Debate Magazine

Authoritarian Madness

Posted on the 12 April 2015 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

Have they ever thought that the bloody limits might be too low?  The responsible 'man on the spot' will always know more than the remote bureaucrat; be more informed about the actual circumstances prevailing at the time.
I recently drove from Ipswich, down the A12 around the M25 anticlockwise and onto the M3 then A303 to get to Thruxton. And back the day after.  The whole exercise was made more unsafe for me by either mass bunching of vehicles terrified of the 'grey' cameras, or just trying to keep within the indicated speed limit by constantly checking my speedo. If you drive under the speed limit you get in amongst all the heavy vehicles with drivers sitting with their pedal to the metal using their governors to  stick at 56 / 60 ish.
There clearly is a place for advice on speed - where road alignments make it impossible for drivers to know the circumstances; around live roadworks; as advance warning of an 'incident', for example.
Similarly many speed limits are 'too high'.  In my town there are lots of narrow cross streets with cars parked on both sides where to do  more than 20 is dodgy, yet the 'limit' is 30.  I cannot recall any news story of any incident in such streets.
But clearly what we have now is just persecution to satisfy the small minds of a small clique of authoritarian police and 'planners'.
As an ex-highway engineer, I know that there is a good case for lowering - or recommending - lower speeds in periods of high demand on, at that instant, under-capacity roads.  It is a proven fact that more traffic will get through any stretch of road under those circumstances as it can bunches up safely. But this does not need to be policed by cameras, especially if you explain to drivers what is happening and why.  It's all about trust.
This fact is also useful when we think about self driving cars. Such vehicles will be able to safely 'platoon' (in the jargon).  Which in turn leads eventually to the argument as to why HS2 should be killed stone dead.

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