Graham Hurdle's blog: 2 August 2011 - Are drivers too fast or too slow?
02 August 2011
Graham Hurdle is managing director of E-Training World
This week we saw two press releases about speed, one from the IAM about driving too fast, the other from Confused.com about driving too slowly.
The IAM has highlighted a correlation in DfT figures, which show that as compliance with 30mph urban speed limits is improving, pedestrian fatalities are falling.
Confused.com says: "60% of motorists experience increased stress levels and heightened irritability when faced with a vehicle driving slower than the rest of the traffic."
Neil Greg, IAM director of policy and research, said: "The good news is that drivers are not driving faster on the less crowded roads - and more people are sticking to the limit in urban areas where there are many hazards.
"A combination of consistent road safety messages, new road layouts and police enforcement appears to be paying road safety dividends for city people.
"However despite this positive effect in urban areas, road safety on rural roads, where the majority of serious accidents and fatalities occur, needs much more attention.
He continues: "Most young drivers get plenty of exposure to urban hazards but often their first experience of a rural road comes after the test when they are on their own. This is unacceptable."
Gareth Kloet, head of car insurance at Confused.com, says: "Slow drivers need to be taken as seriously as motorists caught speeding. Findings confirm they are a constant source of anxiety on UK roads and responsible for a large amount of accidents each year.
We support the introduction of a programme of measures to eliminate this hazard as our research has highlighted that excessively slow driving is a real problem.
The Government introduced speed cameras, and now even a super speed camera, so should also consider the same rigour to combat slow driving as it could make a difference and help reduce motorists putting themselves or others at risk."
So what can we learn from these two press releases?
I have been saying since the early 1990s that consecutive governments have been sending out the wrong message about speed. All you ever hear is "Speed Kills" and it seems the cause of nearly all crashes is speed related. Wrong! Speed doesn't kill and there is hardly ever a crash where the major cause is speed related.
It is not speed that kills, it is inappropriate speed that kills and often, it not just the speed that is the major factor in a crash but a lack of the key skills necessary in safe driving: concentration, observation and hazard perception skills. Lewis Hamilton and his colleagues in Formula 1 racing don't get killed every time they sit in a racing car, yet they drive pretty fast.
Inappropriate speed can also be looked at when examining people who drive too slowly as a cause of crashes. However often the person driving too slowly is not involved in the actual crash but will have contributed, by their driving style to the accident. For example a following driver executes an overtaking manoeuvre which has tragic consequences.
This is the problem we have in road safety, as soon as you do something to reduce crashes in one area, it has a knock on effect and with the present government's policy of decisions being taken locally, we will never get a national review of speed limits. Until we do we will have drivers frustrated not only by slow drivers but illogical speed limits, e.g. dual carriageways restricted to 40 or 50 mph but single track roads where it is legal to drive at 60 mph.
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