I’m big on road safety. I’m very lucky to have only been involved in a few minor shunts (none my fault I should add) nor do I know anyone who has been seriously or fatally injured in a road-traffic accident or by a vehicle as a cyclist/pedestrian/ other/innocent road-user. I consider myself a safe driver. I stay alert. I appreciate my car could be a weapon of mass destruction with just a momentary loss of concentration or a few pints inside me. I know that it’s highly unlikely a kid will run out from the parked cars I’m passing or a boy racer will fly round the bend I can’t see round but I have to be prepared for it. I wouldn’t want to imagine the guilt of having a death on my conscious even if I was doing everything right and wasn’t legally to blame. I realise it’s a pain to physically check the blind spot every time you want to overtake on the M1 but considering the consequences of hitting another moving car with combined speeds of 140 MPH I think it’s worth the neck strain for the extra check. This is why I just can’t get my head around people who step out into the road without looking (like the guy at Garforth station this morning I could have potentially killed had I not been alert!) or the cyclists who creep up the side of buses thinking they might win the battle with a ten ton double decker!
I hate if only’s. If only I had looked before crossing the road. If only I had slowed down for the bend. The list could go on and on, and not just for road safety. It has got to be a sound principle for life. If people did the if only test before doing the “thing” then “if only” can become “I’m glad I……..” . Life is short and precious. Mowing down a kid, being in a head on collision yourself on the motorway or being killed by a truck on your bike because you thought the Highway Code didn’t apply to cyclists is a waste of life that could so easily be avoided.
That said, I don’t agree with current policy on road safety at all. I get in my car, I’m doing 70 on the motorway. I’m alert, I’m checking my mirrors, blind spot. I’m aware of the traffic around me. I’m constantly trying to preempt and second guess the environment around me. Then some dick on a motorbike flys past me on a bend on the other side of the road risking my life, his/her own life and the life of a potential car coming the other way. Yet policy would dictate I “think bike”. Am I wrong to think the campaign should be aimed at bikers to take responsibility for their actions, to adhere to the rules of the road and speed limits and “think car”. Why should I have to overcompensate for their failings?
I’m also dead against reducing speed limits in general! Yes, if I had to pick ether being hit by a car doing 20 or one doing 40, I would rather take my chances at 20MPH. But I think the big issue is, why am I getting hit by a car in the first place? A girl at my son’s school stepped into the road and was seriously injured by a car doing 30 MPH ( luckily she is OK now, the accident was her fault and the car driver was not at fault). The dad of said girl was obviously upset and was pictured on the front of the local rag stating his daughter would not return to school until the speed limit on the road was reduced 20 MPH. Considering the schools aggressive attendance policy I’m guessing the girl would have returned to school the minute she was discharged from hospital otherwise finding herself with a £60 fine from the schools dictator sorry principal (aka bullshit speak for headteacher). I can’t help but think though that surely the answer was to address the cause of the accident. I doubt the girl will ever step out into the road again in her life without checking but a less drastic action to others surely is better road safety education. By campaigning to reduce speed limits rather then bollock his daughter for nearly killing herself people are not benefitting from taking responsibility for their actions. Why should innocent car drivers have to overcompensate for a girls thoughtless actions. Road safety campaigners are quick to call for blanket speed reductions without considering the serious consequences for the economy of slowing the nation down. Aside from the economy reducing speed limits just means people are getting minor injuries being hit by cars at slow speeds. We are not tackling the problem. Doncaster is a final bastion of decent speed limits for motorists. It’s main roads into the town have a 50 MPH limit (40 through the built up bits) yet Leeds and Wakefield up the road now seem to have blanket 30 MPH limits the minute you come off the motorway obvious because the local authorities have caved in to road safety campaigners demands without any actual thought for road safety.
Speed is also the authorities tool for dealing with road safety. Speed cameras are incredibly handy at generating cash but fail to deal with dangerous driving. Any idiot can slam on the brakes for every speed camera then drive dangerously the rest of the time and never get caught. I travelled up a relatively quiet M5 last week, doing 70 ish up the inside lane. Every now and then I would come up against some idiot in the middle lane doing 68 and have to swing right out to the outside lane to safety pass whilst pissing off Mr Audi who wants to do 90 MPH in the outside lane so is up my arse, tailgating until I get round the middle lane driver. In this scenario a speed camera would do me for going slightly above 70 on a quiet motorway ( there is no set limit on German autobahns) whereas the twat in the middle lane or the tailgater will carry on driving badly and never be dealt with!
Speed is just one element in road safety, it should not be the only tool in road safety campaigners arsenal.