Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Why cars drive fast and government goes slow..

I spent all evening at a public meeting about my local road. (Rural road, growing towns at each end, too many cars, 22 deaths in 10 miles - It is a familiar story up and down the country.)

We asked who wants a lower speed limit. Parish councillors want it, district and county councillors want it, the MPs want it, we even surveyed local residents over three quarters of them want it. That was nearly a year ago.

The simple solution might be to knock up a few 50 mph signs and send out an occasional copper with a radar gun....

But that's not how things are done.

Government protocol means the road must be subdivided into identifiable segments, accidents and traffic movements must be analysed in each segment, engineers must collate the data and benchmark against national guidelines, cabinet papers must be prepared and voted on. The new limits must be advertised, consulted upon, any complaints must be deliberated at partnership meetings. That's the bureaucracy bit.

Then for the policy - we learn that today you can't just drop a speed limit, trust most people to see the signs and obey the law (with a bit of help from the police). The caring nanny state means that the speed limit will only be dropped if traffic calming measures are introduced so that drivers can't speed. This might make sense on short stretches of urban roads but through miles of countryside?? Of course funds aren't available, bids need to be submitted. Our last bid took 7 years to get approved. I feel another year or two slipping by.

The Highways department are working overtime, they are doing a great job, many man hours are being spent on my road --- but the tangible results? Suffice to say that we left the meeting last night with an agreement on the timetable to produce a timetable. It was a major achievement.


Stewart Geddes said...

It all sounds so simple doesn't it. Deaths on a stretch of road and the solution kis to reduce the speed limit.

The problem with this hypothesis is that it immediately assumes that the problem was speed. The reality is that speed only contributes to traffic incidents in 4% of cases.

So what are the reasons? Probably driver error. Possibly a poor design of road. Speed? Unlikely, but we are not told.

The solution? Probably better design of the roads or better signage. Maybe even the introduction of streetlighting. This is one case where beaurocracy probably works better than local democracy. A reasoned study a proper solutions will retain public confidence and lead to a reduction in accidents rather than the dead hand of a police state.

Matt said...

Know the frustration Vicky. Sometimes there's a real need however I can also see the other side in some cases. We have seen a whole phase of councillors responding to public demand and having speed measure such as bumps put in and a few years later there are campaigns by pretty much the same members of public to have them removed. I think the hard fact is that drivers who are responsible will obey limits and those that aren't won't. Sometimes the more we try to nanny people the less responsible they actually are. Personally I like the speed activated electronic signs as they remind decent people and warn others but at the end of the day the police have to cahrge those that deliberatly ignore advice and drive excessively fast in situations that don't suit.

Vicky Ford said...

Guys thanks for the comments, you have clearly spent a lot of time with the Highways department and risk missing the point.

Lets assume the public are intelligent, they use the road, they have asked for a low cost solution, they know it may not solve the problem completely but say its worth trying.

There is no proof that their solution won't work but the protcol won't allow it to even be tested. The protocol suggests applying more complex solutions but these solutions are not affordable.

In the meantime the taxpayer has spent more money than the public's suggestion would have cost.