/ Motoring

Most people admit to breaking speed limits…

Car driving fast

According to car insurer Admiral’s survey, almost four in five motorists admit to driving over the speed limit. And thirty-somethings, who really should know better, are the worst offenders.

In Admiral’s survey of 3,614 motorists, 81% of people aged 30-39 admitted driving above the speed limit, making them speedier than 18-24 year olds and the over-70s – 72% of both groups admitted to breaking speed limits.

That’s a slightly different story to the exorbitant car insurance premiums offered to the youngest and oldest drivers…

Perhaps this survey highlights the need for ongoing training for drivers, as 31% of survey respondents thought they’d fail their L-test if they took it again.

My colleagues at Which? Car will definitely sympathise, only two out of five of our researchers passed their test when they re-took it back in 2009. So maybe mandatory refresher courses every five or 10 years would help?

Are Britain’s speed limits right?

To me the survey also suggests that many of our speed limits are woefully out of date. While I’d never advocate increasing the 30mph limit on urban and residential streets, the swathes of dual carriageways with 40mph limits and miles of motorways with a 70mph limit both feel behind the times. In Admiral’s survey, 55% of drivers thought the motorway speed limit should be 80mph, while 14% wanted the limit to be even higher than that.

When I’m driving at 70mph on the motorway, I found it extremely frightening and dangerous as faster vehicles frequently make hair-raising manoeuvres to get past me.

I’m not saying that the motorway limit should be increased to 80mph just because everyone else is doing it – I really do think that in good road conditions it’s a safe and sensible speed for modern cars to travel at. I personally think the motorway limit should be 80mph, on the proviso that the police then enforce this limit rigorously so people no longer ignore the legal limit.

So, with the majority of people admitting to breaking the speed limit, do you think current limits should be changed?

Do you think current speed limits are out of date?

Yes - speed limits need to be updated (60%, 679 Votes)

Maybe - it depends on the particular speed limit (24%, 274 Votes)

No - speed limits should stay as they are (16%, 181 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,137

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Comments
Graeme says:
16 November 2012

40/30/20 limits in build-up areas should be rigorously enforced (safety, noise pollution etc). Weather-dependent limits on M roads and dual carridgeways seems sensible, with maybe 80 mph as an upper limit. Enforcing speed limits should be technologically easy. Fit GPS trackers to every car with a speed limit ‘road map’ installed. If limit is exceeded the data are transmitted to the relevent law enforcement.

Average fuel saving would be best improved by fitting all cars with a fuel rate limiter giving an average of 50 mpg or better, plenty enough for an efficient 5-seater (600 kg load). Unfortunately, oil will not run out. What will happen is climate temperature will increase with well-predicted consequences and Humans will probably be one of the species to survive the effects!

You must be stupid, or unaware of the consequences of what you are suggesting.

Technologically it is all possible, I know as I work in the industry, but I definitely would not want my every move tracked by who knows who!

I have been in situations where the need to exceed the limit in force allowed me to avoid an accident, your solution would mean that an accident would have been inevitable.

One thing, just how would you enforce the ‘fuel rate limitation’ on foreign owned vehicles arriving via the shuttle or ferry? Especially the goods vehicles?

Graeme says:
16 November 2012

😉 It’s all about what we want (rather than need)!

The GPS tracker would give distance travelled. This could release a fuel quota, relaxed if the fuel has a low absolute climate impact to allow less efficient ‘leisure’ vehicles. Make it a global system, after all CO2 knows no national boundary.

Sounds a bit too “Big-Brother-ish” for me.

But if we were going to go down that route, why not just let the GPS control the maximum speed of the car for each stretch of road?

I suggested controlling the maximum speed of cars on one of the Conversations, gradivus. Someone told me I was talking nonsense and that they needed to be able to exceed the speed limit to avoid accidents. I can’t say I’ve ever had this problem.

Graeme says:
17 November 2012

… but no more “Big-Brother-ish” than if you carry a cell phone, which many folk do willingly. We improve many other systems with monitoring and control mechanisms, why not road transport? David’s point of manual override would be vital, but all the technology to prevent inappropriate speed (and to prevent fuel wastage) exists. After all we submit ourselves to this when we fly (apart from the fuel wastage).

@wavechange – I think the person that told you it was nonsense was me!

Yes David. I’ve had a look and it was this Conversation, page 1. If I’m not mistaken it is the first time we have agreed about anything. 🙂

Graeme. Very true, but I can switch my mobile phone off whenever I want. The European Galileo GPS system is just around the corner which is expected to have a (theoretical) accuracy of about one metre [For comparison, the current US GPS system has a theoretical accuracy of about 15 metres.] I don’t want to hijack this conversation onto Civil Liberties, but I do think ‘compulsory GPS’ as you suggest is a step too far.

Wavechange. My tongue was in my cheek when I wrote that. However, after 40+ years of, relatively high mileage, driving (with a definite penchant for fast cars!) I can think of one, and only one, situation where hard acceleration provided the safest solution. And even then I was below the speed limit throughout.

gradivus

I get fed-up keeping a check on my speed, so I would welcome the option of a system that would ensure that I don’t break speed limits. My car will let me know if I drive over 70 mph but it’s sticking to 30 mph limits that is hardest.

Wavechange,

Most satnavs will beep if you go over a preset speed, and some are clever enough to know most road’s speed limit and beep accordingly. My Garmin will do so.

The problem comes if you’re driving at “about” the right speed. If you’re in a 40 zone and driving at 39, for example, it will beep if you speed up to 41. Then beep again if you drop to 39 and go back to 41. Then beep again…

This quickly becomes so annoying that you’re tempted to throw the damned thing out of the window.

I know but mine does not warn me until I’m 4 mph over the limit, the speed limits are out of date, and I am not aware of any way of turning of the incessant babble of the thing telling me which way to go. It seems that out of date speed limits is a common problem with sat navs.

Cameron Wright says:
20 June 2019

This will never happen the reason is to do with privacy . Can they do it . Yes. However by enforcing such a rule you would bring outrage. I certainly dont want to be tracked. The way you talk we might aswell all wear a band so everyone knows when we are taking a shit . I think the way the future will go is similar to that of a smart motorway but with all roads
. The speed changed based on whether conditions. Dry, warm. Increases. Late at night. Increase. Wet . Decreased etc . This is not about raising the speed limit to 80 because 80 is not safe to do in certain situations in its self but on a dry day I can do 100 mph down a duel carriageway and not put myself or anyone else in danger. Most accidents are to do with weather conditions and not speeding .

Actually wavechange I thought I was disagreeing with you then, but never mind!

Cars have improved enormously since speed limits were introduced, and could be raised. 30 limits in built up areas should remain, but modern vehicles are quite safe at 80 or 90 mph on motorways and dual carriageways. I would like to see a halt to the creeping introductionof 50 mph limits on A roads as well. A similar argument about the quality of vehicles indicates that lorry speeds could safely be raised to 50 mph on single carriageway roads, too.

“Cars have improved enormously since speed limits were introduced,”

But have drivers improved enormously? You or the other drivers?

“but modern vehicles are quite safe at 80 or 90 mph on motorways and dual carriageways.”

But are modern drivers quite safe at 80 or 90? Especially with modern distractions? Especially with such high traffic densities? And is that tractor pulling out into the dual carriageway any less of a hazard?

Peter S says:
24 November 2012

The mistake throughout the discussion is the assumption that raising the overall maximum limit (to 80 or 90 or whatever) on (some) motorways means that everyone will automatically drive at this maximum speed on all motorways and dual carriageways alike regardless of conditions, local restrictions, road and common sense and what have you. This is bound to lead to false conclusions.

You are right in saying that not everyone will drive at higher speed limits, but perhaps this would make our motorways less safe, Peter.

One of the benefits of motorways compared with other roads is that there is not a big difference between the speed of vehicles, helped by the limited number of junctions, acceleration lanes, ban on stopping except in emergency and central reservation with barriers to avoid impact of vehicles travelling in opposite directions. If you increase the speed limit, lorries will continue to travel at more or less the same speed and continue to try to overtake each other using the second lane. That means that anyone who wants to travel at 70 mph has to use the third lane to get past and now you have vehicles wanting to travel at 80 or 90 mph. Even ignoring those that want to break the new speed limit, it seems a recipe for disaster.

Compared with a vehicle travelling at 70 mph, ones moving at 80 and 90 mph have 30 and 65% more kinetic energy, so an impact with a crash barrier or joining an accident pile-up will be much more serious.

Then there is the environmental impact of higher speeds, which is a good enough reason not to increase speed limits.

Peter S – You are indeed correct, and I know of no evidence to contradict what you say. Although if you go to Germany onto an unrestricted autobahn you’ll find cars travelling at 70 or less are an extremely rare sight.

But human nature being what it is, I believe the vast majority of drivers will increase their speeds accordingly – those that previously drove at the limit of 70 will drive at the new limit of 80. Those who felt that they could “get-away” with 90 will in future assume they can “get-away” with 100. It’s the way us humans are in the early 21st century – our lives are so, so important and so, so busy that we simply must continually whizz around at high speed in order to cope.

I currently tend to drive at around 75 on motorways. I can give you a 100%, absolute, rock solid guarantee that, if the speed limit goes up to 80, I shall drive at 85 (subject to safety considerations, of course). The only thing that might make me think twice is fuel consumption.

Peter S says:
24 November 2012

Whilst reducing the limit would no doubt please the purists (I don’t intend any negative connotation here), I believe that a perfectly plausible case could be constructed along the lines that – considering the nitty gritty practical realities – selectively raising the maximum on suitable sections of motorways would have a negligible differential effect on overall, national, aggregated, annual statistics. It would be all but impossible to measure in isolation, and even harder to predict when taking into account the various aspects of human behaviour that have featured in this correspondence (e.g. if I am stuck in a classic M6 traffic jam, doubling or tripling the speed limit is not going to make an iota of difference to safety levels or environmental considerations). If there is validity in this view (proofs either way would require a laboratory equipped with a time machine) then the argument devolves into one of ideals and moral principles. Which may be what this column is all about ..

Thou shalt not kill.

The brain is like a child! Ignorant but it knows what it wants [to survive]: REWARDS.

These come in the form of pleasure sensations derived from neurotransmitters
released in the brain.

The rewards are hardwired for release for anything that ensures survival of the
individual or group like high energy food, sex and importantly here, moving quickly,
either to capture prey or escape predators.

Unfortunately the brain has not evolved to recognise early on the effects of too
much of anything like nicotine, alcohol or moving too quickly.

A heavy object like a brick, a boulder or a car becomes dangerous to living
creatures if it gains any momentum

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20871042

The law is that humans shall not kill each other. Therefore the law should logically
ban cars especially given the ‘right to life’ law!

There is no economic reason for speeds of vehicles to be greater than 85% of the
mean speed in free flow conditions and given safety first a further reduction in all
speed limits would be warranted on economic grounds.

But the brain wants what it wants and the sensation of speed rewards and is as
additive as heroine!

The problem is therefore compliance / enforcement and education.

Anyone who argues or votes for higher vehicle speeds [that higher speed limits would
bring] is arguing for the right to kill their own kin; do you all and ‘Which?’ not
agree?

Sincerely,

P.B.

That’s neatly put, PB. And accurate.

But I’m sure that most people (men?) would argue that the main reason they want to go faster on motorways is that time is money and they’re busy and just want to shorten the journey. It’s genuinely arguable that travelling at 80mph in a stream of others doing the same, sitting quiet and almost still in a soundproofed, wind-proofed, climate-controlled box is more soporific than exhilarating; and overtaking the next lane at a 10mph speed differential isn’t exactly exciting, either.

Now, weaving in and out of traffic at 100mph is different – that’s exciting! And deadly. So it fulfils your requirements, but isn’t the subject of this conversation. Motorway driving is among the safest ways to travel, even when most drivers are doing 80. It’s when things go wrong that our brains can’t cope – when we reach the same situation, with similar results, as a gang of hunters meeting a pride of lions unexpectedly. That’s the problem with 80mph (and arguably 70mph) when an unexpected fog bank appears, or a car three ahead moves across a lane and clips the one it passed. That’s when death visits.

I’ve never understood why “time is money” when travelling somewhere – once you have transport at reasonable speeds. Do you cost the time spent in a traffic jam? Who do you ask for payment? If you are driving home and take a little longer, you’ve not lost money. If you drive on business, you don’t lose money if you drive a little slower but leave earlier. The argument about HS2 is similarly flawed – half an hour longer to get to Birmingham? Leave home half an hour earlier. You’ll have a bit more time to work on the train if you want to. It might be convenience – but money?

I agree, Malcolm, but it’s a commonly held view. Whether for business or for ‘leisure’, so many people seem to be frantic to GET THERE and to avoid ‘wasting time’. A sickness of our culture, maybe, but those who believe this way are a powerful voice and governments will want to be seen to oblige them if the can – and will certainly NOT want to be seen disobliging them!

Peter S says:
1 January 2013

“REWARDS. These come in the form of pleasure sensations derived from neurotransmitters
released in the brain … importantly here, moving quickly,”

I could accept this without being a neuro-surgeon

“Unfortunately the brain has not evolved to recognise early on the effects of too
much of anything like nicotine, alcohol or moving too quickly.”

Debateable. I can recognize an addiction even if I can’t do anything about it.

“A heavy object like a brick, a boulder or a car becomes dangerous to living
creatures if it gains any momentum”

No. It depends on its force, direction and surroundings.

“The law is that humans shall not kill each other. Therefore the law should logically
ban cars especially given the ‘right to life’ law!”

Cars (in isolation) do not kill humans.

“There is no economic reason for speeds of vehicles to be greater than 85% of the
mean speed in free flow conditions and given safety first a further reduction in all
speed limits would be warranted on economic grounds.”

Any evidence for this contention? How do you define “mean speed in free flow conditions”? Why 85%?? Are you not conflating safety with economics? There could be a contradiction.

“But the brain wants what it wants and the sensation of speed rewards and is as
additive as heroine!”

Exaggeration rather destroys the force of the argument. There is some (limited) truth in the assertion to which I plead as guilty as any.

“The problem is therefore compliance / enforcement and education. Anyone who argues or votes for higher vehicle speeds [that higher speed limits would bring] is arguing for the right to kill their own kin.”

The link(s) between speed limits and actual speeds has to be both defined and tested. The mental jump directly from speed limit modifications to genocide is simplistic.

Sludgeguts says:
7 January 2013

They won’t increase the limit on motorways because ‘speed kills’ – really? so how do F1 drivers survive?
I worry every time I go on the motorway. lane 1, doing 70mph with a huge gap ahead of me. meanwhile, lane 2 and slightly bunched half a dozen cars doing 65mph – the guy at the head won’t move over & those behind can’t overtake because lane 3, bumper to bumper, a dozen or so cars doing 70, but all constantly touching their brakes.
Idiot drivers who believe they alone must enforce the 70 limit or idiot drivers who insist lane speeds are 60, 65 and 70 or we have a ‘fast lane’ and a ‘slow lane’.
Me? I get accused of ‘undertaking’. What? I’m doing the limit in a near-empty lane, I can’t pull across lane 2 into lane 3 to overtake because lane 3 is going slower than me.

Maybe manufacturers should install tech which prevents cars from driving too close? The distance allowed between you & the car in front should be determined by the speed you are travelling. and not by the width of your tyres divided by the age of the car plus 1 yard for ABS and another for ‘assisted braking’

Sludgeguts, look back at F1 conditions in the ’60s and ’70s. In those days the cars had none of the billion-pound protection they have today. In the last 17 years, no F1 driver has been killed, despite horrific accidents, with cars being mangled and the drivers still surviving 150mph-plus crashes. Back then, drivers of the same quality and on similar tracks had a one in fifteen chance of a disabling crash and one in 30 chance of death EACH YEAR they raced. The best and the worst (who were still superb drivers) died indiscriminately, and far too often took dozens of spectators into horrible death with them. What has made the difference is the growing emphasis on safety, which has had plenty of spinoffs for us on the roads. F1 drivers then and now behave very similarly, with the big difference that drivers today take more risks, because the consequences are much slighter. They will do almost anything to pass the car in front and are well aware that the slightest mistake will mean disaster – but still do it. It’s a tribute to the drivers’ superlative skills that accidents are so uncommon; but here, uncommon only means a dozen or so a race! Not what you want on the road!

So F1 conditions are very different to road driving – you can’t use them as an example. How, then, does all this F1 experience relate to motorway driving? Motorways are quite similar to modern F1 circuits in that they have smooth changes in bend, hill and camber with good sight lines, ‘runoffs’ for those leaving the motorway and all the traffic is going the same way. So they are the safest roads to drive on, mile for crash, but that doesn’t mean behaving the same way.

What F1 drivers have to learn – and it came out very well with the new drivers last season – is that a cool head is needed when you take risks. You must wholly concentrate on what you’re doing, and your actions must be completely predictable to nearby drivers. Most incidents happen when drivers do the unpredictable, which is why crashes are so common when an F1 driver tries to fool another to make a pass. On the motorway, all the same points are true, especially as we are constantly having to cope with distractions, and none of us have the skill levels and fitness of an F1 driver.

So, Sludgeguts, you know that people often behave badly on a motorway, and this is dangerous. So will you behave like an experiences F1 driver and calmly find the safest way round, or will you be a ‘rookie and take a chance? For example, to use your gripe that ‘undertaking’ being illegal is unfair, the point is that people don’t do it, so when someone does, it catches the other driver by surprise. Being human, most drivers, when they pull back into the left lane after a pass (or because they’ve just realized that they’re holding people up) barely glance left – because no-one passes on the left, do they? Nasty crash occurs. In the USA it’s generally allowed to pass either side, so drivers will always check carefully before any lane change, either way (well, usually!). Inside overtakes are fine there.

So learn from F1 drivers. If you have to pass a bloody-minded 65-is-my-speed-and-lane-2-is-my-lane driver, then creep past very slowly on the left, say at a 1-2 mph differential, until you’re well ahead and can accelerate safely. Then there’s no chance of a collision and no silly behaviour by a driver who thinks he’s been slighted ant wants to take it out on you. Remember, just as in F1, it’s not who’s right that counts – it’s who’s left!

Simon says:
3 June 2013

Speed limits are totally out of date and hark back to days of drum brakes and so on. All that needs exercising is common sense. I just try to go with the flow in general to be honest. On a totally clear motorway at 3 am for example if you do 150mph it is not dangerous to anyone not really even yourself given how far cars have now advanced so whats the problem and who cares really NOBODY. The only reason to care is if they think they can screw you out of some money.

What is needed is the excercising of common sense not the draconian enforcement of dated speed limits .

In 2008 we had 158 killed and over 11,000 injured on GB motorways. How many deaths would make ‘common sense’? Cars have undoubtedly improved but maybe drivers and their attitudes have not.

John Morris says:
4 June 2013

You have completely missed the point. Cars might have changed but the laws of physics are still the same, unless you are travelling at speeds near to the speed of light (178,000 miles/sec).

Example 1: You drive at 30mph and a child runs out in front of you. You do an emergency stop and just manage to avoid hitting the child. If you were doing 32mph you would hit the child at 11mph. If you were doing 40mph you would hit the child at 26mph.

Example 2: You drive at 70mph and a heavy object falls off the lorry in front. You do an emergency stop and just manage to avoid hitting the object. If you were doing 80mph you would hit the object at 38mph.

Q.E.D.

QEND

Example 3: You drive at 29mph and a child runs out immediately in front of you. You hit the child even before your foot gets to the brake pedal and hit the child at 29mph. But you were driving at a speed less than the posted speed limit, so all is OK?

It’s not speed limits that save lives, it’s driving in accordance with the prevailing conditions, as the IAM teaches. In the context of your chosen examples of the laws of physics, debating the benefits of speed limits is specious and has little to do with the problem that you’re trying to claim they fix.

Peter S says:
4 June 2013

Your observation, as I interpret it, reinforces the previous point. We can’t dispute the laws of physics (yet ..) nor what John Morris says. However – to make the direct causal link between “speed limits” (variations of) and road deaths / accidents is logically very dodgy until and unless the definitions, conditions and circumstances have been precisely defined, and the assertions tested. I think we are quite some way away from that and in the interim it would be prudent to go easy on generalisations.

Jaytee says:
4 June 2013

John, I’d like to see your calculations for your examples to establish what assumptions were made, as I’m not convinced by the figures without this information, especially considering that the speed of light is generally accepted as being 186000 miles per second.

Simon’s post arguing for a increased speed limit is a classic example risk compensation. That is we adjust our behavior to the perceived risk. So if braking technology improves, instead of accepting a lower casualty rate, we call for raised speed limit, thereby maintaining a consistent casualty rate.

Note, Simon’s post offers no data or evidence to show how improved technology has improved safety figures to support his argument for increased limits. And he wouldn’t find the evidence if he looked. Why? Well because risk compensation has already modified our behavior. Improved brakes results in drivers closing their following distance and increasing their speed. When we improve safety technology we simply take more risks to compensate.

I’ll give you a quick paraphrase of the general philosophy used by police patrol officer trainers and IAM experts (usually retired police trainers), who teach all the others. This is bearing in mind that they train drivers to be realistic about their own abilities, and to be in all-round observation of the road, conditions and hazards ALL of the time:

1) Always drive slowly enough that you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear.

2) Know your and your vehicle’s capabilities.

3) Expect the unexpected.

Police class 1 patrol drivers must demonstrate that they can drive safely within 90% of the maximum speed possible allowing for all this. To pass the IAM’s advanced test, you must demonstrate that you can drive as fast as circumstances and the law allow – what’s called ‘making progress’ – most of the time during a one-hour test. So we aren’t talking about snail-like driving here.

Most drivers can meet the IAM standard with training. Most would fail as they are now – and it’s not to do with having a particular style, but of simply proving that you know what you’re doing and that you’re safe. People who try an IAM ‘test drive’ with an observer find it a sobering experience. When I was preparing for my test three decades ago my wife, who isn’t medically allowed to drive, helped me practice and keep the standard I was taught. So she learned good road observation too. Since then, she gets very uncomfortable as a passenger with most drivers, because she sees trouble coming that they simply miss. And that’s the point – most drivers need upskilling, yet won’t be persuaded. Till this changes, all the points made again and again in these replies will stand. Speed kills – because most drivers can’t handle it. Legislation is needed to keep us all safe, not just from idiots, but from our own folly.

Well said, David!

Just one thing – and maybe it changed since you took the IAM test – but when I took mine in 2006, my test lasted no less than three hours. Was a quite interesting time too, because we spent quite a bit of that time discussing that police officer’s former life as an army bomb disposal expert! All whilst remaining completely observant and in full control of my car – oh, and ‘making progress’…..

Well, yes, Nigel. But back then, an hour on the road was the minimum, so I quoted that. My test was quite a lot longer, too, and full of tips and help, even though I was ‘polished’ for the test by a police driver volunteer and you might have thought I’d not need to learn any more. Wrong! We’re all constantly learning; it’s just that most drivers haven’t learned what to aim for or what are actually the best ways to drive, observe and behave.

My absolute best driving whas wen that patrol driver accompanied me and gave a running commentary of what he would be seeing and doing if he’d been at the wheel – and I did as he said. I was stunned at the difference between his standard and mine; it gave me a fresh respect for those professionals’ skills. Just think: their driving manual if freely available for any of us to learn from. How many have a copy, though, and how many could be bothered to learn more in a useful way?

Note: the book’s called ‘Roadcraft’. Have a look inside on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Roadcraft-drivers-handbook-Essential-Handbook/dp/0117021687/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1370387951&sr=8-1&keywords=roadcraft+the+police+drivers+handbook+2012#reader_0117021687

When I did my test, I already knew about the running commentary, so was surprised when they told that it was no longer a required part of the test. Instead, it was by then a voluntary thing, which meant that the training course (presented by the local IAM group) did not cover it. A shame, because I would have liked a bit of information on approaches to doing a running commentary, with some ideas on specific topics that should be both observed and mentioned. As it was, I had a go at doing it during the test, but only for about ten minutes, following which the police officer reciprocated. And yes, you’re quite right, his observations did include quite a few things that I would never have thought of!

Other than that, though, I found the advanced test surprisingly, even disappointingly, easy and did it with very little rehearsal. The training course was well presented, but contained little material that I could honestly say I hadn’t already known. On the tests we were given – on highway code, road signs, situational examples etc – I somehow managed to score an overall 100%. My thought was that, as in IQ tests, that really shouldn’t be possible!

But then, I’ve always thought that the standard driving test (to get your licence) was ridiculously easy and insufficiently discriminating. If it were up to me, then the state driving test would be at least as hard as the IAM advanced, and that latter would, in turn, be even more demanding. Just think, if it were all done in the right way, not only would our roads be safer, we’d also have far less congestion with which to contend!

Thanks for that link to the Roadcraft book – I remember reading quite a bit of it during my IAM training. Always meant to buy a copy, but never did get around to it – maybe I now will. I already added it to my wishlist, to bookmark it.

Peter S says:
6 June 2013

I can remember quite some time back pleading (almost) with Durham Constabulary for the opportunity to experience being in a patrol car plus accomplished driver with commentary. Answer was that the only way would be for me to commit an offence of sufficient magnitude that would warrant me being taken in the vehicle to the nearest police station. To date I have not taken up the generous offer.
Danger of straying off topic… I’d be interested to know contributors’ views on the statistics quoted at the head of this website. I get the impression that the majority if not all would dispute the views reflected by the figures.

Peter,

With the possible exception of those who habitually drive at speeds well below the applicable limit, I doubt that there’s a driver that can honestly say that they NEVER exceed the limit, so most of those who said they do not, were probably lying! That’s one of the biggest problems with such surveys.

The problem with speed limits – and the associated use of speed cameras – is that they are, of necessity, non-discriminatory and, to a great extent, arbitrary. Logic tells us that a single, fixed limit on any particular piece of highway, which applies equally to all types of vehicles, in all road conditions (technically) and at all times (day, night, weekends), can never be appropriate in every circumstance. Instead, the safe speed will vary, according to those (and other) factors and the safe speed will often be different to the posted limit. And when I say ‘different’, it may be higher OR lower. As the law stands, whilst lower speeds are legal (barring a charge of obstructing other road users), technically any higher speed is illegal.

Nevertheless, IAM training advises that there are times when exceeding the speed limit is not only safe, but actually recommended. The classic example is when overtaking. If it’s safe to overtake another vehicle (and if it isn’t, then of course, you shouldn’t be doing it), it is advised that one should minimise ones “time exposed to danger” by accelerating to pass the other vehicle in the shortest possible time. I made a point of specifically asking the traffic cop about this point during my advanced test and he said that was perfectly good advice. But he also acknowledged that, should you be ‘unfortunate’ and happen to do this just as you were passing a speed camera, then you will most likely get a ticket, because those cameras are totally non-discriminating.

So it all comes down to the fact that speed limits are arbitrary, are essentially unpoliceable (on any continuous basis), and are already proven NOT to be the primary determining factor for road safety statistics anyway. The only reason we have the current enforcement regime of legally-imposed speed limits and a network of speed cameras is that it’s the best the current enforcement bodies can do with the technology available to them.

Consider what would happen, for example, if they were to deploy technology that *continuously” monitored drivers’ compliance with the prevailing speed limit. All perfectly feasible (at a cost), by requiring all cars to be fitted with transponders, so that the in-car equipment would always ‘know’ what the prevailing speed limit is and thus be able to record when the driver exceeds the speed limit, by how much and for how long. How would the data thus collected then be used for enforcement purposes? More importantly, would that enforcement policy be determined by sane logic, for road safety purposes, or would it be determined by political expediency, for financial purposes?

We had a better system, as most people seem to realise, when traffic cops were out there on the roads, applying a discretionary and reasoned approach to enforcing the rules of the road. Those same traffic cops would no doubt confirm that the majority of unsafe drivers that they stopped, and perhaps penalised, were largely doing unsafe things that were not related to their speed. But technology can’t yet cope with assessing those more dangerous things, UNLESS they also happen to involve exceeding the speed limit AND they happen next to a speed camera. And even then, the driver will only be penalised with a speeding ticket, whereas the offence should have warranted a much more severe penalty!

The trouble is, it’s long since been decided that having all those traffic enforcement cops out patrolling the highways is “not cost effective”. Well, it certainly doesn’t MAKE money for them, in the way that a network of speed cameras does. But, as long as we don’t require people to meet a higher, tested standard of driving ability, so that they can be relied upon to exercise good judgement whilst driving and thus be able to make reasonable assessments of what the safe speed is on a continuous basis, and then consider posted speed limits as ‘advisory’, rather than compulsory, then we’re all probably stuck with a system that is completely illogical and riddled with unjust outcomes, which doesn’t actually achieve its primary, stated objective!

Peter S says:
6 June 2013

I’d go along with these sentiments as would I suspect a sizeable number of the 60% quoted above. Human weaknesses / common sense being what it is, if a limit just doesn’t make sense most of us given the option will ignore it – no moral judgement intended – and this includes going slower than 30 opposite a school at finishing time as well as exceeding 70/80 in appropriate conditions on a motorway. Pity that cameras can’t be programmed with common sense!

There are three levels of skill offered, Nigel.

1) The beginners’ test. This is solely designed to check whether a driver is safe enough to be allowed to drive alone in a vehicle without endangering themselves or others – and it’s one of the world’s toughest (maybe second to South Korea?). You are then expected to begin to learn to drive properly.

2) The IAM (and others’) Advanced Test. This is intended to allow a driver to prove core competency. Some years ago, a survey showed the drivers who passed the IAM test were 20 times less likely to be involved in an accident that those who took the test and failed it (and would, presumably, already be better drivers than the average). So this is probably best regarded as the general skills test for your average driver. Yes, I think that it should be compulsory, but no, not for a beginner. If you found it ‘disappointingly easy’ then you’ve been well trained – which is the aim of IAM local groups, surely?

3) High-level tests for professionals, of which those for police patrol drivers (NOT the average bobby) are probably the epitome. Compared with these lads and lasses, I’m a rank beginner!

Of course, there are intermediate tests, like ‘Pass+’ and HGV tests, but the first two above are where I think that competency training for most drivers ought to aim. Let’s put it this way: I reckon that anyone who’s unable to pass the IAM’s Advanced Test ought not to be on the road. As you say, it’s still pretty basic competency.

David,

Seems that we’re broadly in agreement. But, there is one contradiction in what you wrote there. You say that the IAM test (or its equivalent) should be compulsory, but not for beginners. Then, at the end, you say “anyone who’s unable to pass the IAM’s Advanced Test ought not to be on the road” (with which I more than agree). So, if those beginners shouldn’t be on the road, where do we put them?

OTOH, would it really be so unreasonable to raise the level required to even have a licence to that required by the Advanced Test? I don’t think so. We don’t accept such minimal standards (as in the basic driving test) for pilots, train drivers, PSV and HGV, so why should we accept them for car driving?

Oh, and BTW, when I said that I found the advanced test ‘disappointingly easy’, I would have found it so without any of the IAM training. Whilst the training course they presented was well done, I couldn’t honestly say that I learnt anything new from it, so I can’t credit them for making it so ‘easy’! Sorry if that sounds immodest of me – it’s intended as an objective assessment and may well not be the case for others.

Nigel: We have, how many? – half a million – new drivers in the UK each year. While I like the idea of them training to IAM standard right from the get-go, I don’t think it’s realistic.

In South Korea, they do up to 100 hours offroad in specially-built centres before being allowed to finish training among real traffic, and it costs half a year’s salary to pass the test – yet that’s not a lot higher standard than ours. For UK beginners to get enough traffic experience, learn the observation skills and so on to pass the IAM test, we could probably add a lot more time, accompanied, on the road. So I think that we ought to trust the Driving Standards Agency to do their job properly (as in no. 1 in my last comment), then use Northern Ireland’s ‘New Driver’ plate to warn of a beginning driver while they train for the ‘proper’ test, what is now ‘Advanced’. And we’d need to allow a maximum unaccompanied time (2 years?) before passing or going back to ‘learner’ rules.

The problems with all this come in at least three ways, though:

1) Where will all the advanced instructors and examiners come from?

2) What would be the political consequences when thousands begin to fail the new test and stop being allowed to drive?

3) How do we process retrograde testing at the new standard for all current drivers – we have to, or we get a 2-tier system of older, less skilled drivers and newer, higher-skilled drivers. And how would this reflect in insurance risk and prices?

It’s a big can of worms, that no sane politician would touch without a popular consensus! And how many ‘average’ drivers would admit to needing to pass a more stringent test? It’s hard enough to get them to keep a safe gap on a motorway – in fact, they only widen that gap after an accident or a near miss, and only then for a little while. Most drivers just don’t know what level of risk they’re taking, or they wouldn’t do it. Which brings back to the headline story that we’re commenting on!

David,

Well, I didn’t say it would be easy!

To respond to your specific points:

1) It wouldn’t necessarily need that many more instructors and examiners. They just need to be training to a higher standard of requirement. Sure, it will increase the total amount of time each ‘learner’ would need – and the instructors themselves will first need to be re-trained to the same higher standard – so there would likely be a need for some increase in the numbers of instructors, but there must surely be enough (suitable) people currently looking for work, to meet such a demand.

2) Political consequences? No politician seems to have incurred that much popular wrath as a result of making the current speed camera network legal. Indeed, as this forum alone shows, there are a sizeable number of people who support the use of cameras and, presumably, those who mandate their use. That’s not to say such decisions as I’ve proposed are without political consequences, but I doubt that the authorities would see this alone as a reason for not doing it. Because they don’t usually worry about them.

3) Retrograde testing. Good point you make here. Yes, I would fully support that all currently licensed drivers would be given a period during which they would be expected to get themselves trained and re-tested to the higher standard. Fail to do that by the end of the period and your licence ceases to be valid. Outrageous, I know, but if we were really serious about tackling many of the behavioural issues on our roads, then it would be hard to say that it’s not a necessary step. The hardest issue relating to this might well be to find a fair way to handle all of those who’ve voluntarily already put themselves successfully through IAM advanced testing – should they, too, be obliged to do it all over again?

Apart from anything else, we have to get everyone away from the attitude whereby they consider that they have a basic RIGHT to drive a car. No-one has such a right. I’d also support a move towards regularly re-testing everyone – say every five years or so – even after a new higher standard of driving test had been fully introduced. As a society, we do such things for all manner of activity and I certainly don’t see any reason why driving cars should be an exception to that!

… Right to drive … No I don’t think I have a right necessarily to drive but I do have a right to work and to do that I need transport since I live 30 miles from my place of work.

What I would ask is what would the government do if a large percentage of existing drivers failed to pass the an advanced test as they do not have the in built ability and they then find that as there is no way to get to work they are then fired and have to go on the dole and obtain large amount of benefits?

I agree with a previous comment ‘no sane government …’

David,

Let’s distinguish between a right to work and a “right” to put someone’s else’s safety at risk due to negligence or incompetence.

Unless you can provide another example, our road’s are the only industrial environment where we tolerate repeated exampled of driving incompetence on the premise that stopping them from driving would result in their unemployment. From my experience of the mining industry I can assure you that if you were to disregard mining H&S regulations in the way that many drivers disregard the HW code it would CAUSE your unemployment. Put someone else’s life at risk and you get dismissed.

There are some drivers on the roads in excess of 12 points that have courts permitted to drive. Why is that?

Just to qualify, my response was to David Ramsay.

Skeptiktank – you miss my point and are approaching it from the driving angle and not from the ability to get to my place of work.

I, by choice, live in the country, well on the outskirts of a market town, my place of work has NO direct transport link other than by car or motorcycle.

My point is that people these days live where they enjoy living and commute to work, long gone are the days when people live and work in the same location, I know as my dad didn’t drive and because of beeching axing the train network we had to move to a location from where he could get several buses to work.

Now as there are lousy even abominal transport links we have to consider the negative aspects of the actions of introducing a regulation which may result in unforeseen circumstances.

You seem to be worried by the risk of someone getting injured or killed, people take that risk leaving their home each day, I see no problem with ensuring that someone who causes an accident being held liable for that but to enforce the need for draconian training and cost to the exchequer in the long run is not necessarily the best way to tackle it.

David, the Advanced test is not so hard that almost all drivers can pass it – once they’ve learned to observe properly, spot and react to the many road hazards that most drivers aren’t looking for, and drive in a systematic way that makes it much easier to deal with trouble when it arrives – and it always will!

It’s explained well in ‘Driving’, the basic manual for learners, but most people don’t take much of it in, and the basic test doesn’t look for much of it in action. We’re all introduced to it in the hope that we’ll keep using it to improve once we’ve got a licence to drive alone. Do YOU dip in and check that you’ve not slipped into dangerous habits?

The problem you don’t mention is that most of us don’t want to wait for a poor driver to cause accidents before they’re stopped; we want them to be upskilled and become a good driver. To fail this advanced test repeatedly is actually a proof of incompetence. Would you like to be mixing with such a driver yourself when trouble looms on the road? I wouldn’t!

John Morris says:
7 June 2013

I totally agree with your comments. However the point I was trying to make is about the commonly held (false) belief that as car braking systems have improved, it is OK to exceed “dated speed limits”. The laws of physics haven’t changed and human reaction times haven’t changed.

John Morris says:
7 June 2013

You are correct about the speed of light is 186,000 miles/sec. – a typing error. Regarding the calculations assuming all conditions are the same, except the initial speed, i.e. distance travelled, deceleration, vehicle mass, then the terminal speed is given by taking the square root of the difference of the two speeds squared. Example 1: sq. rt. ((32×32)-(30×30)) = sq. rt. (1024 -900) =
sq. rt. (124) = 11 mph

John (Morris),

“The laws of physics haven’t changed and human reaction times haven’t changed.”

Indeed, but whilst the laws of physics will forever remain immutable (at least in this universe), we CAN do something about those reaction times. This is precisely why the IAM advanced test is primarily focussed on observation skills, because by developing such skills, one can largely, if not completely, obviate those reaction times. By seeing well enough in advance when some hazard is developing (or at least one can see the potential for it), one can take appropriate action in advance of the hazard arising. That might be by simply having your right foot already hovering over the brake pedal, or even braking a little in anticipation. If the hazard then doesn’t transpire, no harm done and one can resume one’s progress, but if it does transpire, then your preparatory actions will have substantially reduced, if not eliminated your reaction time.

Just thought I would take the opportunity to mention that!

Jaytee says:
7 June 2013

Thanks very much for your explanation, which is slightly simplified.

Example 1: At 30mph taking the normally quoted total stopping distance (distance to the child) as 75′ (i.e. 30′ thinking distance + 45′ negative acceleration) and using the simple formula:
final velocity squared = initial velocity squared + 2*acceleration*distance,
the acceleration is given by -44 squared/2*45
= -1936/90
= -21.51 feet per second per second.

Now assuming only the speed is changed to 32mph, the thinking distance will be 32′, so the braking distance to the child will be 75-32′ = 43′
Applying the formula:
final velocity squared = 46.93 squared + 2*-21.51*43
= 2203 + 2*-21.51*43
= 353
so the velocity after travelling 75′ will be approx. 19 feet per sec. or 13mph.

At 40mph:
final velocity squared = 58.67 squared + 2*-21.51*35
= 3442 + 2*-21.51*35
= 1936
so the velocity after travelling 75′ will be approx. 44 feet per sec. or 30mph. (your car will now impact the child with over 5 times the energy of the impact at 32mph.).

Example 2:
final velocity squared = 117.3 squared + 2*-21.51*235 (same car)
= 13760 + 2*-21.51*235
= 3650
so the velocity at which you meet the heavy object will be approx. 60.4 feet per sec. or 41.2mph.

Your figures were close to mine, but I think your method ignores the fact that the thinking distance is directly proportional to the speed, so effectively reduces the braking distance as the speed increases.

Not quite so Q.E.D.

Sludgeguts says:
7 June 2013

The problem here is that the formula only deals with some basic physics.
Whilst braking systems have been improved over the years with things like ABS and the use of wider tyres (so more tread in contact with the road), it is assumed that the thinking/reaction time will be xxx.
This assumes that the driver is in full control – yet a good deal of drivers fail to be in full control of their vehicles. The parent driving their kids around, constantly telling them to behave/be quiet – heck, even entertaining them – is not fully in control/aware. The driver of the mobile disco where the ‘music’ is so loud that the car bodywork is shaking – how the hell can you be in control/aware?
There are many out there who insist they are fine to drive after smoking a joint – in fact, even just smoking in the car means that you are less in control.
But it’s not just the ‘distractions inside the car. I’ve seen people window shopping or watching aircraft/ birds (feathered and two-legged) or even edmiring other cars.
Also, I’m not fully aware of how they came by those braking distances but as I drive around many of the estates around town, I cannot help but notice just how many driveways have huge patches of oil on them – our roads are surely in a similar state (not to mention the litter and bits of vehicle.
And then there are the suicidal pedestrians – I’m not talking about the kids (who are too young to know better) but the adults – who cross very busy main roads away from the safety of authorised crossings, who jump barriers to cross very busy roads, who are tooooo busy texting or whatever it is they do on their mobiles, to even bother looking up to see if it is safe to cross.
ALL of these thngs need to be taken into account before anyone thinks about increasing speeds.

It doesn’t matter how fantastic a driver you are, almost every other driver out there is an idiot on the roads.

@david, not me – the only question I would ask is do you drive? If so then you are waiting for ‘that’ accident to happen.

If you are worried by it then you should stop driving and live longer!

It’s a ‘risk assessment’ matter, David R. Just living is dangerous, but a risk we’re all forced to take. We constantly balance one risk against another all our lives, by instinct, with experience and calculatedly.

These comments have several times discussed the way we imperfectly see and assess risk; no need to repeat all that. But the idea of upskilling drivers is mainly to get them to assess risk more accurately. Those who take additional high risks deliberately are a small minority, and having to pass an advanced test will only catch some of them – the ones who simply can’t stop themselves gambling, even on a test. The others have to be caught later.

If all drivers on the roads have been trained to ‘advanced’ level, this will exclude well under 1% of the worst drivers; enforcement will get some more banned who can but won’t drive safely. That alone will cut the accident rate to under a tenth of the current (near-world best) British figure. For the rest, we’ll need self driving cars, which I think won’t take too long.

I reckon that the insurance companies will do the bulk of this job for us. The highest-risk category is young, inexperienced drivers. They are now being successfully weaned onto a ‘black box’ in the car at a lower insurance rate. As they drive at times and in a manner that the box sees as safer, their premium will keep dropping. It works; and it’s popular with those who’re trialling it.

I can see this coming in with a rush quite soon (like mobile phones) as people see the benefits. Big Brother? Maybe, but it’s voluntary right now. And previous comments about bad driver behaviour have a solution waiting: hit them in the wallet! Add full GPS tracking and the insurers will police it for us all, to everyone’s benefit. Of course, GCHQ might want to get in on this…

David,

I broadly agree with you points, particularly on public transport, but If we are talking about cost then think you need to weigh up the cost additional training against the cost to society of policing and road casualties.

Most of our road casualties are caused by human error, a term that is sometime’s used generously to describe criminal negligence or intent. Drill down the cause of many crashes and you will find a degree of Mens Rea. That is the driver was in breach of some or other HW code regulation, and he or she knew it. Speeding and use of mobile phones behind the wheel are two offences that easily come to mind.

You may argue that inadequate policing and sentencing has resulted in a lack of accountability and I would agree, but training also plays a big part. Read back in the post’s in this topic and you will see how many people think they are quite justified in breaking law. These people no doubt regard themselves as good & honest citizens & don’t see themselves as doing anything wrong. That’s because they don’t have an adequate understanding of their own abilities and the consequences of their actions. That in turn is because a lack of training.

A study published by a Dresden Technical University showed that the true cost of Britain’s roads to be about £48Bn when you add road casualties and pollution into the equation. Total revenue raised from all taxes (fuel and VED) total’s about £38Bn leaving a shortfall of £10Bn. I think we can afford to spend a bit more on training (and policing).

£48B – wish they would spend a few pence around here!

I don’t know how they came up with that but I doubt that is the real cost or anywhere near it excluding road maintenance if anything is actually done to maintain the roads.

Sludgeguts says:
8 June 2013

It’s probably all a moot point anyway – with many cars being fitted with satnav as standard, how long before ALL cars have them as standard?
From there on, it’s just one teensy step away from some software monitoring EVERY car journey via their GPS connection.
I’m not talking about each and every car’s complete journey being closely watched, I’m talking about your own GPS flagging you up as going (for example) 10% over the set limit for more than xxx seconds. This wouldn’t show up the quick overtake, but it would show up the 5 minute journey across town at stupid mph etc. or those who see it as normal to thrash their engines up to a set of red lights & hit their brakes at the last nano-second, only to redline away from the lights the second they go green.
There will, of course, be a public outcry but the answer will be “you had the freedom to drive how you liked within a set of rules & xx% (majority) of you ignored those rules. We have done this for the public good”.

@ sludgegut, It is already possible to select telematic based car insurance and it is likely to become unavoidable in the future. If you car doesn’t have the black box kit, the insurance company will install it for you (although I would probably choose to do so myself to avoid being locked into an insurer).

As you say, Telematics will start influencing driving driving behavior because insurers will penalise you through your premiums if you drive badly. Bad drivers won’t be able to avoid it because the good drivers who subsidise their premiums are most likely to be early adopters of telematics based insurance.

Like it, Sk! Your second para is my quote of the week.

Peter S says:
8 June 2013

Whilst many of the above opinions are laudable in principle, if you take the statistics quoted at the very top of the blog as roughly representative of national attitudes, then implementation of these views is going to remain largely pie in the sky voluntarily and without a large element of coercion – quite apart from the resource implications of upskilling (if the word exists) and testing the x mill UK motorists to IAM standards. The mind boggles at the practical difficulties at the coal face.

You are welcome to your views but I suspect that on the above statistics 60 – 74% of the motoring population, myself included, would resist the introduction of spy-in-the-sky GPS monitoring of one’s journeys until ultimately forced into it. Unless there were sufficient opt-in carrots and sweeteners such as offered as inducements to young motorists’ insurance premiums. But honestly what % discount do you get off your insurance renewal by virtue of being in the IAM? The call center doesn’t even know (or care) what the initials stand for let alone ask the question! I might warm to the idea of upgrading to IAM standards in return for a general updating of speed limits (upwards and downwards), but how this would work in practice is beyond simple minds like mine.

Couple of good points there, Peter. Thanks.

First, the attitudes thing. I like skeptictank’s comment because I think he’s hit it on the nail. Governments are loth to take action without a public mandate. Insurers simply offer a discount for proven safe (= less risky) behaviour, which lowers premiums because the insurer’s risk is lowered. Previously, and mostly today, they relied on actuarial reports on their identified groups of drivers: by age, by sex (now banned) and by number of claims. With a black box the risk assessment is by individual case, depending both on behaviour as monitored by the box, and on your luck (whether you still make claims anyway – and yes, I know it’s not all down to luck). Will people take it up? Well, as someone has already commented, nearly all of us carry phones, through which Big Brother can track us to the nearest mast. So I think that the nervousness about this will rapidly vanish as reduced premiums are proven to be forthcoming.

Secondly, the IAM discount. You’re right that few companies make it their business to allow an Advanced Driving pass as a proof of lesser risk – they just don’t keep the stats to allow for it. But a few companies do, and they allow a substantial discount for being able to quote an IAM membership number for confirmation. My current insurer (a good one, according to Which?’s criteria, but too small to be in the radar) simply offered to undercut any other deal I could find. I did, and they did – by 10% on the cheapest quote I could find in 3 hours of trawling. Case proven?

@Peter S,
You can resist it if you like. No-one will force drivers to adopt telematics based insurance but you are likely to find that non-telematics insurance will start becoming extremely expensive. That’s because insurance works on a principle of cross subsidisation. Good drivers subsidise the bad and it won’t take the good drivers long to twig that telematics works to their advantage. When the good drivers disappear from conventional insurance the price will go up because bad drivers will be cross subsidising bad.

Telematics BTW is more sophisticated than just measuring speed. The kit has accelerometers so it will also measure sudden acceleration, braking, and sharp cornering. That doesn’t mean that you will a premium increase every time you brake fro some clown in the road. It’s when it falls outside the statistical norm that it becomes a problem.

Tailgating drivers tend to brake more frequently and more sharply so they will tailgate their way to poverty. I have no problem with that.

Peter S says:
8 June 2013

I am quite resigned to the fact that with the general weaknesses of my own driving standards, attitude and abilities – and I suspect that I am not totally unique – telematics-based insurance whether voluntary or compulsory will actually work out more rather than less expensive!

What counts as “proven safe (= less risky) behaviour” is of course influenced not insignificantly by what the ground rules are – to get back to the original basic point at issue.

Quite probable that if you are prepared to put in 3 hours’ hard graft on the internet you can come up with an insurer that gives proper credit for IAM. [I had a similar lengthy experience getting an agreed value policy for my SRi but that is off topic]. The norm is that one week before the renewal date it is a case of blitzing the search engines and these usually come up with premiums that run rings round the specialist companies who do recognize IAM with discounts

True, Peter. But there’s an easier way. The IAM magazine (free to members) carries adverts from insurers who want to attract Advanced customers! Job done. And yes, you’re right, they’re not the cheapest if their insurance is generally expensive; for some years I found someone else undercutting these offers every time.

Do note that although Advanced drivers are far less likely to be involved in accidents, and those tend to be less serious (= cheaper for the insurer to fork out on), there’s a lot more than accidents to insurance cover. IAM members are no less likely than others to suffer from vandalism, theft, hit-and-run or (rare now) mechanical failure leading to a claim.

I do agree with your point about telematics (I prefer telemetrics, but that’s gone). Initially, insurers will set the trend by rewarding behaviour they think will reduce the risk of a payout. This will still involve living in a ‘safe’ area, driving a cheap-to-fix and reliable model of car, being middle-aged and so on, but also driving when accidents are less common and where they’re less common; avoiding habitual hard acceleration and braking and using moderate speeds. In future this will get a lot more complicated, as they gather real data from the boxes and correlate this with the claims pattern. Broadly, though, if you drive to IAM and similar standards, insurers will reward you. This equates directly to being a safer driver, and the as the proportion of those on the roads grows, the accident rate will correspondingly drop.

So to get back to the headline point: maybe faster speeds on the motorways will be more reasonable when drivers don’t tailgate (= 8-10 lengths gap on a DRY road at 70); observe efficiently and become aware of trouble as it begins to loom rather than when it’s hitting you! I still see 70 as too fast for any but a fairly empty, dry road, though. We don’t all, and we never will, have the reflexes and decision-making abilities of a racing or patrol driver. We need time to avoid trouble that’s simply not available at high speeds – not that most drivers are convinced of THAT right now!

David,
“We need time to avoid trouble that’s simply not available at high speeds – not that most drivers are convinced of THAT right now!”
Yes I agree with you, there are some drivers on the road who drive badly or inconsiderately with intent, and if you dare to remonstrate with them, aggressively defend their “right” to drive that way. They blatantly disregard the HW code because there is almost no legal consequences to their behavior. The police and the CP won’t act even with video evidence. As a behavioral restraint the HW code is about as much value as the recommendation to eat five fruit & veg a day.

I agree. According to the Highway Code itself, it is valuable as a guide to conduct, so it can be called on in a court of law as evidence of a driver’s correct or incorrect, good or bad behaviour. But unless the Code paragraph is itself a point of law, it’s not enforceable. Maybe that’s a good thing, though; advanced-standard drivers are taught things for occasional use, when safe, that contradict the code as it’s worded for general use – ‘keeping the spirit rather than the letter’, as it were. One example is to cross the central white line to straighten out a winding road: helpful to smooth driving when it’s clear that there’s no opposing traffic.

Sludgeguts says:
9 June 2013

EVERY vehicle should be fitted with a dashcam – by law, either manufacture fit or retro fit.
UK police should have a website like youtube where drivers can post their clips.
These clips could be looked at by experienced officers – and there are many out there who are forced into desk jobs or retirement through injury etc.
If drivers are deemed to have acted inappropriately, they can be sent a letter. The severity of the penalty could be determined by the stupidity displayed.
Every driver policing the roads.
But this will never happen.
There are many who would say that me filming their moronic driving is an infringement of their human rights – never mind that their driving might be putting lives in danger!
And then there is the insurance aspect – a country of better drivers would mean that insurance companies would have no-one to blame for their chronic price hikes.
Hardly a month goes by without a serious accident forcing a road closing for a day – if all cars had daschcams, it would surely mean that the accident could be cleared quickly & the road re-opened instead of closing it for many hours (for investigations) causing chaos for everyone?

The Met (and other regional forces) do provide an on-line reporting facility for bad driving will act on video evidence presented on YouTube to issue a warning to drivers. Cyclists are already making use of this facility, I don’t see why car drivers couldn’t use it as well. Where there is no injury the driver is usually sent a warning with a link to the YouTube clip, but video evidence I have submitted the Met has resulted in a section 59 warning to a driver for anti-social behavior.

There are many who think that this is a breach of civil rights, but I don’t view it that way as long as the video is being captured by individuals and not being managed from a central repository in such a way that any organisation (including the state) could use it to accumulate information on individuals. That’s venturing into big brother territory.

The Boston bombing is a good example of privately owned video being use to catch terrorists. All the video evidence used came from CCTV camera’s owned by private businesses to protect their property. It only becomes available to the state in the event of a major incident, they don’t have the type of access needed to accumulate the data for big brother activity.

Joe Smith says:
8 May 2016

This article is inaccurate. Whilst I do not support people travelling well below the speed limit, I think that it is very dangerous to exceed it and that we should have lower and not higher speed limits. Of course, the key reason is safety, but also environmental. The most important limit that should change would be 20 mph in all residential areas. At 20 mph, a hit pedestrian has only a 10% chance of dying, compared with 50% at 30 mph and 90 % at 40 mph. Whilst I would not recommend people travel at 20 mph in a 30 mph zone, I do think that the speed limit should be 20 mph and then it must be followed. My village doesn’t have any 20 mph speed limits but I will be campaigning to change this. The highest is 40 mph and the lowest is 30 mph. It should all be 20. I think that the currently limit of 70 mph on motorways is good because it balances environmental things, such as pollution and noise with time and convenience. Increasing the speed limit to 80 mph or higher will just create more noise and pollution, whilst only saving minutes on journey times. The rural road limit of 60 mph is high. But we should have a thing that applies to these roads as does all roads in Wisconsin, USA. Its called speed and prudent, where you can only drive the speed that is safe, and it must be below the speed limit. Yes, I know that if you caused an accident it would be illegal because it’s called dangerous driving, but If you didn’t cause an accident it would still be legal to dangerously travelling at 60 mph when it’s unsuitable, which endangers yourself, passengers and other vehicles. At the same time, I would not support 40 or 50 mph speed limits on our rural roads because there are times when 60 mph is safe. The small difference between rural roads and motorways is acceptable for the simple fact that many more vehicles use motorways as apposed to rural roads. And, anyone reading this, remember the dual carriageway slip road limit is 60 until you merge, then changes to 70, but motorway slip roads are 70.

James Greenslade says:
29 August 2018

There times when it is perfectly safe to go over the limit within reason. It’s not the speed that matters, it’s what were the traffic conditions at that time. On occasions in the 30 limit it could be advisable to drive at 20mph.