Same old story…. I have just read a leaflet pushed through my front door by a local political party. One item caught my attention. The party in question want to reduce a short section of the A6 from 40 to 30 mph and reduce the speed limit in a housing estate to 20 mph.
I’m not bothered about the 20 limit because one can hardly do more than that there anyway. But the 40 mph section of the A6 is perfectly safe and gives motorists a chance to relieve the tedium of the endless 30 mph sections (which used to be 40 mph until they were further restricted).
They have not secured my vote!
The leaflet arrived at the same time as a friend lent me a book containing reprints from Car magazine originally published in February 1966. An article that caught my eye was written by Stirling Moss and titled:
‘It’s the limit, 70. Don’t just stand there. Let’s get together and act. Now.’
He was responding to the decision by the Government of the day to make the then-temporary 70 mph national limit permanent. He wrote ‘People realise that speed is what M-roads are built for…. The realisation that others may be going faster than you are keeps you alert, keeps you out of the fast lane and on the ball.’
He blamed motorway accidents in normal weather conditions on an ‘irresponsible section of the public which can never be curbed.’ He went on, ‘I mean you can’t stop a certain percentage of criminals killing people even though they may know they’ll get hanged for it. Without an overall limit, the man who is going slowly is more inclined to keep to the left and let the faster man pass him on the right.’
He then went on to discuss the bunching effect caused by all drivers in all lanes sticking to 70 mph, usually following too closely, and the consequences of a mistake by one driver being amplified and causing a serious collision. He considered the argument that an accident at 90 mph would be more serious than one at 70 mph: his view was that cars could not withstand collisions at 90 any more than at 70, and the consequences would be much the same. (Even today they don’t test crash cars at over 40 mph.)
He continued ‘A car is only safe if it’s standing still, with the engine switched off, in a garage: as soon as you start it up you can get asphyxiated by carbon monoxide, and the moment the thing begins to move at even two miles per hour you can run somebody over. The same car does not suddenly become more dangerous as soon as it exceeds 70mph…. It depends almost entirely on what you hit and how hard you hit it.’
He went on to say that in racing you are most vulnerable to a crash when you are either leading or losing by a large margin. That is when concentration levels can be lower and errors made. The unrealistically low speed limits imposed today are causing low concentration levels and boredom, two common ingredients in a collision.
As part of his article Stirling Moss encouraged readers to cut out and send the following to Mrs Barbara Castle MP, the then Minister of Transport:
Like Stirling Moss, I am seriously concerned at the incidental effects which the nationwide 70 mph speed limit is having on an already impossible traffic situation. As a thinking individual I doubt sincerely that the restriction, in itself, will have any beneficial effect.
With Mr Moss, I urge you to do all in your power to see that the limit is not extended as a sop to ‘public opinion.’
[The limit stayed, its effects as Stirling had predicted; 2015 was the 50th anniversary of its being made permanent. For our newer members, we will shortly re-run our 40th Anniversary article about it.]