Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Soapbox Moment: Speed Kills

Speed Kills: So we are told. Only, it doesn’t. The term was coined during the seventies to warn people of the danger of meth-amphetamine and has recently been used to make us all feel guilty anytime our speedometer wanders over the posted limit. Speed doesn’t kill however and the public are not stupid enough to believe this.

The equation is as follows:

        Speed + Inappropriate Context + Bad Driving Skills = Danger

It’s only when the above three factors come together that we have a problem, and with that speed has been relegated to 33% of the equation rather than the 100% that the government currently tell us. I can and do speed, when it is safe to do so and I do not take unnecessary risks with my life or those of others. I am constantly alert, watching the road, reading the traffic. As I now often ride a bike (both motorbike and pushbike) I drive defensively, on a bike you don't have 2 tons of metal cage and half a dozen airbags to protect you.

At 100+mph overtaking in the outside lane of the motorway watching the road, the traffic, the weather, I am far less of a danger to the public than the sales rep in his Audi driving in the middle lane, six inches from the bumper of the car in front, appointment book open on his knee, cigarette in his mouth, phone in one hand and McDonalds shake in the other. But who are the police going to target ?

Why the obsession with speed ? Is it because it’s something that can be controlled and restricted without any human involvement or discretion and without considering context, through the use of Speed Cameras (Piggy Banks), removing the need for real policing or human intervention ? A simple equation:

        69Mph, Homicidal Criminal = No, 71Mph, Homicidal Criminal = Yes

The problem with drumming into our heads that Speed Kills is that everything else is driven from our minds, and with no police on the roads the other dangers are allowed to continue unchallenged. Here’s one example:

        Drunk Drivers. As long as they don’t speed, they get away with it because Speed Cameras can’t detect drunk driving.

Here’s where context comes into it. A drink driver is dangerous no matter what speed he or she is doing. Take for example a wet country lane during autumn with leaves likely to be on the road and a 90 degree bend. The speed limit is 60, but in this context only an idiot would take the bend that fast. How about driving at 50 mph, within the speed limit, of the A38 one morning in thick fog. Too fast given the context. I’m sure you can think of many examples yourself.
The bad driving part of the equation has to be tackled. We live in a state where we cannot smoke inside public buildings (public safety issue) and yet we allow a 17 year old with minimal training, a hoodie and a bad attitude to jump into a two ton machine and tear around the roads without fear of retribution (unless he goes through a speed camera) - where is the sense in that ?

When is someone in government going to look at the issue of safety on the roads and put forward a program of changes to address the real issues ? And can we please drop the ‘Speed Kills’ campaign, surely a product from the mind of the mentally challenged !

"Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future." - Charles F Kettering

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