Saturday, August 05, 2006

UK motorists getting bad deal

What is the total stopping distance of a car travelling at 40mph according to the highway code?

I often find myself pondering why motorists are given such a hard time. They have to pay very high, rising petrol prices (most of which goes towards tax for Labour to waste), high road tax (more money for Labour to waste), MOT, parking (most of which goes to local councils), parking fines and speeding fines (again giving money to the government) and various other costs associated with driving.

Yet the attack doesn't stop there. Mr Livingstone has a lovely CONgestion charge running in central London (which gives more money to the government) and in legal terms drivers usually get the blame when they collide with anything or anyone.

Perhaps a more fundamental attack is on the actual road layout itself. Across the UK road narrowing campaigns are taking place and "traffic calming measures" are going everywhere. Speed cameras, number plate monitoring cameras and general surviellance cameras line the motorways. Traffic lights are being designed to slow traffic down.
Bus lanes are increasing rush hour congestion and parking has become either impossible with all the yellow, red and white lines or when you can find somewhere, very expensive.

On all sides the motorist is getting squeezed. Yet I believe that this is not helping the population because everybody needs to travel and increasing motoring costs means increasing inflation and don't get me started on what Labour is doing to our economy!

Anyway the arguments against cars are as follows:
1) Pollution!
Eveybody is complaining about global warming and the solution politicans are offering is to increase driving costs. They have also attempted to improve public transport but with a single bus journey now costing £1.50, have not really given any incentives to use (other than making driving harder). My solution would be either cars powered by biofuels and other renewal energy sources (make it compulsory for garages to sell green fuels and for new cars to have engines that support them) or a scheme to offset pollution by planting trees along roads or to lower the cost of public transport so that it is at least equal in cost to using a car for an eqivalent journey. I also believe better provisions for parking bicycles would help.

Notice that most of my suggestions do not penalise the driver in any way. We've had enough of that already.

2) Congestion!
Ken Livingstone is making congestion worse! Its a deliberate policy to slow traffic down and make driving unpleasant. Therefore any suggestions he has I mostly ignore. My first action would be designing roads to get traffic moving. Identify and remove bottlenecks and up the speed limit on motorways to 80mph in normal conditions, but give harder penalties to people who, for example, drive at that speed during foggy conditions - e.g. dangerous driving.

Public transport needs to play a role and become cheaper and, where possible, faster. Also as mentioned before better provisions for bicycles would be helpful.

3) Road safety!
Here is where everybody has different views. Campaigners seem to think the answer is too ban cars, lower speed limits and drivers seem to think "get out of my way stupid pedestrian". Essentially my policy here would be to separate cars and pedestrians as much as possible and remove unnecessary road street funiture. I think bridges over roads, pelican and zebra crossings are the best way of dealing with this. However education needs to be given to pedestrians and children in particular to look before they walk in the road.

I think part of the problem is that drivers do not respect speed limits because in most cases they are inappropriate. Therefore I would increase speed limits in most places, but lower them in danger areas, such as crash hotspots, dangerous corners, near public buildings (e.g. schools and hospitals) and anywhere pedestrians are likely to be.

Road safety is an important issue, however is not an excuse for tax and excessive road restraints as Labour uses it for. All parties must realise the roads are a dangerous place and respect them. If a driver drives at 60mph outside a school at 3.10pm on a thursday afternoon, send him to jail for stupidity. Likewise if a school child runs into a road to get a ball without looking blame the kid and the parents and the school for failing to educate him properly.

What was the point of this post? Basically to get people to think differently about driving and the problems with cars. Current political policies are highly ineffective as is shown by the high number of people caught speeding every year, the ridiculously slow speeds of traffic in our urban areas, the high number of road fatalities and generally the poor design of our roads compared to the rest of Europe and the world.

For more information check out:

Answer= 36 metres or 120 feet (12 metres thinking distance and 24 metres stopping distance)

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