Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Slow down there! Why the government needs to retract on the planned speed increase

As someone who passed their driving test last year, I was intrigued at news that the government would be holding a consultation into raising the motorway speed limit from 70 to 80mph. At a time where fuel costs are sky high, insurance premiums just as bad and conditions of roads deteriorating across the country, questions are aplenty about the benefits of raising the limit.

Former Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond’s repeated emphasis on the current restriction being “out-of-date” since “huge advances in safety and motoring technology”, made me question the governments motives behind the rise. Are we talking about cars, roads or the people behind the wheel here? Because, no matter how much carbon-fibre or glossy paintwork are added, you cannot paint over the fact that a car is only safe in the hands of the person who is driving it. Once I had passed my test, I felt confident and reassured that my awareness of the road was justifiable, despite a friend losing her life in a car accident a few months before.

It seems to me that the rise is only being implicated to speed up journey times. If the speed is increased, journeys may well be quicker - but with it entices the boy racers and Top Gear wannabees - leading to an increased amount of traffic and carnage. And more chaos and crashes mean higher insurance premiums. The Department of Transport summed it up clearly when they revealed that 49% of drivers flout the current limit anyway, so imagine what would happen at 80mph. Somewhat reassuring, to say the least.

However, the real concern here is the young drivers - ok, so a few questions might have to be reviewed on the theory test, but if learner drivers have not had the opportunity to drive at such acceleration, how will they be able to handle the pressure and fright of driving at faster speeds. Saving a few minutes of your supermarket trip can hardly be worth it when compared to the increased chances you have of losing years off your own life. The government needs to seriously rethink the advantages of increasing the speed limit, and if they do decide to, then a re-think on teaching the rules of the road, particularly for young drivers, needs to be addressed.

(Opinion piece written in 2011 - dedicated to Erin Shee)

Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

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