By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Speed trapping is probably the single most used law enforcement method to combat road deaths. One might however question whether this does in fact save lives or whether it is merely window dressing enforcement to generate general compliance with the rules of the road. For want of a better word the imposition of fines gets a wee bit ‘pedantic’ for those who are travelling at say 65kph in a 60kph zone. We all know how easily and indeed comfortably one can creep up 5kph without noticing, but one supposes that rules are rules.
We need to take a step back from trapping to the actual setting of speed limits. This is where the ‘do-gooders’, the politicians and councillors step in. Some may suggest that speed limits are set too low, thus making trapping ‘easy meat’ for traffic law enforcement officers, and that cognisance should be taken of certain other factors, such as age of drive, experience and the type of vehicle they are driving. Many are designed for speed.
Many of us are in metric speed limit zones and, generally, town centres are set at 60kph as a general limit and 80kph on dual carriageways. The open general limit on highways is 120kph. In the United Kingdom built up area are 30mph, while dual carriageways and highways get the 70mph approval. Yet we are all driving vehicles which manufacturers have designed to travel upwards from speeds of 200kph/124mph, almost twice speed limits. That is criminal!
One often wonders what science is applied to speed limiting, or whether in fact nations have just pursued limiting as a case of ‘those have always been the limits’. Statistics have been quoted on United Kingdom based speed limits which suggest “Accident statistics show that at 40mph nine out of ten children hit by cars either die or receive life changing serious injuries. At 20mph nine out of ten survive.” ** Should 20mph be the general limit in built up areas?
Clearly, many people reading this will be thinking that their local speed limits are a little dull, when they come to consider it. Nobody would propose that speed limits be abolished, because there are very good reasons not to travel at high velocity through, for example, built up areas where pedestrians dominate, especially the young. But control does not lie in law enforcement trapping. Given the amazing feats of engineering we enjoy in motor vehicles today, and considering aspects of age, driving experience and training, one wonders if speed limiting legislations has been left behind in the 1950s mindset. It is very much contingency limiting, for that tiny minority who may suffer an accident, which cannot be adequately controlled.
Given all this, it would seem that more fundamental issues are still ignored. These are that most people who take to the wheel of a car generally intend to be law abiding citizens and have no intention of using their vehicles as a weapon. No cognizance is taken of those who are seasoned drivers, nor the propensity of the very young or the very old to be more accident prone. No one cares about expansion of vehicle brake capacity or efficiency, vehicle design and the elimination, to a reasonable degree, of drink-driving (which combined with speed is a sure killer).
The potential impact fatality figures on children are often quoted. With measures like gun control in the United Kingdom, when it was discovered that guns can kill in large numbers in populous communities, guns were banned outright. Yet when it is evident that the higher the speed the more likely impact deaths occur, with vehicles, which are apparently more lethal than guns, vehicle are not banned. Even recommended speed rates for hitting children are not imposed, less enforced, around areas where children predominate. Compare legislation controlling health and safety on the roads with that imposed on the tobacco industry. The principle objectives are similar, to save lives, except motor vehicles kill mostly third parties rather than cigarettes kill smokers themselves, if they choose to smoke.
As ludicrous as that may seem, legislators still have not considered limiting vehicle manufacturers with the speed that their production vehicles may travel. There are no health warnings in the cockpits of these killing machines on four wheels! To achieve ‘do-gooder’ status, really no vehicles should be allowed to travel beyond a nation’s speed limits. Their ability to do so actually encourages, if not causes, crime. With geo-positioning technology vehicles could be limited easily to speeds outside driver control, right down to that magical 20mph in areas where children might be likely jump in front of motor vehicles. Yet nothing is being done with this line of thinking.
There are just so many variables, one might guess it would make traffic law enforcement just a little too difficult, but speed trapping will unlikely contribute to the reduction in road deaths. More scientific speed limiting will and vehicle manufacturers should have been more involved in that process.
Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!