Let me stress, right up front, I am NOT an apologist for speeding motorists! I think dangerous speeding should be punished more severely than it is. However, that doesn’t mean I have to agree with the yellow boxes or with the merits of courses for those caught by them.
The trainer, Peter was articulate, knowledgeable and entertaining, even if (only my opinion) a little patronising. “I’m not here to tell you what choices to make. However, what do we need most, in order to be as safe as possible on the road?” “Space!” we all shout, after two hours of priming. “..and what else?” “Time!” “.. and what does that mean we should be doing?” “Slowing down!”
I did learn quite a bit, including how ignorant most people are about the Highway Code. I wasn’t alone in being wrong about national speed limits. We were also told several interesting statistics.
1. What are the national (default) speed limits for cars on a) urban roads b) single carriageways c) dual carriageways and d) motorways?
2. How many people were killed on the UK’s roads in 2012?
3. What percentage of these were a) in towns b) on rural roads and c) on motorways?
See the answers at the end.
None of the students wanted to be a class troublemaker and risk longer detention. Accordingly, no-one tried to argue that driving above the speed limit might, on its own, not always be irresponsible and wrong; nor was there any challenge to the assertion, made by Peter, that yellow boxes are positioned in accident hot spots, primarily where there have been deaths.
I later checked the County Council accident map on this. The camera that clocked me is on Victoria Avenue, where there have been no deaths or even serious injuries, only minor incidents. It is positioned beyond the main cluster of the recorded incidents, partially obscured by a bus lane sign and on a wide, straight stretch of road with two lanes and good visibility each side. An accident hot spot, or a lucrative one?
Spot the camera?
The course was instructive but it was also too long and attended by the wrong people. Most of my fellow students were women and nearly all the men were middle aged or older – not a boy racer in sight. Peter was preaching largely to the converted.
The consequences of not being able to stop in time were starkly shown to us in several videos in which we saw the possible effects (hitting pedestrians as opposed to just avoiding them) of the longer stopping distance required by just a couple of miles an hour extra speed. No-one disagreed with the overall message but I still thought there was no proper perspective on the real risks of not keeping scrupulously to a fixed speed limit along every stretch of road.
In short, for me, the course was a useful reminder of the dangers of speeding but I wasn’t alone in feeling resentful at having to be there. It certainly didn’t change my view that those wretched cameras encourage people to perceive speeding not as dangerous or socially reprehensible but just as another thing on the road to look out for. They undermine not only the moral case against speeding but also respect for the rule of law.
1. a) 30 b) 60 c) 70 d) 70
2. 1,754. Lower than you might expect. 7 or 8 times lower than in earlier decades.
3. a) 21% b) 73% c) 6% - surprising eh! Rural roads are relative death traps, partly because it takes longer for the medics to get to you. Motorways are relatively very safe.