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Friday, 30 September 2011

The Ministry of Chaos strikes again

I can't think of a more absurd excuse than the Transport Secretary's for increasing the speed limit to 80 MPH on motorways in England and Wales - 'because so many motorists already break the law and the police don't enforce it'. This from the 'party of law and order'! Police forces have already blamed scarce resources for failure to monitor speed violations so where will they find the resources to fulfil a promise to monitor the new 80 MPH limit with far fewer resources? When they do check, the most common formula applied for giving 'leeway' is '10% plus 2mph' = 79mph before action is taken. If the same formula were applied the actual top speed is more likely to be 90 MPH. 

Good reasons for challenging Mr Hammond's decision are outlined in the BBC report here yet many are in favour of the change. This is hardly surprising if so many people flout the law, illustrated by this Guardian poll which, at the time of writing, shows 68% and rising in favour of the change with two days to go for voting. Surely every shop-lifter, pimp or drug pusher would vote to legitimise their law breaking if given half a chance.

Even if the reason given were legitimate, there is a much better case for reducing the speed limit. The Green Party's chief scientist is quoted in the BBC link (above) as saying that there was a 20% increase in fuel consumption and emissions between driving at 70 and 80. Reducing oil consumption and emissions are important environmental considerations which should be given extra weight. I also question the suggestion that everything must be done at a quicker pace. Consideration for others, on and off the road, is now barely noticeable. If anything, we need to slow down and restore the better mannered culture of 'after you' which was far less stressful. 

I have just been reading the news about the M4 being shut this afternoon after a six vehicle crash. Not long ago South Wales was virtually cut-off when the nearby  Brynglas Tunnels were closed after a serious accident. The supposed few minutes saved on journey times by increasing the speed limit will be more than outweighed by the predicted increase in accidents and will cost more lives. The government appears unconcerned with the 1% predicted increase conveniently forgetting that it is 100% for the unlucky ones, often at no fault of their own.

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