I had become quite used to the hum of the lampless but most of the time I just sit with my legs crossed and I push them forward from side to side (photo: Joseph Kaimana)
Citing the 24-hour rule, a parliamentary committee recommended action to increase motorway speed limits in September last year, suggesting that despite speed limits being in place for motorways only, the limits on other roads ought to be revised as the situation had deteriorated “to a point where it may cause a risk to road users”. I always took that to mean there were too many people going faster on our roads. This was not the first time parliament had been taken into account, after all, last year’s Fast and Slow passenger rail survey concluded speed limits were lower on roads than it had expected and “much has changed in the last 10 years”.
No fewer than 220,000 people are killed and 290,000 are seriously injured on our roads every year and according to the BAA 4,000 people die and 60,000 are seriously injured at least once a year and that figure rises to 9,000 when the injuries include permanent disability or the loss of an eye. It is pretty obvious to see the trend: collisions continue to increase and police statistics published last year put the number of drivers fleeing the scene of a collision at 17% in 2016. It seems to me these two numbers are related and these figures do show a disturbing trend that has grown worse in recent years.
The “Fast and Slow” survey was a pretty good thing for the motoring industry. Polls showed people don’t mind if things aren’t sped up but they don’t mind too much when certain things aren’t as fast. According to the government’s own figures, 93% of public transport journeys and 92% of city centre and business journeys are not fast, while 93% of public transport journeys between rural and urban areas are not fast.
But does speed really play a major role in accidents? I have my own theory: often speed is an awful excuse when there’s not just a speed limit there but a barrier there, a sign there, a lamp there or a bright light there to inform motorists of these barriers. Sometimes, I was so surprised to read that I had accidentally done something wrong when I saw it myself. I have become quite used to the hum of the lampless but most of the time I just sit with my legs crossed and I push them forward from side to side. I recently found myself behind a few cars which were travelling at about 30 mph, which was more than enough to put some distance between me and them. I was stunned to see that the sun was behind them. Suddenly I knew that they hadn’t driven too fast.
By the time I got to the speed limit I just had to avoid them. I was the only fatality that day but then the same thing happens a few times a year. The 54 I wrote about in 2013 all happened on days when they slowed down, but again and again I have seen people who should know better drive too fast and hurt themselves and, if not their fellow motorists, their passengers and, if they’re lucky, a few strays who walk over the road.
There’s another lesson to be learnt here. In the not too distant future, you may well face a black flag on a motorway.