I’m after comments on this one, and I’d like to make it clear that you don’t have to agree with me: As usual, I won’t delete comments unless they’re spam, offensive, or commercial in nature.

Speed, it seems, is the new bogeyman of the road. This is prompted by this series of tweets by @SoluhullPolice, but this has been building for a long time:

and it prompted a short debate. I replied:

Now, don’t get me wrong, excessive speed is dangerous. If you’re going too fast for the conditions, you’re way more likely to hit something, and if you do, you’re more likely to cause damage, injury, or death.

What gets me all ranty is current road safety focussing on speed almost enitrely, because:

1) Some now assume that they’re safe purely because they were doing less than the posted limit, and there becomes an expectation that the posted limit is safe for that road at all times, removing the expectation of the driver to judge road conditions.

2) No other aspects are being publicised, with the exception of drink driving.

3) The focus on speed produces cameras. I’m not a fan, mainly because of other drivers reactions to them (brake, no matter what speed you are doing), but they can have a positive effect in the right place (the A90 in Scotland has several junctions protected by well-placed cameras), and this is a solution that works and has saved lives, but re-engineering the junctions is probably better.

Now, this brings forth a quandary: you can detect a few motoring offences with automatic tech: ANPR can detect lack of tax, insurance, or MOT. A Gatso or other speed camera can detect speeding, but provided you have tax, insurance, and MOT, don’t hit anything, and don’t speed past the camera, you’re unlikely to be challenged in any way. As BrownhillsBob pointed out to me, such is the volume of cars on the road that having enough traffic plod on the road to effectively police it is hard.

Now, I do speed. I’m pretty sure most drivers do, and that most people who claim otherwise are lying. It may not be by much, but they do. Some speed limits are too low (and many are too high, like 30mph in crowded residential or shopping areas). I’ve talked about this before, of course.

I’d argue that @SolihullPolice’s bottom tweet in the pic above is the worst: It’s saying that they want to do something about people that sometimes speed. Not the ones that always do, it seems.

I’d also argue that people that speed at times are probably more aware of road conditions. Clearly those that speed always, in all conditions are potentially dangerous, especially if we accept that sometimes the posted limit must be too high- for example, in poor weather. At some point, chance or physics will happen, and they’ll run out of talent and hit something, because poor, antisocial driving and excessive speed often go hand in hand.

So: am I way off mark? I sometimes still enjoy driving, even on roads others hate. I sometimes break the speed limit, but sometimes drive well below it. I try to be reasonably competent and patient at the wheel, but hate to be held up and like to “make progress” where I can. I’ll sometimes make mistakes, but hopefully not serious ones.

Is speed as big a problem as suggested (and you may like to read this post on accident rates on a few local roads to help you consider).

Are other aspects more, less, or equally as important, and how could their standards be enforced?

Is enough done in the engineering of roads to increase passive safety?


12 Responses to “Speeding”

  1. Margaret Hamilton Says:

    I say the law should be obeyed, whatever. This is the same law that stops us selling narcotics, stops us from hitting old ladies over the head and from interfring with children. If you’ve got no law, you’ve got nothing. Don’t encourage people to break the law.

  2. Willenhall Lad Says:

    I think there should be more focus on driving standards as I’ve said before. However, some people will just be reckless and somebody we know well has just been released from hospital having falling off his bike after doing very excessive speeds.

    The Police seem to be having a go at speed in general as the Express & Star reports.

    What seems to be lacking is the ability of the Police to be discriminatory in these matters. There is more of an air of 1930’s Germany about the approach rather than dealing with the matter fairly and firmly.

    What would benefit matters a lot, and as an ex-driving instructor I truly believe this, is that there should be retests for everybody every 10 years or so. I certainly benefited from my speed awareness course last year. Maybe you should be scored as well? Maybe that would encourage better and more responsible driving?

    @Margaret: Just having a debate about a subject isn’t necessarily going to encourage people to break the law. We have the right to discuss such matters.

  3. species5618 Says:

    The problem with the much of the law is it is currenlty aimed at protecting idiots from them selves, and in general is full of inconsistancies.
    Also some speed limits are set by knee jerk re actions, there have been a few cases where a speed limit was reduced say 60 > 40, because of and accident black spot, yet the accdient which trigger the change, the was was infact exceeding the posted 60 limit, so changing the limit to 40 make not difference.there are soem VALID reason for reducing a speed limit, i know a road in Gloucester that was 40 for 30 years, and there was ALWAYS a tail back when it hit the city limits and dropped to 30, making it a 30 from te previous junction (2 miles away) spread the trafiic out along the 2 mile stretch of road, and the traffic actually FLOWED much better.

    Then add to the mix that a mobile sales man with a disabled wife, has 30+ points on his licence because they wont BAN him, and having a company car extra insurance is NOT his problem

    Education has to be the best answer, with regards to road use, speed & maintainni a road worth car,
    Them come down harder on people with unroad worthy cars, more APNR with stiffer penalties,

  4. stymaster Says:


    Yep, speed reduction to improve flow works: you can see it on the M42 or M6 in the variable limit sections. Pretty much agree with what you say.


    Thanks for your comment. I see your point, though it’s a bit of a straw man argument. (speeding is illegal, interfering with children is illegal (as well as repugnant), therefore we shouldn’t speed), but it’s rather pedantic of me to say that: I see where you are coming from. This is just what I wanted: a debate. Out of interest, do you consider current limits to be correct?

    I would ask if you’ve ever driven with a failed head or tail light, an under-inflated tyre, or a empty washer bottle- these are illegal under the consruction & use regulations, and affect safety, just like speed does, but I’d wager everyone has done at least one of those at some time, even if they are concientous about checking their vehicle each time they drive.

    Clearly we should obey the law, or accept the consequences. Solihull police made the point in another tweet that they enforce the law, not make it, and that if we want things to be different then we should have the law changed. I’d argue also that anyone caught by a fixed Gatso camera probably wasn’t paying enough attention if they didn’t see it: thay are bright yellow, after all.

    This doesn’t negate my point about safety though: I think there’s a danger of being blinkered to the wider picture of safety by the slow=safe fallacy. 90mph on a near-deserted M6 toll is clearly safer than 30mph in a dense housing estate with kids playing, but the latter isn’t speeding.

    @Willenhall Lad

    Yep. With you on that.

  5. Martin Says:

    Unfortunately, you’ll often see young lads in Walsall in very posh, high-end cars cruising around town and then blasting along the Broadway in uncle/cousin’s BMW or Merc.

    At the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the lads who tweak their Corsas and Cinquecentos.
    They spend all day at Walsall College learning how to make their heaps of crap go faster so they want to test their knowledge.
    And they’ve got their bootleg copies of Tokyo Drift from Bescot market and they want to be Clay and get off with Cindy.

    In both cases it’s quicker and simpler to bung in a few cameras than it is to try and educate these plonkers, and it has the added bonus of bringing in a few quid.

    In these days of declining budgets we’re going to see fewer humans to deal with preventing ‘crimes’ and more automated ‘detection’ .

  6. Willenhall Lad Says:

    One of the more dangerous problems I think is driving too slow. We have a lane that has claimed a few lives over the recent years and it is a lane that deserves real respect. But there are people who drive less than 40% of the speed limit regularly and cause people behind then to take chances as they want to drive within 10% of the limit, so causing many near misses or accidents. If you drive the Lane properly you should be able to respond to the cycling and farm traffic with plenty of room without causing problems to other road users yet slow traffic causes people to take unnecessary chances and risk lives.

    So why aren’t the Police doing anything about this?

  7. stymaster Says:

    Indeed. I touched on this a long time ago in a post linked above mentioning the A9. The A9 has a terrible reputation, and you can see some truly scary driving. It has an unpleasant combination of being a major single-carriageway road with heavy traffic, lots of HGVs (limited to 40 by the law, but this is, thankfully, widely ignored), some risky junctions, the very special type of moron that dawdles at 40 on such a road, people that can’t overtake, and then the rest, including the nutters.

    The signs often say “frustration causes accidents, allow overtaking“.

    I’ve personally experienced queues of several miles caused by, for example, a 4×4 towing a trailer at 35 mph, and the desperation of people to get past: it’s no joke with hundreds of miles ahead of you, and is in contravention of the highway code:


    Do not hold up a long queue of traffic, especially if you are driving a large or slow-moving vehicle. Check your mirrors frequently, and if necessary, pull in where it is safe and let traffic pass.

    Mind you, many people consider any overtake either dangerous or a personal affront.

    Many years ago, when I was 17, I failed my driving test in Broad Lane, Bloxwich for doing 30mph: the limit then was 40, I think, and the examiner thought I should have gone faster. Basically, I was too nervous and lacking in confidence.

  8. Willenhall Lad Says:

    Precisely. The A1 in Northumberland is in the same category as the A9 you mention. And the locals have the same tales of woe. Which is why concentrating upon driving skills is more important than the police standing with a radar gun or installing a static camera which measures a moment in time rather than bad habits. Yesterday I nearly got run over by a woman in a grey mini on a crossing in Wednesfield. I managed to point out that she was in error but she had no regard either for my safety or the law. She should be banned for that I think.

  9. Margaret Hamilton Says:

    You can’t hit an old lady just a little bit, can you, you’ve still broken the law by hitting her. Our laws exist to cater for the lowest common denominator, meaning in this discussion the worst drivers. Worst in this case has two meanings, ie, either the least capable or the one who cares least and is most reckless. Because of these extremes, everyone on the middle ground has to suffer. We all think that we are better drivers than we really are, and this is the big danger. I was a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists for 17 years, but I know that I’m still a crap driver. About 1 in 2000 people take the IAM test, so how good/bothered are the other 1999 on the road? The IAM training makes you a defensive driver and really makes you look at your driving differently. The IAM are interested in the appropriate use of speed, but they are also keen to raise standards. Our law knows full well that many people will ignore laws because they don’t think that they apply to them, or they weigh up the odds and decide whether they can get away with it. The law cannot discriminate, you don’t get credits on your licence for good driving. The response is always the same when speeders get caught. Everybody knows the rules. I left the IAM when their membership fees got too expensive, but I will always drive by their methods. The driving test isn’t hard enough. As it happens my brother teacher both drivers and driving instructors and he always says that it’s an intelligence test they want, not a driving test. We will never find a solution to this discussion. Safety first I say.

  10. stymaster Says:

    You can’t hit an old lady just a little bit, can you, you’ve still broken the law by hitting her.

    Indeed, though of course, the aim is to not do so 🙂

    I was a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists for 17 years, but I know that I’m still a crap driver.

    That probably puts you well above average, for the simple reason that you’ve thought about it.

    To be in a car with a genuinely good driver is a revelation. FWIW, the Willenhall Lad above drives rather well IMO, but I had the pleasure of spending some time on the back roads between Worcester and Telford being driven by a police advanced driver of some years experience: he made a white Astramax diesel go very quick indeed, but it was all so effortless, controlled and smooth (including overtaking the dawdlers) that you always felt perfectly relaxed.

    You say the law cannot discriminate, but it can, at least at the point of enforcement. A good traffic cop can. I’ve been pulled over a few times, all for speeding, though not for over 10 years now. Once, I got a ticket (the ironic thing being I was on police business…), the other two times they’ve checked I wasn’t pissed, checked the car was insured and roadworthy, and said ‘Goodnight sir, drive carefully”.

    Safety first I say.

    Well, indeed. I want safe roads, I’m just not sure the current approach is the right one…

    Thanks for your comment, please come back, I post occaisionally on driving matters and your input is interesting.. I’ve edited your comment slightly (to put in the HTML for italics so it displays as you intended). Hope that’s OK.

  11. Willenhall Lad Says:

    Driving is probably the most hazardous thing we do on a daily basis and over time you do become lazy as you make shortcuts in your brain for actions you took time over when you were learning. To obviate the problem, we should do what the military do and practise, practise and practise. This also applies to other industries such as Gas where people like my Brother-in Law have to prove they are competent every few years. Also HGV drivers have to take tests periodically.

    The only way is to train the human brain is to regularly go over the drills that the IAM and others such as the Police promote and try and put it into practise. What is lacking is that this process is verified by someone who does it every day i.e. a professional driver.

    You can’t eliminate accidents entirely, but you can minimise the risk by being well versed so you can deal with incidents as best as possible. I was a driving instructor for a while and I’ve tried to take a pride in my driving but how often when you don’t do it, do your skills lapse? Your tired. In a hurry. You can’t keep calm as other things make you impatient. Your attention is diverted. These things add up to making you a poor driver.

    I think the Stymaster has a good point about the Police and I think they should pull people over more often to tell them off about bad driving. I’ve also thought that maybe Traffic Marshall’s especially on Motorways should do this job. At the moment, our system isn’t setup to reinforce good driving, or get people up to a decent standard. We would need half the traffic furniture is we had a better standard of driving in this country.

  12. Willenhall Lad Says:

    Interestingly enough, the FSB reports that the there is a consultation regarding fixed penalty notices for “careless driving”. So maybe mindsets are slowly changing thanks to discussions such as this.