The Great North Road the Romans built looks a bit different today. The A1 links London with Edinburgh and actually looks a great deal different to ten years ago. The M11 takes most of its traffic in the South whilst the extended M1 has removed some of the bottleneck between the M18 and the A64 in the North. That said this major trunk road despite being upgraded to 3 lanes as opposed to dual-carriageway for much of its route still suffers from major congestion. One would question how traffic on a road with no roundabouts or traffic lights for some 200+ miles between Peterborough and Newcastle can come to a halt a couple of times every couple of miles almost every day! The answer is because of bad driving!
The key problem especially on the dual-carriageway sections is that drivers don’t build any speed on slip road ending up entering a road where the other vehicles are travelling at up to 70MPH whilst they are doing around 30MPH. The net result is every vehicle on the inside lane slams on the break and then attempts to move into the outside lane but because they have already started reducing their speed they then have the same effect on the outside lane as the joiners had on the inside lane. The end result is traffic comes to a complete stop momentarily for a couple of miles back and then starts moving again almost straight away. These delays have a huge lost time cost for the individual and a large lost productivity cost to the economy. Environmentally a 100 vehicles having to build speed from zero to 70MPH every couple of miles is burning unnecessary fuel and from a safety point of view it is a major accident waiting to happen having to slam the brakes on. All because an uneducated driver does not consider the actions of them joining a motorway at a low speed. They will more then likely at the next junction when they themselves come to a halt because of the next unsafe driver make a comment to their passenger questioning why the traffic keeps coming to a halt for no reason without a second thought for the economic, safety and environmental issues they themselves have caused. It would be good to put a value on the effects of this and charging each person who does it that fee or failing that just to drag them out of their car, put them into a helicopter (which you happen to have standing by) and show them the ripple effect they cause. Of course slow motorway joiners ( the 1/2 mile slip road is there for a reason) are just the tip of the iceberg and their are many other uneducated drivers who do not consider their actions on the environment, economy (congestion costs some £8-10 billion each year in the UK at the lowest estimate) and safety of other road users. The middle lane drivers, the HGV doing 50MPh deciding to overtake a HGV doing 49.5 MPH on an uphill section. The guy in the BMW with the headlights flashing to indicate he wants you to move back to the inside lane because you are stopping him from doing his Lewis Hamilton thing!
I believe some congestion, environmental and safety issues could be resolved with a bit of common sense (and good manners) from drivers. Drivers taking responsibility for their actions, planning ahead and thinking about the effects of their actions.
Take safety for example. The Government answer to road safety is to reduce speed limits. This adds to journey times (and costs the economy) whilst adds to environmental problems as we are in our vehicles longer. I admit if I was in a road accident I would favour my odds of less injury in a low speed collision then in a high speed one but equally I feel by using speed as the catch all solution for road safety we miss out on other schemes that also have less Negative externalities in terms of the economy and the environment. I do believe you can travel with speed safely in the right circumstances and with the right education.
At the moment if somebody is seriously or fatally injured on a road with national speed limit that may be in the middle of nowhere, not a building or pedestrian insight and chances are it will be downgraded to a 40 or 50 MPH limit as a kneejerk reaction. (Not to mention they can put up a speed camera and make a quick buck too). I’m not against speed cameras as such so this isn’t a rant about them. We live in a country where Ofsted give schools enough notice of an inspection to give them time to be school of the year and where we put huge signs up telling you where speed cameras are (not to mention Sat-Nav warnings) so anyone who gets a speeding ticket must be incredibly stupid to have missed the warnings. Nor am I a speed freak. I drift above 70 on motorways and exceed urban speed limits at times but I’m no boy racer in my 1.1 litre Punto. It really frustrates me as a driver to be faced with an open road, good condition, good visibility and no people about and have to trundle along at 40MPH. Speed kills, I agree. Boiling hot water also kills but we don’t make kettles that heat to about 30 degrees only (although I know of a Labour run nanny state council who have put limits on new boilers in their council homes to stop their tenants burning in the shower! Cold bath anyone?). Vehicles and infrastructure have developed so much in recent years we are now contemplating driverless cars. If anything we should be increasing speeds not reducing them. Increasing speeds and increasing safety through technology, education and enforcement. Not enforcing speeding tickets from a camera but through the police stopping those who drive dangerously but have the sense to stop driving dangerously for a few seconds on approach to a known camera coupled with better education on real life situations (and consequences) during driving lessons and backed up in the theory test .