I really hate the way that people who exceed the speed limit are vilified so much. Speed limits are an antiquated way of controlling traffic, fundamentally flawed as they are based on the misguided tenet that speed kills. Speed doesn’t kill; bad driving kills. It is perfectly possible to drive at speed safely. Where it all falls down is when people, bad drivers, drive too fast for the conditions of the road or without consideration for potential hazards such as school children, or swerving in and out of lanes on the motorway. The problem comes with the fact that you can set up a camera easily to measure speed, but it is not so easy to measure bad driving, without putting policemen on patrol.
Speed limits, then, can be seen as another example of the nanny state, telling people what to do because they’re not smart enough to figure it out for themselves. Static speed limits are silly anyway since they do not take into account the conditions of the road.
Take, for example, the national speed limits on the motorways. Even today it is 70mph, a limit introduced when cars were little more than boxes on wheels and vehicle safety was not even thought of. Today’s cars are far safer, capable of safely achieving higher speeds, and decelerating far quicker. Unless there are police about, the only people going 70mph are the people in the slow lane, whilst those in the fast lane are usually hitting 90 or 100mph, and doing it safely. Why? Because they’re driving courteously, sensibly, and in line with the traffic flow and the road conditions.
What makes me bring this up, of course, are reports today that the few councils in the country brave enough to turn off their speed cameras have seen an increase in speeding at some of the camera locations. The emphasis is added because there doesn’t actually seem to be any reports of an increase in accidents at those locations, just an increase in people driving faster. People who, if the camera was switched on, would drive past it either paying more attention to their speedo than the road, or slamming on their brakes glancing around for a speed limit not noticing they’re about to be rear-ended by someone else.
Don’t get me wrong, I approve of the idea of speed cameras in certain locations, mainly outside schools or, more importantly, at sections of road with unexpected hazards such as deceptively tight bends or sudden dips in the road. But these cameras should be clearly signposted, highly visible with flashing lights and dedicated warning signs (not just the signs we have now, which effectively say ‘there’s a camera somewhere, but we won’t say where’), with the speed limit marked clearly on the actual camera so there can be no confusion. Maybe then road users will believe it when ‘they’ say that speed cameras are there for our safety, not to make money out of us.