Time to take speed out of our hands?

Do speed limits work? B&NES – along with many other local authorities – got itself caught up in the zeigest of 20 mph restrictions in urban areas. The little round discs have gone up everywhere and basically been ignored.


Come and watch them speed up and down the Gloucester Road to the A46 link – or tremble in fear as vans wizz through St Saviour’s Road in Larkhall as you try and keep out of their way on a  broken and slanting strip of neglected pavement.

Our local authority says it will wait for the results of a national transport study on their effectiveness before deciding on a next move.  Whether to keep them, reduce the number of signs or scrap them altogether.


It has always struck me as a strange that the onus has always been on the driver to heed the warning signs and/or be aware of speed and conditions in relation to the world outside of his/her mechanical bubble.

I have noticed the growth of those electronic flashing signs – usually powered by a solar cell – that flash your speed and ask you to reduce it.


We either heed the warning or ignore it – but here maybe is where it is time to take the decision taking away from the irresponsible driver and give it – instead – to the sign.

Why don’t governments come together and insist upon motor manufacturers installing an intelligent ‘speed inhibitor’ into every vehicle that leaves the production line.

Install a device on road speed signs that sends a signal to the car and makes it comply with the speed limit. Basically overriding the driver’s right to comply or ignore.

Just think of the dramatic fall in road casualties. The reduction of multi-pile-ups and jams on our motorways. All this and the prospect of driverless cars that will stick to the limits regardless.

Technically it must be possible to do such a thing – but I can imagine the outcry. The effect on the sale of ‘little boys’ toys’ – the expensive multi-cylindered, sleek and throaty, gaudy-coloured monsters of the sports car and saloon world.

How dare they – the authorities – tell us what to do! It’s been great – in the sepia-coloured memories of the ‘old days’ – to talk about personal liberties and – in this case – the freedom of the open road – but the world doesn’t work like that anymore.

For homo sapiens to survive we have to start pulling together. Global warming, over population, destruction of the natural world, elimination of other species, nuclear war, famine, disease….. None of these threats to our continued existence – and that of this planet – can be faced without us coming together to take international action.


No doubt such intelligent road signs would be treated with the same contempt as speed cameras. Cut down, shot or set alight! But you wouldn’t need speed cameras anymore to punish you for ignoring the limit.

Come to think of it – maybe there is the technology to use satellites – or police drones – to watch us all and cut our speed by way of signals sent to that limiting device under the bonnet.

Time for us all to stop being Mr Toad – the character from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. Remember when a speeding motor car rushes by his horse-drawn caravan on that fictional open road that he, Ratty and Mole were traversing?

“It was on them! The “Poop-poop” rang with a brazen shout in their ears, they had a moment’s glimpse of an interior of glittering plate-glass and rich morocco, and the magnificent motor-car, immense, breath-snatching, passionate, with its pilot tense and hugging his wheel, possessed all earth and air for the fraction of a second, flung an enveloping cloud of dust that blinded and enwrapped them utterly, and then dwindled to a speck in the far distance, changed back into a droning bee once more.”

The horse bolted. The caravan upturned in a ditch. Toad – suitably dazed and sitting – outstretched – in the middle of the road. Uninjured and mesmerised by what has just sped past them.

“And to think I never knew!” went on the Toad in a dreamy monotone. “All those wasted years that lie behind me, I never knew, never even dreamt! But now—but now that I know, now that I fully realise! O what a flowery track lies spread before me, henceforth! What dust-clouds shall spring up behind me as I speed on my reckless way! “

We don’t live in such a great work of fiction. Time to face reality.



1 Comment

  1. I think by the time you get legislation mandating manufacturers to install speed limiters without overrides we’ll being travelling in driverless cars anyway.
    I recently got done for speeding and opted, like many others for the speed awareness course rather than take 3 points and a fine and it was one of the most useful mornings I can remember – first driving lesson for over 40 years. I made my own rule as a result: 20mph – stay in second; 30mph – stay in third etc. which works for me.
    As a Camden Road Narrows resident I am very much aware of vehicles breaking the 20mph limit on a road with pavements so narrow that they do not comply with the very lowest standard set by the Highways Agency. In Harrogate there is a similar limit on a really wide and tempting road near a school – there seems to be complete compliance at all times because there is a camera covering its length.
    To my mind this is doing all the right things: discouraging people from speeding; encouraging people who like speed to find a 30mph route elsewhere; inconveniencing and educating those who get caught; and thereby changing the behaviour, for good, of some of those.

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