There was a sudden flash of light. Unfortunately, not a moment of inspiration, just the realisation of another three points on my licence.
Of course, it wasn’t my fault. How ridiculous that a main dual carriageway is restricted to 60 mph, especially at 5 am on a Saturday morning and if my daughter had not been talking to me….
But then the reality. I knew the 60 mph limit and speed camera were there for a reason (to slow traffic approaching a busy junction on a fast road) and no one else was to blame, but I got lucky. Another Speed Awareness Course offer, so the licence will remain not exactly clean, but only slightly ‘muddied’.
My previous Speed Awareness Course was an eye opener, although obviously not enough to prevent me going back to my old ways (a bit over the speed limit, but nothing extreme). Perhaps it was that the films of staged accidents lost their impact (no pun intended) because they used ancient cars, like Triumph Heralds and I knew my modern car could stop much more quickly. But this time everything was far more up to date and some of the stats quoted were frightening.
Slam your brakes on at 50 mph and 45 metres later you are still going 41 mph, and that is in the dry. From 20 mph you can stop in three car lengths, brake from 38 mph and 3 car lengths later you are still doing 37 mph. However, the most persuasive stat was the 67% fall in child injury rates in 20 mph zones. Compelling at the time, but possibly just a headliner grabber, a closer look at the same research also showed that accident rates increased on surrounding roads as drivers changed their routes.
However, you cannot ignore that on average, 35 are killed and 460 seriously injured on UK roads every week and as I have written here before, there would be an outcry if this occurred with any other form of transport. Roads would be closed and vehicles banned, but there seems an acceptance of road casualties as part of daily life, probably as there are currently no real alternatives.
Understandably, the authorities are clamping down on speeding and few could argue that speed is not a major factor in the cause and severity of accidents. It is whether they have the right approach that is debatable and I have certainly moaned as I have crawled around the Brighton and Hove 20 mph zone. I understand them near schools, parks and other places where kids are likely to be. I understand them in residential areas, particularly narrow streets, but question whether virtually all parts of the town need to be brought to a standstill. There is still contradictory evidence as to whether 20 mph zones work, so would it not be better to rigorously enforce 20 mph in areas of vulnerable pedestrians?
Part of the problem is cultural, particularly with men. We tend to think that we are brilliant drivers and the rules are for others. No one wants to cause a serious accident, but if we are honest, however many accidents we see, the ‘I’m a great driver, it won’t happen to me’ tends to kick in. We slowdown when we know we will get caught by the cameras, but that is a dangerous approach when a split-second error of judgement could lead to a fatality or serious injury, and more than likely, imprisonment.