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UK Road Safety Is A Money-Spinning Joke

By Paul Smith
13th August, 2012


Did you know that the law regarding speed limits is such that when you drive out of a 30mph zone, when there is no other signage and the street lighting is less than 200 yards apart, the 30mph limit is still enforced? Some people might know of this crazy rule, but most drivers in the UK don’t know and fall foul of it when the police set up speed patrols. So even when all around no longer looks very built up and it seems safe to speed up, the limit remains at 30mph.

This is just one example of how crazy the UK is when it comes to road safety. Most people would agree that if you want drivers to keep within a restricted speed, then adequate signage should be erected, especially where there could be doubt. We all know that built up areas tend to be restricted to 30mph, sometimes less. However, some built up areas are limited to 40mph, sometimes 50mph. So there is no hard and fast rule on built up areas, except that when the limit is other than 30mph then, and only then, signage is required and it must be repeated every so often. In effect these archaic rules suggest that a speed limit that is commonly known as a safe speed (think about the advertising campaign for ‘hit me at 30mph’) is not always adequately signed and there is no need to repeat it. Even after a patrol catches out 100 or more drivers in a clearly ambiguous area, still no signage is erected. It remains a great little earner for the authorities, all in the name of ‘road safety’. It’s nonsense.

When it comes to speed cameras, many are positioned where speeding has been an issue and, in some cases, where terrible accidents have occurred. Yet, many people will agree that there are cameras placed in areas that seem to be designed to catch drivers out. While we can argue this and the enforcers are right to uphold a view that drivers should keep within any speed limit, regardless of the location, this does little for ‘road safety’ where it really matters. Many drivers are aware of a particular stretch of road where countless accidents have occurred and people have lost their lives. Yet, there is not so much of a sign warning of any black spots, let alone speed cameras or occasional police patrols.

Police Patrols are often set up at locations where they can catch the most drivers. You see them on fast, busy roads in lay-byes and junctions just when you are coming around a sweeping bend or over the brow of a hill. While, again, there is the argument of being or not being within the set speed limit, we seldom see speed patrols outside of our schools, on our housing estates or in the town centre where road safety is considerably more important. If there were an accident in these areas, there is a great deal more risk of life-threatening injuries to the public. Yet, it seems the authorities are not as interested in policing these areas. After all, why waste resources catching 4 or 5 speeders outside of a school when you can catch over 100 on that stretch of road on the outskirts of town?

Well, those 4 or 5 speeders are more likely to be the ones who have scant regard for road safety and are high risk takers. They are the drivers the police should be targeting.

Statistically, there are more accidents, injuries and losses of life on rural roads than for urban roads. So what exactly are the enforcers doing about this known fact? Many people who live in non-urban areas would agree that, actually, very little is being done. These roads remain dangerous. For the most part, adequate signage would provide a good solution. Instead, many lives have been lost due to there being no or inadequate signage of a black spot on our urban roads. I live near to such a road and, at least once a month, I hear the sirens wailing and there is another statistic to all those that have gone before. There are two very bad black spots along this stretch of road where lives have been lost. Yet, there is no signage warning of one of them and inadequate signage of the other. Many of the accidents are suffered by inexperienced drivers not knowing this road. Indeed, two young girls lost their lives earlier this year when their car went out of control in ice at one of those black spots. There is still no sign, just bunches of flowers!

It’s not just madness; it’s a callous insult to our communities. It seems that anything to do with reducing patrols and speed cameras meets with the disgust of anti-speed campaigners. Yet, surely, even they can see that what is currently operated is having little effect on road safety overall. We need to get the authorities to target areas based on need, rather than areas that attract the most revenue for a day’s work.

We should all be pressing the need of safer roads, to rid them of dangerous drivers and alike. However, there is a great deal that can be done to improve road safety that costs nothing more than appropriate and clear signage. For example, every other one of those street lighting posts I mentioned in the opening paragraph could have a 30mph sign erected on it. Doesn’t that remove any uncertainty whatsoever?

This would also sway the statistics because, what is seen as a high number of speeding motorists, is most likely to be a high number of motorists who are unsure of the speed limit in a given area and are getting caught. If the speed limit was made more unambiguous, those numbers would drop significantly and the authorities would then be looking for ‘real’ troubled areas to mount their patrols and cameras.

Anywhere where there have been accidents that are later found to be a result of a dangerous stretch of road, must have steps taken to reduce the speed limit and to get the area appropriately signed as a black spot. This should be a constitutional policy for all councils with funding made available from insurance company compensation and/or central government to make it so.

Arguably, statistics for areas that have been good for raising revenues as a result of catching lots of speeding motorists can be used to provide unambiguous signage. These areas will no longer need monitoring.

If you care about road safety, write to your local Councillor and MP and act on it:

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