One day in the not too distant future, folk will look at today’s roads as frontiers-style motoring; speeding is endemic and motorists can drive dangerously and even kill with near impunity. However new legislation means the days of speeding traffic look numbered. The ETA started campaigning for speed limiters in cars in the early 1990s and its an enduring scandal that it is only now that this simple technology looks set to be introduced into new cars.
All new cars sold in Britain and Europe are to be fitted with devices to stop drivers exceeding the speed limit under new road danger reduction measures that the EU has provisionally agreed. And although Britain may no longer be part of the EU when the rules come into effect in 2022, the British regulator, the Vehicle Certification Agency, has confirmed it will mirror safety standards for vehicles sold here.
As well as the speed limiters, new cars will have to fitted automated emergency braking, electronic data recorders (black boxes) and improved visibility built into lorries.
A scandalous state of affairs
An Army officer caught doing 130mph in his Aston Martin this time last year received little more than a slap on the wrist after arguing he needed his driving licence in order to complete an army tour of the Falklands. James Golding was lucky. Not only did the magistrate go soft, but more importantly, his driving at almost twice the limit did not result in a fatal collision. Many others are less fortunate. Speed is the primary factor in one third of all fatal collisions. The simple fact is that lower speed limits (when they are respected and enforced) save lives.
Cyclist magazine this month asked Martin Porter QC whether he thought there was a problem with drivers being let off even short driving bans as a result of pleading ‘exceptional hardship’?
According to Porter, “There’s a massive industry of lawyers out there who can almost guarantee getting a convicted motorist out of losing their license, for a price. It’s easy for a lawyer to present the client as in hardship: “How am I going to get to work or get the kids to school?” And this is all premised on the assumption that the courts share that you can’t live a normal life without the ability to drive around. There are lots of people driving around with well over 12 points on their license. It’s big business for these lawyers. It’s a fairly scandalous state of affairs.”
In the absence of a systematic approach to road danger reduction, and until magistrates take the offence of speeding seriously, could technology offer a little help? Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) works by linking speed limit recognition cameras and GPS data to prevent the driver from breaking the limit. The driver can temporarily disable the system, but this only works for a few seconds at a time.
According to the ETSC, ISA is the single most effective new vehicle safety technology currently available in terms of its life-saving potential. Other benefits include encouraging walking and cycling due to reduced perceived danger of cars, a traffic calming effect, reductions in insurance costs, higher fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions.
Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable Bill Skelly has unveiled plans for a new-and-improved version of Community Speed Watch which involves a team of volunteers and PCSOs enforcing speed limits and taking direct action.
According to Mr Skelly: “I’m very keen that whilst recognising the limitations on the overall number of police officers I have and can afford, people know that I can help in supporting a local community to take some ownership of some of the problems to do with road safety. So I’m actively discussing the introduction of additional powers for PCSOs to be able to issue speeding tickets, as well as tickets for mobile phone use, driving whilst otherwise distracted and seat belt offences. As of April 1, I can also give the power to issue Fixed Penalty Notices to a number of volunteers who would receive training on these three out of the ‘Fatal 4’ activities. It may take a year or two to work through but I can give that power to volunteers who work closely with PCSOs and neighbourhood police officers so they can take more ownership, not only of monitoring speeding through their village, but actually enforcing speed limits through their village as well.”
“Under the new powers, a PCSO and a team of three volunteers would be able to set up a speed check point and then enforce it. I’d have to ensure that a PCSO is involved because there’s a danger of vigilantism and so if speed checks are led by one of my staff, they would be able to take an objective stance. This is Community Speed Watch with teeth because people could not only monitor and report, but actually enforce speeding to a legal standard in their area.”
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