Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Give Us a Licence to Speed; Es Wheels

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Give Us a Licence to Speed; Es Wheels

Article excerpt

Byline: NIK BERG

ACCORDING to the Government, speed kills. And it must be stopped. In 1999 3,423 people were killed on Britain's roads and speed was a factor in a third of those cases.

So speeding is the new drink-driving. The Government wants driving your car quickly to be seen as antisocial, reckless behaviour.

But the arguments don't stack up. It is scientifically proven that alcohol affects one's ability to drive. Reaction times, vision and balance are all messed up. A skinfull renders a drinker physically unfit to drive. And no one would dispute that. It is a black-and-white issue.

Speeding, however, sits in a decidedly grey area. Defining a safe speed depends on a number of factors; the road conditions, the car and - most importantly - the skill of the driver.

In the Black Rock desert it was safe enough for Andy Green to break the sound barrier at 763mph. Michael Schumacher achieves 170mph on the streets of Monaco - during the Grand Prix, of course. With the right car, the right driver and the right conditions speed does not kill.

Of course we have to have speed limits. Most of us do not possess the talent or the equipment to drive at high speeds. But those speed limits are increasingly being set with revenue generation in mind and not accident reduction.

A classic example is a Gatso camera at the start of the A1 which faces north. It is in a 50mph limit approximately 200 yards before the road changes to the national maximum speed limit of 70mph. It is sited to pinch people as they see the change in speed limit and accelerate.

And the argument that Gatso cameras are a deterrent doesn't wash. If they were twice the size and painted bright orange instead of being lamppost grey and tucked away behind road signs then they might well deter people from speeding. But, as it is, they are simply a sneaky way of nabbing people and adding to the coffers.

In the days before Gatso cameras, a policeman's judgment would be required before a penalty was issued. …

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