Road Safety News

‘Scrap some speed limits’, urges Norfolk PCC

Monday 22nd April 2013

A police and crime commissioner has suggested abolishing speed limits on some major roads and letting drivers go as fast as conditions allow (BBC News).

Stephen Bett, PCC for Norfolk, said it might be safe for some drivers to go “flat out” in certain circumstances. He also said many speed limit signs should be removed because drivers could become "mesmerised" by them.

Mr Bett, an independent PCC, said he advocated abolishing speed limits on motorways and other major roads, and having a blanket speed limit in villages.

He told BBC Radio Norfolk: “We ought to drive to road conditions rather than set limits. The problem nowadays is there's so many damn signs.

“You are driving along and you get mesmerised by them and you get situations where you get a 50 to 40 to 30 [mph] and it goes to 20 in the middle and back up again.

“If we're going to do something about speed and villages, we ought to just take all the signs down and say all villages are 30mph, or whatever it's going to be, and you drive on roads, like they do in Germany and Italy, as road conditions say.”

Asked how fast a fully-alert driver could safely travel in a modern car on an open road in the early hours of the morning, Mr Bett said: “That is a very significant one because it depends on the driver.

“If you have got someone who's a Formula 1 racing driver, well, you can go flat out. If he was a racing driver and really, really good and had tremendous reflexes, probably as fast as the car will go.”

David Williams, chief executive of the Guild of Experienced Motorists, labelled Mr Bett's idea as "nonsense".

David Williams said: “24% of road deaths are caused by inappropriate speed. It's a very important issue. It does need to be enforced clearly and we do need to protect innocent road users from people who think that they can drive faster, like racing drivers, on the highway. That just is nonsense.”

Click here to read the full BBC News report.


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Eric: It may have been because my posting appeared immediately after yours, but for the record, my last comment was not in response to your comment or directed at you or triggered by anything you had said. It was actually what my original comment was going to be when this news item first appeared and it was supposed to be a response - partly as if speaking directly to Mr Bett and partly playing Devil’s Advocate - by expanding on Mr Bett’s flawed train of thought to an obvious (equally flawed) conclusion. Sorry if you thought otherwise.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

I never said do away with all the rules of the road. From a safety viewpoint we should not be supporting rules and their enforcement that are detrimental to road safety - and that is what separates out setting of speed limits (by people who do not understand their effect on road safety) and their enforcement using interventions that cause more casualties and collisions than they could ever prevent. In that respect Stephen Bett is on the right track, and should be supported by road safety professionals.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (3) | Disagree (11)

I feel sorry for the people of Norfolk. Somehow their PCC doesn't seem such a "Safe Bett" after all.
Rod King, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (5)

Yes we know it’s possible to exceed speed limits without consequences, just as it is possible to drive through red traffic lights; drive on bald tyres; drive with one hand on the wheel/ one hand on the phone /with cigarette etc, even over the alcohol limit without consequences.

So are we to do away with all rules of the road on this basis? Or does common sense suggest that we need to have traffic laws and highway usage regulations - perhaps Mr Bett could personally appraise every driver on the road and he can decide who shall be exempt from speed and other limits. I’m sure we’d all like to think we’d qualify, as we’re all expert drivers aren’t we? But hang on, who’s going to appraise Mr Bett?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (13) | Disagree (3)

Dave (Leeds)
You say "collisions ... attributed to exceeding the posted limit or going too fast for the condtions as the primary causation factor".
To understand and prevent accidents we need to get to "root cause". Why were they going too fast for the conditions? Inexperience? Misjudgement? Lack of concentration/observation? They are closer to the root causes (speed is an output, not an input, of the driving process). And the way to mitigate such causes is more/better training. And exceeding a posted limit cannot cause anything.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (6) | Disagree (14)

Isn't a speed limit sign one that reminds a driver what speed everybody else travels at in that particular section?

That's the joys of a common law based upon what people do, or don't do and not what certain people say they should do.

Mr Bett is right, but he does not understand why he is right, so uses the wrong form of words to try and get his message across. It would have been better if he had said that he trusted the vast majority of people to drive at a similar speed to that driven by everybody else. Those that didn't were a menace as they could not or would not see what the crowd in its wisdom saw.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (9) | Disagree (7)

To Stephen Bett I say “prove it”. While your views might be revolutionary and refreshing, they challenge the core beliefs of those working in road safety who have spent decades and £millions pursuing “speed management”.

To evaluate your theories, run scientific trials called “Randomised Controlled Trials”. Select all those roads you believe suitable for your trial, and then randomly select half of them to have a raised (or no) speed limit. By comparing the “test” with the “control” groups you have proof of the effect (so far as is possible in the real world).

If Stephen Bett is right, we will have the evidence to prove it. If he is wrong we will have the evidence to justify further £millions to continue “speed management” for further decades.
Dave, Slough

Agree (8) | Disagree (5)

Tell you what Eric, of those 24% of fatal collisions (as reported through stats 19 I guess) that were attributed to exceeding the posted limit or going too fast for the condtions as the primary causation factor why don't you find the ones that weren't? Then you'll have all the evidence you need. Sure the police who investigated the collisions originally would be happy to help you.
Dave, Leeds

Agree (13) | Disagree (4)

If this is the wisdom of a newly elected PCC then I despair.

"you get situations where you get a 50 to 40 to 30 [mph] and it goes to 20 in the middle and back up again" - that would be a village or town then. Clearly we must not locally reduce limits but leave it up to the driver to decide.

Unfortunately, I see every day, examples of the self regulated approach to driving. Perhaps Mr Bett should get out more?

Agree (19) | Disagree (2)

Two simple comments to encourage debate.
1. I would be surprised if any driver were not able to drive safely with a broken speedometer (which suggests a weak link between speed-limits and safety).
2. I know of no evidence that the setting of speed limits and their enforcement has a positive effect on road casualties/collisions.

David Williams says "24% of road deaths are caused by inappropriate speed". Utter nonsense. Crashes are caused by many factors - misjudgement, poor concentration, poor observation, drink, tiredness". These are the CAUSES; speed will affect severity but even inappropriate speed rarely causes crashes - it is usually in conjunction with illegal behaviour (see any episode of "Speed, Camera, Action" or similar programme).
I ask those that disagree to offer argument or evidence to support their position.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (5) | Disagree (20)

Well what can u expect from a new Tzar now in charge of the police?

This is just the begining of a new bureacracy that will mess things up. I have read articles in motorcycle and car mags by so called professionals and experts who believed that because of their their jobs and responsibilities that they have increased knowledge and experience that they should not be subject to the common laws of the land re: speeds on roads. I think it's called the Hubris syndrom. Something that many considered self important males - or is that impotent males - suffer from.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (24) | Disagree (4)

Did this miss publication on April 1st?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (20) | Disagree (2)