Slow Thinking That Finally Makes Sense

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Byline: DAVID WILLIAMS

I'VE heard it all now. My colleagues over at the Slower Speeds Initiative have a novel way of calming the wicked motorist down. This radical organisation is calling on Gordon Brown, in his forthcoming Budget, to send "clearer pricing signals about road danger". They want him to introduce changes to vehicle road tax which would encourage safer vehicles and safer drivers. How does their masterplan work?

They want bigger road tax rebates for cars with lower emissions - which sounds sensible enough.

They also want rebates for cars with higher scores for pedestrian safety in the Euro NCAP crash-tests and a further u30 rebate on the current u160 annual road tax for motorists who review their driving skills by resitting the L-test, which all sounds very worthwhile.

Meanwhile, cars that churn out more emissions should pay more road tax to balance the discounts and keep the Treasury happy. Can't really argue with that.

But the SSI also wants u100 rebates for drivers who fit Intelligent Speed Adaptation equipment, which would prevent them from going above 70mph.

Presumably this would be extended to all roads, fast and slow.

They believe their proposals would boost the affordability of lighter, slower vehicles, improve the atmosphere and - this sounds a bit optimistic - slash the number of road accidents by a third, saving the UK economy u100 million a week.

The Slower Speeds Initiative has seemed pretty eccentric for years, but, strangely, it may now be more in tune with public opinion than ever before.

Some of its more radical proposals - for instance banning cars capable of exceeding 70mph by "more than a small amount" - are still way too ahead of their time to be taken seriously; the motor industry and the motorist would have none of it.

But two independent surveys suggest that most motorists now realise something must be done about the 10 people killed on the roads each day in the UK, not forgetting the 884 injured.Autolink, which claims to be Britain's fastest-growing chain of supermarkets, polled 986 drivers, 76 per cent of whom wanted persistent speeders to be made to take another driving test.

Thirty-two per cent called for higher fines for speeders, 24 per cent for higher penalty points, 19 per cent for longer bans and one in four said drivers should have their cars taken away. Meanwhile, Transport for London (part of the London Safety Camera Partnership) asked 1,326 motorists whether they thought speed cameras were meant to encourage drivers to keep to the law, not to punish them, and 79 per cent said yes. …