Saturday 24 October 2009

Speed kills - and the RAC and the Conservative Party want to keep it that way

Britain's motorists are about to be hit with a new breed of hi-tech sneaky speed cameras.

Sobs the Mail. The story turns out to be a wild exaggeration, since it refers to cameras which will be tested in France.

The rhetoric is worth examining. It equates lawless speeding motorists with all motorists. But only a minority of drivers are caught by speed cameras. You have to be a particularly stupid driver to be caught out, since they are painted bright yellow, and you get warning signs, and your SatNav will tell you that there’s one coming up. You never read that ‘Britain’s bank users are about to be hit with a new breed of CCTV’, since it’s only bank robbers who are affected. And note the language – speeding drivers are victims who are hit. In reality, of course, it is speeding drivers who hit someone or something else – a cyclist, a pedestrian, another car, a tree, a house, a shop…

The move has not been welcomed by motoring groups with many resenting the 'stealth' aspect of cameras which do more to catch speeding drivers than getting them to slow down.

But drivers caught by speed cameras do modify their behaviour once they have clocked up enough points to run the risk of losing their licence if they are caught again. Grudgingly, they start obeying the speed limit. The reform we need is that you get 7 points on your licence for a single speeding offence and that if you are caught speeding again in the next ten years you lose your licence. A modest proposal which would massively improve the safety of British roads.

Although a plural is used, only one motoring group is identified by the Mail. This is ‘The RAC Foundation’. The RAC has always opposed measures to slow down speeding drivers. It purports to be the voice of the motorist but it never consults its members for their views. In reality the majority of drivers support speed cameras. People join the RAC not because they want representation in their capacity as drivers but because it offers a breakdown service.

The RAC Foundation said it 'spelled misery for UK motorists.'

Again, ‘lawless motorists’ are conflated with motorists in general. You never hear anyone saying that a police anti-rape initiative ‘spells misery for men’.

Question. Why is the Charities Commission allowing a political organisation which promotes lawless speeding to escape paying taxes by permitting it to pose as a charitable organisation?

A spokesman said: 'New cameras, especially if they do their job by stealth, will be treated with suspicion.

[Only by criminals.]

'They should be only one part of the fight to reduce road casualties and their positioning should be based on evidence that they will save lives, not help balance the books for politicians.'

The evidence that speed cameras save lives is overwhelming. The problem at the moment is that isolated speed cameras simply result in the farce of speeding drivers slamming on their brakes, then speeding up again afterwards.

The Conservatives have indicated that if they won the election, they would concentrate more on speed warning signs than cameras to prevent fast driving.

That’s right. Because the Conservative Party knows that ‘speed warning signs’ are meaningless, and they are committed to the freedom to drive as fast as you like and as badly as you like, with vulnerable road users paying the price – not the well-protected wealthy yob in the eleven air bag Lexus 4X4.