10 July 2009

Best ever road deaths figure, but rural speed limits to be cut

In April, I blogged about the UK Government's initiative to cut speed limits in order to reduce the number of road deaths. My objections were:
  • Restriction of mobility when the UK already has some of the safest roads in the world

  • The method of enforcement (24x7 cameras) and civil liberties impact - everyone's movements could be logged and traced

  • The cost of installation and ongoing enforcement, including the possibility of another failed Government IT project

  • These proposals haven't gone away - they're out to consultation. The open consultation finishes on Tuesday 14th July, so if you have an opinion, you still have a few days to respond.

    The Times reported on 25th June that Deaths on UK roads fall to record low.

    Lord Adonis, the Transport Minister, says that "Britain now jointly has the safest roads of any major nation in the world".

    I agree that every road death is unnecessary, but I disagree with the speed limit proposals. These will have a huge set-up and operating cost, and will restrict mobility outside built-up areas by increasing journey times at all times of day and night.

    Some better approaches would be

  • Harsh penalties for causing death and serious injury; killing someone with a car is manslaughter or murder, and should be treated that way

  • Better road education: males under the age of 20 seem to be particularly likely to kill themselves, their friends, and innocent third parties

  • Restrictions on new drivers during the first few months after passing the test; curfews and rules about number of passengers, P plates (showing Passed - but recently)

  • Invest in better road layouts where these are known to be unsafe

  • Enforce speed limits in known black spots; this should be far cheaper than country-wide speed restrictions
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    22 April 2009

    Speed limit to be cut

    The Times (21 April) reports that the speed limit on many UK A roads will be cut to 50 mph under plans to reduce the number of road deaths by a third. The default limit will be reduced from 60 mph to 50 mph unless the local council gives acceptable reasons to retain the higher limit. It would become easier for councils to reduce the limit on residential roads from 30 mph to 20 mph, and average speed cameras would be introduced to enforce the new limits.

    The UK achieved huge improvements in road safety between 1990 and 1995, when the annual death rate fell from over 5000 to under 4000. It's now under 3000, and continuing to improve. This is despite a rising population and hugely increased number of vehicles using the roads. So despite the success of the current measures, our heroic Government has come up with an idea that will restrict everyone who lives outside a built-up area and uses cross-country routes. The unpopular measure can be enforced through the recruitment of thousands of new automated police officers (average speed cameras) that can issue penalties 24 x 7, regardless of the traffic and weather conditions, and into the bargain develop a database to show the vehicle movements of a majority of the population. So useful to maintain public safety.

    Of course, in revenue terms, this will be 'free'. The cameras, data network, central fines processing and recovery, repairs, replacement, surveillance database if required, signposting, etc., will cost a few billions per year. But the Government probably reckons that it can get the money back through fines - and if they don't collect enough, keep raising the fines. If all else fails, print a bit more money. Of course, we can be sure that this HM Government IT project will be a glowing success. So important when taxpayers money is involved.

    Of course, this may be just another kite-flying initiative either (a) to distract the mob from the appalling Government debt that will be revealed in today's Budget or (b) to allow the spin doctors to say "we've listened" when the whole thing is scrapped. Time will tell...

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    04 March 2009

    How far to a Shell station?

    Shell now has a service station locator on its UK website that allows you to plan a journey and produce a map and list all of the Shell stations adjacent to the route. This is a good improvement - they used to allow you only to search by road or town/postcode. I wrote in 2005 to say
    It's great to give customers a route for their journey - it would be even better to show the Shell stations on the way.
    and further...
    I couldn't find any sensible way through the search facilities on your site to work out where on a trip from Hindhead to Durham and back I could fill up with Shell fuel. I know that there are some Shell service areas but I wanted to know where they are. As a driver I don't know which towns/cities/postcodes I'm passing near, so searching by these is useless.

    My suggestion: a simple table on your site would have been a big help. It only needs to show
    - number of motorway/Ax(M) road,
    - name of service area and operator
    - which junctions it lies between
    - Optimax (now V Power), etc.

    I used another website - 5 minutes away (from the motorway) - and eventually tracked down a few.
    But now the application produces a map. Hooray! But a stroke of un-genius - the list of service stations is in something that looks related to alphabetical order rather than in the order you'd encounter them on the journey. And the map print-out doesn't scale to show all the labels, so you're back to guesswork again. You can see a pdf (123 KB) of a journey plan from Hindhead to Newcastle here.

    Some progress, some still needed. Suggestion: let's have the service stations in the right order for the journey!

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