27/7/2012 - More speed limits coming to rural roads
When vehicles first started appearing on UK roads, they caused great upset to the horses and walkers who had previously enjoyed the cobbles to themselves. So the government of the time introduced a law that required a pedestrian to walk in front of the car waving a red flag or carrying a lantern in an effort to slow the vehicle and warn bystanders of the vehicle's approach. This rule was repealed in 1896 but it appears that successive governments will not be happy until all motorists are restricted back to walking pace.
The latest effort to reduce speed comes with a Department for Transport announcement that they will make it easier for local authorities to introduce the limit on the quietest roads. The vast majority of rural roads are currently governed by the national speed limit of 60mph but soon motorists could face fines if they drive over 40mph.
Normally reducing the speed limit would require a local authority to put in a series of signs, which is expensive and time consuming. But these proposals will allow them to designate quiet stretches of roads as 40mph zones requiring only one sign at the start of the zone and another when it ends. This is similar to the approach used in towns and cities which have brought in thousands of 20mph zones in residential areas. These zones are now commonplace across the country and a similar expansion is anticipated for the 40mph zones across rural communities.
The reasons for these measures being suggested are real enough: the latest figures show the first annual rise in road deaths and serious injuries in 17 years, with 1,901 people killed last year, a three per cent rise on 2010. Of that number, rural roads present the highest risk to motorists and their passengers, accounting for 68 per cent of fatalities in 2010. Nearly half of these deaths took place on country roads with a 60 mph limit.
Clearly these are figures that need addressing but my concern is that, in addition to increasing journey time, arbitrary speed limits do not necessarily address the cause of many accidents on the roads. Factors such as poor driving skills, dangerous road layouts and the odd un-roadworthy tractor all have roles to play.
But at least the government has said these limits will only apply on roads with bends, junctions or accesses - so that's just about every road in the land then!
Have a great weekend and enjoy driving at more than a canter while you still can...
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