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Speed limits, a letter to the editor

by Carl Brewer last modified 2006-11-14 01:55

From the Worthington Herald (UK), where it seems drivers are just as stupid, selfish and arrogant as they are in Melbourne!

"Otherwise law-abiding" speeding motorists "laughable" - reader letter
HERALD reader Jan Whiston makes a passionate case for adhering to speed limits and why people caught speeding should shut up.
Here we print the letter in full:

"Dear Sir/Madam

Reference the various correspondence re: speed cameras, fines etc., I laughed out loud at the letter from Chris Faulkner - at last, someone statin' the blinkin' obvious!

Too often it seems that "otherwise law abiding" motorists feel that speeding and/or being caught by a camera does not constitute breaking the law - why is this? Is it because they feel it infringes their Civil Liberties, contravenes their Human Rights? No, it's because it simply inconveniences them too much and thus doesn't fit in with their view of what the law should be.

Three of your recent correspondents, Mrs J Allison, Mr Donald White and Mr Anon (details witheld], all admit that they were breaking the speed limit when they were caught on camera (or otherwise]. Thus, they were breaking the law. Mr Anon, the retired HGV1/PSV driver also admits that he has (quote] "picked up" three speeding tickets/fines in 30 months. It seems he is a very unlucky motorist indeed to find these lying around and decide to pay the fines on them. Mrs Allison is outraged that she was (quote] "nicked" by a "sneaky little man crouched down in a lay-by" and asks "how unorthodox is this?". Well, Mrs Allison, not unorthodox at all. It is a common practice and I have seen it many times, usually in areas where people feel complacent enough to flout the law because, in their view, the road seems perfectly safe. Happily, I have never been "nicked" because, guess what, I was driving at the speed limit anyway so didn't have to worry. I cannot comment on Mr White's experience, being unaware of the full facts

What is worring though, is that both Mrs Allison and Mr Anon seem to be particularly aggrieved because they were 'only just' above the limit (although in Mrs Allison's case it was a whole 9mph - nearly another zone altogether!], because it was a quiet period, or because they were caught by covert methods as opposed to a huge yellow, and very obvious, speed camera accompanied by warning road-signs well beforehand. In addition, they were both speeding in a 30mph zone - the one that the police are most concerned that we observe at all times. Surely no-one missed the series of advertisements earlier in the year depicting the little girl who was killed when she was struck by a car doing 35mph, but had a far better chance of survival at 30mph.

I am not for a minute suggesting that either Mrs Allison nor Mr Anon would drive so recklessly, but what is it about the 30mph speed limit that motorists feel compelled to ignore? Is it because it is just so slow? Well, it is slow, but with good reason! Mr Anon also points out that he is particularly concerned by drivers who speed, slow down by braking hard at a speed camera and then speed up again.

But his concern seems to extend only to the issue of sudden braking, not the initial speeding itself; indeed he implies that only these people are the dangerous drivers because of their reckess driving and that the police should be concentrating on catching them (rather than the hapless speeders who, presumeably through no fault of their own, are strangely compelled to exceed the speed limit by only 5 mph and therefore should be exempt from prosecution].

Indeed, I find it really quite disturbing how that well-known minority group known as 'otherwise law abiding citizens' identify themselves by choosing which laws are made to be broken (and thus apply to them] and those which are sacrosanct and thus for everyone.

The continuing discussions about cannabis use and 'safe' limits for personal use are a shining example. Over the years, so many people have decided that they disagree with the actual legislation and have continued to use cannabis, that legislation has been amended over time (although is once again under review] and I believe that the police in some areas of the UK have the option to use their discretion in terms of prosecution.

Whenever this topic comes up for review, there is predictable outrage and understandable fears voiced for a potential future drug culture, social instability, children's safety and, more recently, the long term effects on those users with mental health problems.

Fine, all well and good - we are a democracy and (hopefully] a responsible society and should debate these issues freely. Except that somehow cannabis users are never 'otherwise law abiding citizens' in the context of the law they choose to flout - they are invariably labelled junkies and criminals no matter how little cannabis they use and for what purpose. What a contrast to the issue of driving on the roads, especially speeding.

We are all responsible for one another's welfare and as such, if we all observe certain safety practices, in theory at least we all know where we stand and what the other person is (hopefully] likely to do in a given situation (thank goodness for traffic lights, huh?].

I'm the first to admit that our motoring laws are not perfect (reference Mr Maitland's experience "Snapped and not happy", 9 November], that certain health and safety fears seem to have spiralled out of control and prompted some hasty and ridiculous legisation and that indeed we human beings are not perfect either.

However, being naturally flawed surely means we are capable of learning from experience? It appears not, for what does concern me is the growing selfishness we display with regard to driving and our perceived rights in that respect, which seem to amount to little more than expecting to drive the speed we want, where we want, whenever we want. There have been acres of scientific research generated regarding optimum speed limits on motorways, queueing theory, safe speeds and of course, the regulations laid down in the Highway Code (although judging from his letter, Mr Anon clearly has a rare copy which differs from the standard edtion], but none of this takes into account the most influential factors on road safety - human behaviour.

To me, this is most clearly demonstrated by our attitude to speed cameras. I understand that by law, all speed cameras now have to be clearly indicated by signs beforehand and painted bright yellow so that we can see them; we therefore have ample opportunity to anticipate them and eventually see them, so why to people STILL complain about being caught on camera and go to endless lengths to appeal and/or avoid prosecution? Just yesterday ( 9 November] a man was prosecuted for being caught on camera 3 times and pleading innoncence on account of another driver being in the car every time.

I absolutely agree with Mr Anon regarding sudden, hard braking - it is extremely dangerous and these people are inevitably not caught because they aren't speeding when they go past the cameras, but I doubt he would prefer truly hidden cameras with no notification. Personally, I don't see the problem there - think of the prosecutions; all those 'truly' dangerous drivers caught at last, casually ignorant and selfish motorists hit hardest where it hurts the most - in their wallets and their precious 'but I need it for my job' clean licenses.

But, of course, all those other 'otherwise law abiding citizens' would also be swept up, which is patently unfair, and of course the authorities would also make too much money, which would result in a further penalty on our hard-earned taxes. Unthinkable.

All we can do is work with what we have until someone comes up with a better idea but, and here's a radical thought, maybe if we weren't so selfish and thoughtless there wouldn't be such a need for stringent speeding penalties.

Everyone has their own view on what is a safe speed limit in a given area - residential, rural, schools etc., but it is just that, a view, and, let's be honest, one usually based on the routes we as individuals take most regularly and on our own personal experience of being either a driver, cyclist or pedestrian.

Motorists often complain that speed cameras simply exist to provide revenue etc - so why do we now get points on our licenses too? I would also suggest that it isn't only motorists that need to re-examine their attitudes - pedestrians (who cross, walk/run on the roads] cyclists and all road users must do so and accept that they are part of a particular community and that all the moaning and righteous indignation in the world won't change the outcome of a fatal or debilitating accident.

The final irony for me comes via Mrs Allisons's letter (captioned "Short sighted view ruins Worthing"] in which she berates the "short-sighted Councillors" for the road scheme on the A259 (admittedly I don't know the reasons for the scheme myself, perhaps we could find out together?], expresses her frustration at the numerous white lines on the roads which are there for (quote] "no good reason except to confuse road users" and finally lambasts the garden on the beach (the Water Conscious one I assume], which she lovingly describes as "an unnecessary eyesore ....thought up by another brain-dead twit". Well, if anyone needed new glasses ....... ah, but perhaps this was why Mrs Allison was driving at 39mph in a 30mph limit; all those confusing white road markings saying "Slow Down" and "30" ....


Jan Whiston (pedestrian and also motorist in possession of a boringly clean license after 18 years and one of those annoyingly dull people who drive at 30mph when required]

Ardingly Drive

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