties could be set according to conditions. (This is done to a degree on the M25 although in my experience often the variable limit is set much higher than I am actually travelling due to the conditions) unfortunately current affordable technology isn’t up to the task so in order to cater for the majority we have enforcement.

So come on, if you are going to mess around with speeding penalties make them such that it sends a clear message: IT IS NOT OK TO SPEED IN A BUILT UP AREA.

And while you’re at it, I would like to see as many cameras in built up areas as there are on the open road, and for every high visibility one put in two hidden. Doing so will have the effect of reducing the prevailing speed.

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