Last week I did a day of motorway driving – taking our youngest to Exeter for the start of his university career. The M5 was not too busy, and the traffic flowed easily. However there was still bad driving.
My personal pet hate is people under-taking. If traffic has slipped into moving queue mode, as it can do when congested, this is fine. Or when there have been overhead signs giving advanced notice of lane designations, this is understandable.
But when I’m in line to overtake a slower moving vehicle with the approved two chevrons between me and the car in front, and someone zooms up from behind and nips into that space from the inside – I disapprove.
At 70mph this may not be a problem. But lots of people are already travelling in access of this, and the faster the speed the more opportunity for error – and the worse the consequences.
This morning we have the news that Philip Hammond, the Conservative Transport Secretary, thinks 70mph is not fast enough. I do.
Not because my speed has never crept past this national speed limit – it has. But I believe that increasing the speed limit, and at this time, gives the wrong message. For me there are three key reasons:
- Safety is important. Vehicles at speed kill. I know. My mother was killed when hit by a car while crossing the Derby ring road.
- Vehicles use more fuel at higher speeds, thus increasing our fuel imports and producing more carbon emissions. If people don’t understand the financial and climate implications of this, they are just closing their minds to reality.
- Reducing travel – or expected travel – times encourages more and more travel. More cars, mean more congestion – not just on the motorways, but on the local roads leading to and from them. And this means a less pleasant environment for people walking and cycling or simply living on these streets – and more pressure for road building.
But this is consistent. In Hammond’s quote in The Guardian, he boasts that he’s scrapped the bus lane on the M4, and reduced the funding for speed cameras. The Conservatives locally have done the same, short-sightedly scrapping bus lanes that allowed buses to keep to time, and removed the cameras that only needed to be heeded by those breaking the speed limit.
It means that buses can’t keep to time so easily, so that those who can, drive. And drivers can now speed with impunity – so much for Conservatives believing in the rule of law!