Monday, 20 February 2012

Lowering speed limits; too far?

South Australia recently reduced its maximum speed limits in a 100km radius of the city from 110 to 100km/h on all but three major highways/freeways.  What a joke!

The justification for this was that it will save lives.  The media was given a rehearsed list of statistics showing that reducing the speed limit saved x number of lives per year, and that it only added 10 minutes to the average journey, and finally that it saves petrol.  They government said that any lives saved were worth the inconvenience of a bit longer on the road.

Respectfully... bullshit.

If that argument is followed through, you will see that people still die from car accidents at nearly any speed.  A kid could run out on a 50km/h road and be struck by a car doing the speed limit.  A person at 40 could make an error of judgement and end up off the road.  Someone at 80km/h could legally overtake but go off the road because of the steep camber of the road.  So shouldn't we say that all speed limits should be dropped to 40?  30?  Hell, stop people driving at all, because that would save lives!

At the end of the argument, you are forced to retreat to the 'balancing act.'  You HAVE to balance lives lost against convenience of the masses.  If you don't, you are stuck with a policy of 'zero deaths at any cost.'

For a predominantly city driver, spending an extra 10 minutes on the road on their yearly holiday is really not much of a hassle.  And besides, people without much experience on country roads should probably take it a bit easy anyway.

But for a country driver who drives nearly 1000km every week, that 10km/h reduction is a serious imposition.  It can add 30 minutes over the course of a long trip.

The problem seems to be that the roads where the speed limit has been lowered aren't as high quality as the highways.  Respectfully... bullshit.  The A1 has patches that are positively dangerous, but driving some roads between country towns is a dream.  Sometimes you can see for 20km in each direction, on a long flat road.  Barring falling asleep or swerving to hit... uh, miss a kangaroo, you can't really go wrong.  And besides, the difference between 100 and 110 in those conditions is negligable.  If you hit someone head on at 100, you are just as dead as at 110.

There are several obvious methods of reducing country fatalities.
1:  Reduce speed limits.  (no cost to the government, asides from changing signs.)
2:  More driver experience.  (how do you do this?)
3:  Improve the roads ($$$)
4:  Improve safety standards of cars (oops. already done.  And hey, compare the fatality figures from last year with those of 20 years ago...)

This is a bit far out there, but what about setting up a variable speed scheme.  Drivers who fit the following criteria should be allowed to drive faster than those who don't.
  1. A certain amount of country driving experience (IE 200 hours)
  2. A car in good enough condition (IE decent tyres, good brakes, reliable engine, good safety rating)
  3. Passed an extra licensing test focussed on observation and reactions to dangers on the road.

What about allowing people with those skills/assets to drive at 130, and everyone else at 110?  Could work, no?

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