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Monday, 21 February, 2000, 14:34 GMT
Speed. Your comments. Panorama 14.2.00
Congratulations on an excellent well balanced programme. I am fully in favour of 20mph limits in residential areas.. The main problem would of course be enforcing until individuals and the law come to realise that a car is potentially a lethal weapon. As such, those who cannot behave in a responsible manner should be banned from driving for very long periods. Drunk drivers and reckless drivers who kill should be treated as murderers, rather manslaughter, implying the results are somehow not their doing. Congratulations again.
Peter Seager

An appalling biased piece of journalism. For a start, all the children in the hospital are introduced as victims of speed, does the hospital exclude victims hit at 30mph or below. The vast majority of pedestrian deaths are in 30mph limits. A car restricted to a top speed of 'only' 70mph is still quite capable of killing, so highlighting the ability of a car to achieve 125mph is irrelevant, this was pure sensationalism. The government's main interest in 'safety' is based on revenue generation not peoples lives. Rail safety is a cost to the government, road safety is a revenue generator. How much research is there into GPS speed control on trains, so they slow at a red lights I wonder? Nobody would argue with the use of speed cameras outside a school, but the governments thirsts to put them on our motorways, the safest roads in Europe, because that's the real cash cow. This was such a lazy piece of work you didn't even refer to TRL323, the government's OWN research which shows the true relevance of speed in the safety debate. It is not only speeding that kills, there are so many factors that this blinkered approach cheapens the debate.
Dave Crack
Reading

Some of the comments on Monday's programme have been arrogant to say the least. While there is fair argument to support re-education for the benefit of all road users, I find the one accusing the programme of the boring "wheeling out of relatives who have suffered loss/injured in road accidents", superficial, self centred and moronic, to be polite. Parents aware of the risks on the road do teach their children to watch out. It is a prime concern of caring parents to nurture their children to fulfil their right to life. That concern is demonstrated by the reluctance of parents to let their children walk to wherever. That is why the Governemt push to get them out of their cars and on to pavements in the interests of traffic management, pollution and "good health", is an uphill struggle. Sadly, you still come across the non speeding, non drunk/drugged cretin who for no apparent reason, will mount a pavement, full body width, travel 39 metres up without braking, demolish property, injure another pedestrian on the pavement and drag a child (mine) on that same pavement, to her premature death, bumpty bump under the car. He still considered himself not guilty while knowing he was taking a risk that he declined to be cross examined on in court. Oh, he was fined a paltry sum, though charged with death by dangerous driving, a section 1 offence. Boring emotional stuff, not cricket, heh? Each life has value and no less each life driven under 9 feet of clay at the age of 16. Death is not choosy and it hurts most when it strikes by surprise. Wait for it - one of those 3600 might be one of you one day. Good luck to your families that have to pick up the pieces and still yell, why me!
Giulietta Galli-Atkinson
Enfield

I was wondering why the police chief was criticising speeding motorists but failed to comment on the amount of police cars that regularly break the speed limit - EVEN WHEN NOT IN PERSUIT OF CRIMINALS. I have often seen them driving at speeds of forty miles per hour on 30mph roads and know many others who have too.
Marlon Withers
Northampton

Although I am certainly not a journalist or a lawyer the programme seemed biased, emotive and lacking in balance. Whilst any loss of life on the road, particularly of children, is appalling it does not automatically follow that speed is the cause. Surely human error, poor training, inadequate road planning and also excessive speed all contribute to the problem as well as other factors such as car design. I wonder how many people perished under the wheels of horse-drawn vehicles in time gone by, or how many lives could be saved in the third world if we in the West were interested enough to eradicate malaria? This programme smacked of the 'nanny state' mentality we are seeing in more and more aspects of life. Although there can be no worse experience than losing a child, bereaved parents are the last people to make sensible decisions about such matters - ask a close relative of a murder victim about capital punishment. The very act of living is a risk, and to eliminate all risk is to live a sterile and boring existence.
Richard Mowbray
York

I believe the number of road accidents is shocking - whether or not the cause is the speed of the car or the inattention of pedestrian or driver. When there is a rail or air crash ( tragic as they are) much media attention is given same. However, many many more people are affected by road accidents per year. Why does not the BBC. broadcast weekly the number of people killed or injured on the road, with a summary of the categories. Surely this would encourage people to be more aware of the dangers and thus more careful, as well as focus the attention of the powers that be.
Jean Watkins
Birmingham

This is clearly a subject on which everyone will have an opinion. It would be useful if you would analyse the responses to get a feeling for at least the balance of those who have chosen to reply. I would suggest categorise into: - reduce speed limits wholesale - reduce speed limits in urban areas - I used to speed until I was personally affected by an accident - people need to get about and are already impeded on their journey too much - raise speed limits on safe roads (maybe as well as reducing those on local roads) - also categorise by male/female respondent. This would only be the first step in the debate of what do we actually do to improve safety whilst making life bearable in this impossibly crowded environment. I would suggest you then get the government to engage with the public in this debate.
Phil Wood
Bolton

I congratulate the BBC on this programme, especially for the low-key but powerful way the long-denied effects of road traffic deaths and injuries was presented and for involving the "Top Gear" demonstrator talking in a sober way about the insanity of family cars designed to drive more comfortably at 90+ miles an hour than at 20-30 mph. The programme feedback was interesting because analysis of word-choice and phrasing tends to show that the balance has shifted in the speed debate in favour of those arguing for lower speed limits. Most of the emotive rhetoric is now coming from people who resent being required to obey the law. As a motorist of many years experience whose driving in my earlier years was nothing to be proud of I understand where these people are coming from. My message is, sorry chaps (it is almost invariably chaps) - "the party is over" unless your on a test track or in a virtual reality driving simulator. There are plenty of ways to enjoy living dangerously without being anti-social. Try mountaineering, deep ocean racing, sky-diving - but surrendered some of that road space you take for granted as yours back to walkers, cyclists and people who drive on it as guests. It was a good century for the car, but time's up!

My message is, sorry chaps (it is almost invariably chaps) - "the party is over" unless your on a test track or in a virtual reality driving simulator. There are plenty of ways to enjoy living dangerously without being anti-social. Try mountaineering, deep ocean racing. sky-diving

Simon Baddelely, Birmingham
Congratulations Panorama for a fine piece of tele-journalism that will mark a watershed in the transport debate.
Simon Baddeley
Birmingham

I was very surprised to note that Steve Berry found it so difficult to maintain a car at a constant speed. This chap has worked for Top Gear where I thought the presenters were picked for their driving skills. Just goes to show that any old maniac can drive like an idiot but when it comes to being careful, skillful and responsible some people just can't hack it. Great programme but needs to be followed up by politicians and some hard hitting penalties for offenders. Well done.
Jon Wilkes
Aberystwyth

Why was the issue of Bullbars" not mentioned. These lethal bits of rigid metal are still attached to lots of cars in the UK. They should be banned since they are capable of killing pedestrians and cyclists at very low speeds. Otherwise a good programme on a very important topic.
Ted Willis
Brigg N.Lincs

I have read all the comments on your site and I would put my driving skill against any police driver. Not to say I am the best, only to say that the police are the worst and the biggest speeders of all. Perhaps some cameras in our cars to show how much the police speed, and perhaps the right to stop them for speeding. They are the biggest breakers of crime, only they can do it with the law behind them.
Philip Lewis
Cardiff

I thought you put together an excellent, thought provoking programme which at last actually gave some balance to the whole issue of our obsession with the car and the real costs they bring to bear on society. Speed seems to be acceptable to so many people - a friend of mine was driving along a narrow bendy country lane, I asked him to slow down from 60mph which was way above what was safe in the conditions - his response was "It's OK, I've done advance driver training!" Everyone moans about congestion. Everyone dislikes traffic calming. To bring down speeds, the Government needs to take a stand on national speed limits, we need far more realistic sentences for killer drivers, bigger fines which apply for every mile per hour over the speed limit as they do in the United States, and eventually, cars whose speeds are limited to the local speed limit. So please, more programmes like this which give balance to the whole transport debate!
Paul Osborne Safe Routes to Schools YorkI would like to say that despite the mainly negative comments from your viewers, I would like to congratulate you on bringing up the problem of child traffic accidents. The negative comments are symptomatic of, as some readers said a lack of political interest in child traffic injuries and deaths. The comments were by far from car owners with access to e.mail.. a huge under representation from the most vulnerable.. those from the lowest economic groups who have 4x more chance of dying from a road traffic accident than the higher economic groups. There is a lot of talk about the responsibility of the child and parent to behave safely. We have been indoctrinated for years by road crossing safety campaigns that it is the responsibility of the pedestrian to avoid death.

There is a limit on how much you can expect from a child, crossing a road has been estimated to need 24 different psychological task, it is a task too complex often for the most educated child. Blame the parents? Parents are well aware of the risks on the roads. That is why most children are now housebound and driven to school. Between 1980 and 1990 there was a 40% reduction in walking among children.

Anna Cronin de Chavez, Edinburgh
This is victim blaming and only one element of where responsibility should lie. There is just as much responsibility on car drivers, town planners, transport planners, government policy and so on. Victim blaming is the easy option and gets away from addressing real political and economic challenges. Readers talk about the TRL report blaming pedestrians (adults) for accidents, research show that alcohol is a risk factor in this. But when it comes to child accidents, there is a limit on how much you can expect from a child, crossing a road has been estimated to need 24 different psychological task, it is a task too complex often for the most educated child. Blame the parents? Parents are well aware of the risks on the roads. That is why most children are now housebound and driven to school. Between 1980 and 1990 there was a 40% reduction in walking among children and a 60% in cycling among girls. Parents are forced to keep their children safe and off the streets, but the children then have to lead a largely sedentary lifestyle, which in later life gives them a much higher risk of dying from one of our major killers - heart disease. And we wonder why kids are so fascinated by computer games and videos? Kids not only need a safe place to play, they have a right to it according to the UN convention of the child (of which the UK is a signatory). A child has the right to play, gather and to free expression. Safety education IS NOT the only answer, and has not been the answer after decades of campaigns. A speed limit reduced from 30 to 20 mph is the difference between killing a child who momentarily made a childish error of judgement, and "just" leaving him/her with minor injuries. Our kids need safe places to play and a safe environment to live in. Just building parks isn't sufficient. Parents, under so much time and money pressure cannot continually accompany their children to far away parks. They want their kids nearby, allowed to play with other kids, but at a safe distance from home. That is what the likes of Home Zones is all about. In this case I think their right to expression has been silenced.. do we really know what we are imposing on our children?.. they ! ! are under our care today and will be our carers of the future.. Anna Cronin de Chavez Edinburgh
Anna Croni de Chavez
Edinburgh

I write as a motorist, motorcyclist, cyclist and pedestrian, and the pusher of a handicapped person in a wheelchair so I think I have a fairly good knowledge of all those perspectives on traffic matters. I would just like to say that the programme on cutting vehicle speeds was very well done, and put the case perfectly for reduction in motor vehicle speeds on secondary roads. There is absolutely no need for car and van drivers to rush as many of them do so impatiently along such roads, as it rarely serves to decrease their overall journey time. I find that, while keeping below current speed limits myself, I invariably catch up the vehicles that have overtaken me as I get to a junction two or three miles further on. Well done for a balanced programme on this subject.
Michael Evans (former dep.asst.commissioner, Met.Police, Chmn Dorset Cyclists' NetworkWatched the programme last night, unfortunately, it could not have been further from the point. Whilst nobody condones speeding in built up areas, myself included, it has become very obvious that your information came mostly from the Police who do not justify their focus on speed, because it has become a vast source of income. Since the present Government has allowed the local forces to retain fines raised as income, the number of people being prosecuted for motoring 'crimes' has doubled. It is high time that respected programmes such as yours, spread the true facts. The drivers in the UK are among the worst in the world, pour ability and lack of awareness are the main problems and driver re-education and a system of schooling instead of fines would be far better served. According to your programmes views, speeding on an open country road (and I mean 15 or 20 mph over the limit) is a mortal crime where as the person who dithers and does not observe what is going on around them and causes an accident at 20mph is fine. Come on, smell the coffee, the problems we have are mostly related to bad driving, lack of observation, driving to fast for the conditions,(not speeding), lack of judgement. These are the issues but the Police can't prove these and raise revenue from them so they plump for speed every time. I am interested in your views.
Simon Gilmore.
I am writing to say that I found your programme not only informative and balanced, but also very moving.   I very much hope that Government Ministers saw the programme.
Colin Newman

I watched your programme on 14 February and was appalled by the emotive, one sided view presented. Government research, I understand, shows that excessive speed accounts for less than 1 in 20 accidents (TRL Report 323). Other research indicates that where a pedestrian and a vehicle are involved in an accident, lack of care on the part of the pedestrian is to blame in 5 out of 6 instances. Yet these facts and rational debate thereon were ignored in favour of emotional manipulation. Once again, the BBC is using our licence fees to peddle politically correct propaganda dressed up as fact.
  Geoffrey Breakell

My daughter Fallon aged 8 yrs 9 months recently died from a head injury after being hit by a car. We live in an area which has traffic calming measures so is deemed to be a traffic calming zone. The motorist that hit her was doing in- excess of 34 mph. At the inquest the coroner stated that the motorist was driving slightly above the maximum speed, but he did react quickly. The police also took the view that the motorist was not at fault even though we know Fallon looked both ways before crossing (in fact the police did not even use the statement from a witness which clearly stated that she crossed carefully) With statements like this being made it seems that it is not only motorists that need educating, but also the police/coroners
Phil Croker
Gloucester

I would like to point out that a performance vehicle being driven at 30 mph will result in the same conclusion as a standard vehicle driven at the same speeds. I would also like to point out that the braking ability of a performance vehicle is far superior to a standard vehicle and the stopping distance of a performance vehicle doing 30mph is far less than a standard vehicle doing 30mph. I agree with the comments of Steve Berry, why make vehicles that can exceed the limits of the British Law, but while unlimited performance vehicles are made, they will be bought. A performance vehicle does not need to exceed the speed limits, it only gives a quicker response time to acceleration and deceleration!
Kevin Handley
Brewood, Stafford

I am a Chartered Civil Engineer, have a Civil Engineering Degree, have further qualifications in Highway Design and have spent many years working for Contractors, Consultants, New Towns and a Local Authority and in the past have designed and built major dual carriageway roads and roundabouts. I have had a company car for the last 11 years as well as my own personal car. However, whenever possible I leave the cars at home and use a bicycle, for fitness, enjoyment, to avoid polluting and so as not to restrict other peoples rightful use of the highway. Despite the above, I am certain that urban (and country) areas are being ruined by speeding and or impatient drivers. Fast driving in congested urban areas does not lead to a shorter journey time whereas lower speeds lead to less stress, safer travel and a greatly enhanced degree of safety for everyone including the driver. In certain circumstances slower peak speeds will actually lead to reduced journey times. Increasingly, pedestrians cannot cross the roads, cyclists cannot turn right and the elderly and disabled are no longer free to visit their local areas in safety. It has been shown in other countries that if punished severely enough drivers will very quickly learn that breaking speeding laws is not acceptable and much less enforcement then becomes necessary. I do not consider that ¿speeding legislation¿ that Local Government MAY introduce is the best way forward. Twenty years of working as an Engineer in Local Government has shown me that such laws are unpopular as Councillors will be attacked by opposing factions should lower limits be imposed. There will always be the argument from some irresponsible persons that lower limits are not compulsory.
Paul Moss
Dartford (DA1)

Just a note to say WELL DONE on last nights programme on speed, its about time these issues were raised, I live on a busy road which last year was the scene of a tragic accident involving a 7 year old girl chasing a ball (you can guess the rest). Its time the motorist was forced to be responsible, he has proved he/she can not be trusted to be. I hope others realise the way we are going is not sustainable, irresponsible, and not defendable. Thank you for a very positive and encouraging show.
Jeroen Speak
London

I was appalled by the narrow vision of the programme. It had the potential to open the debate on bad driving generally, and on why collisions happen. These were ignored, and the debate treated as closed. All that counted was the soundbite. Where was the examination of other areas of driver education, such as advanced driver training? Where was the research into how to stop children and cars coming into contact in the first place, rather than reducing the consequences when what was throughout regarded as the inevitable happened? Personally, I am against speeding in urban areas, and would like to see all qualified drivers re-examined every five years (to advanced, rather than DSA, standard) in order to retain the privilege of a driving licence. I would also like to see research into whether children's behaviour with traffic is different in the UK to the rest of Europe, and whether anything could be improved there by better road safety education. Perhaps that would move the platform of the debate on from "Speed kills" to "Bad driving kills".
Mike Fleming
Tamworth

I find Lord Whitty's statement that the government have no intention of imposing a lower urban speed limit in ALL cities to be totally unacceptable and yet another example of the Government saying one thing but not backing it with appropriate action. We desperately need to have a lower limit strictly enforced. I would also welcome the introduction of satellite controlled speed.
Rodney A Stansfield
Angmering

I find that the BBC conveys two diametrically opposed messages. In Panorama, coverage is given in a responsible manner to accidents and the effects of speed. Another programme, Top Gear, glorifies speed, acceleration, and the "fun" obtained in spinning a car on the road in a totally irresponsible way, accompanied on occasions by the presenter's whoops of delight. Mention is made of "poke", "oomph" and the noise of the exhaust, all as commendable attributes. One car was even described in a programme last year as "attractively aggressive". The programmes may come under different classifications, and aimed at different audiences, but the message of safety, pointing out that a car is not a toy but a potentially lethal weapon, should be consistent.
W.Long
Rothbury, Northumberland

What changed the culture to make drink-driving socially unacceptable? Persistence, patience and penalties. Persistence, because the authorities have just kept at it with (arguably not enough) publicity campaigns and enforcement sessions; patience because it's taken 30 years; penalties because a drink-driver loses his/her licence. So let's see the same principles applied and recognise that it will take time. Penalties? Unconditional loss of licence for a minimum of 3 months for 5 or more mph over an urban limit, be it 20, 30 or 40, plus fines to cover the prosecution costs, and compulsory attendance at a course. It's easier to stay within speed limits than to resist the social pressure to drink, and speeding can be every bit as dangerous, so why is it seen as OK or even something to boast about? And, of course, education, education and education. How many speeding drivers realise that, if they're doing 40 and hit the brakes, they'll still be doing 30 when they cross the point where they'd have stopped if they'd been doing 30 in the first place?
David Chapman
Glastonbury, Somerset

A point totally ignored by both the program and by many correspondents is that a reduction of a speed limit may have no effect at all on the speed of impact. With an average car it takes around half a second to loose 10mph of speed. With an inevitable result of lower speed limits being less attentive drivers and drivers watching their speedometers constantly, it would only take a half second increase in reaction times to totally compensate for the reduced initial speed. With the number of pedestrians killed by road vehicles being massively less than 5% of those struck by cars it is clear that the average speed of those driving is far below the 20mph target that some people wish to enforce. All road accidents are coseted, currently at about £1m for a death. Of this about 5% is made up of direct costs (Police time, hospital treatment, etc) and the rest is a social cost and the loss of earnings. Congestion is also cosseted, with a figure of around £3.50 an hour being currently used. From this it is clear that a 3 minute addition to an average commuting journey (6 minutes return) would costs the country around £350000 per day for every million drivers affected. Even if there are only 10 million people affected by the longer journey time that means 3.5 lives would have to be saved every day to make any reduction in the speed limits cost effective for the government. With, according to Transport Research Laboratory figures, only 4.3% of accidents having speed as their primary factor, it is obvious that no such reduction in fatalities would be even vaguely possible.
Keith Walker
Stafford

I am a member of Spokes East Kent Cycle Campaign. A large well supported organisation. We would support any initiative to reduce speeds to allow those more vulnerable to be safe. There is a Safe Routes to Schools project being initiated in Canterbury but to make this work slower speeds must be forthcoming to give parents confidence to let children out to travel by bike or foot. I find it alarming that as a nation we have to have a hospital dedicated to kids who have been in road crashes. Something is wrong somewhere. We have supported the current Transport 2000 campaign and written to Tony Blair. Action must be taken with higher penalties enforced to killer motorists.
Martin Farbrother
Canterbury

I believe that Suffolk was one of the first counties to take the step of introducing 30 mph limits throughout the county in its villages and towns. All parish and town councils were invited to take part in the initial debate and played an active roll in deciding where the limits of the speed restrictions were placed in their localities. In Leiston, a small town of 5,500 we have just had introduced a 20 mph limit in the town centre, and speed ramps along the main streets. Initially there was an outcry from local businesses about the perceived loss of trade etc. However, it has proved to be a success, with traffic flowing through the town at a much calmer level.

In Leiston, a small town of 5,500 we have just had introduced a 20 mph limit in the town centre, and speed ramps along the main streets. Initially there was an outcry from local businesses about the perceived loss of trade etc. However, it has proved to be a success, with traffic flowing through the town at a much calmer level.

Stephen Saddler, Leiceston, Suffolk
I travel throughout Suffolk during my working day and I have to say that the limits have made no adverse impact on the timings of my journeys, in fact it has the effect of making driving far less stressful. As the father of a son who had a very lucky escape and suffered only a leg fracture when a car hit him and threw him into the air, which when he landed went over his leg with the back wheel, I feel reassured that I live in a county where the interests of pedestrians are at the forefront of our local elected representatives thought
Stephen Sadler
Leiston

The car is not treated as the lethal weapon it is. We attempted to ban handguns after a disaster with guns and children - now let turn that concern the other real killer the car and drivers.
Paul Bailey
South Benfeet

Why did the presenter feel it necessary to LOOK at the camera whilst driving his car!! it says a lot about a program shouting about safety on the roads to have the presenter taking his eyes off the road. In case you were wondering I drive a Subaru Impreza Turbo ( 0-60mph 5.3 secs, 145mph top speed ) and am looking at driving courses to help me improve my driving and yes I do stick to the 30mph limit, I do not want the death of a child on my conscience. Unlike most mothers on the school run who pay attention to everything but the road and the speed limit!
David Watling
Carlisle

What a disgusting programme! All it did was to peddle the Government's line of "Speed Kills". Its rubbish designed as an excuse to put in more speed cameras to "tax" motorists. The Government's own Transport Research Laboratories have shown that ONLY 8% of deaths are caused by speed. Pedestrians should be made responsible for their actions. If someone steps out in front of a car, its their fault, not the drivers. I normally watch Panorama programming and cannot believe such a biased edition was allowed to be broadcast.
Mick Dodd
London

What a balanced and refreshing programme about cars and speed. Although I own two of these potential weapons, I thoroughly support Britain's new visionary stance on road saftey and speed. Let's hope the government put their laws where our voices are and ratify radical change on speed and creates a safer environment for my little daughter. Yours Dan P.
Dan Peacefield
Wimbledon

Thank you for a generally well balanced programme. I've given up driving to work as it was so slow, and now cycle the 11 km instead, usually faster than by car and certainly in a more predictable time. One disappointment: the shop keepers who blamed traffic calming for a decline in business - we all know that the "corner shop" and the town centre have suffered a continuing decline over recent years at the hands of superstores and out of town shopping centres (all of which contribute to car dependence and the perceived need for speed); but did your researchers attempt to set the Manchester shop keepers' problems in the light of such possible developments? But overall a helpful programme which I hope may be seen as one of the turning points in the speed debate.
Malcolm L M Jones
Bristol


Just wanted to say that after last night's programme, and being a 24 year old male who works in Manchester owing a GTI with a very heavy right foot - I was quite shocked and this morning - put my opinions into practice. Leaving home at the same time BUT sticking to the speed limit all the way, into work - extra 7 minutes. Considering what could happen from doing 30 to 35 MPH - never mind 40 to 50, for 7 mins - From now on I will be taking my time - Thanks again,

Scott Grenfell, Manchester
Just wanted to say that after last night's programme, and being a 24 year old male who works in Manchester owing a GTI with a very heavy right foot - I was quite shocked and this morning - put my opinions into practice. Leaving home at the same time BUT sticking to the speed limit all the way, into work - extra 7 minutes. Considering what could happen from doing 30 to 35 MPH - never mind 40 to 50, for 7 mins - From now on I will be taking my time - Thanks again,
Scott Grenfell
Manchester

There have been several comments suggesting that using the GPS system to automatically control the speed of a car is inherently dangerous. I think most of the comments are assuming that driving practices will stay the same. Clearly, they will not. If you know that you are in a zone where you car will only go at 30 mph, you would not attempt a manoeuvre, such as overtaking a car going at 29 mph, which requires you to go faster. Similarly, if you are driving in icy conditions, you will be aware that, if you change speed limit zones, your brakes could be applied (I think first your fuel supply will be restricted, actually). You will drive knowing that this is possible and adjust your behaviour accordingly. Who drives anywhere near the speed limit in ice anyway? The extremely hypothetical case of what happens when a runaway lorry is chasing down a hill does not really merit an answer, but if you insist, I will say that lorries should have fail-safe devices fitted to prevent such eventualities. In any case, is trying to out-run such a lorry the best way to avoid a collision? Some correspondents claim that speeding is only a minor cause of accidents. I think that the way the data have been interpreted can be questioned. But even if that is not the case, I think that retrofitting all cars with speed limiter will make us more considerate, attentive drivers. It will thereby reduce accidents due to causes other than speeding as well.

One effect of speed limiters should be to reduce the macho culture that surrounds the car and is so well promoted by Top Gear and other forms of car advertising. Cars will be less attractive as accessories to one's ego. Hopefully, there will be less car use, which will make our cities more liveable in and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Joy riding will be less exciting if you can only go at 20 mph!

Phillip Ward, Sheffield
One effect of speed limiters should be to reduce the macho culture that surrounds the car and is so well promoted by Top Gear and other forms of car advertising. Cars will be less attractive as accessories to one's ego. Hopefully, there will be less car use, which will make our cities more liveable in and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Joy riding will be less exciting if you can only go at 20 mph! Speed limiters would therefore help a lot in the government's effort to reduce car crime (not including speeding, I presume) by 50%. I also think that those who say that motorways are so safe should think again. OK, fewer people may be killed per car mile, but many, many more miles are travelled. Most of the nasty accidents I have seen in my life have been on the motorways.
Philip Ward
Sheffield

I was deeply impressed by Roger Harrabin's report on speeding and particularly on the ambivalent attitude many authorities have to taking action to reduce speed limits. It seems to me this reflects the general ambivalence we all have to the car. We have got to the stage where we have allowed it to bully us into doing nothing. Manchester Council are scared to curb speeds because they feel the city will lose its competitive edge against other cities; traders are scared that it will drive their business away. In other ways we accommodate the car at the expense of the more vulnerable. Pedestrians are shoved underground into subways or corralled behind fences; cyclists are swept into the gutter. All because we are scared that if we don't give in to the car our society will grind to a halt. But we have got to take action now. Otherwise families will continue to lose their loved ones; communities will continue to be destroyed. Clearly, the only organisation that must give a strong lead is the Government. I look forward to seeing their National Speed Review to see what signal that will send out about whether the Government will finally act.
Stephen Taylor
LONDON

K McMahon asks why you'd want to overtake a vehicle doing 59 in a 60 limit?- What if you really needed to get to hospital or something? When overtaking (and people sometimes really do need to overtake!) it is safest to spend as little time on the wrong side of the road as possible. For this reason it HAS to be acceptable to exceed the speed limit for the duration of the overtaking manoeuvre - and I believe that this is part of any Advanced or Police driving instruction. The problem, if I may say so, is that people refer to the 'Pro- car lobby' like they are some sort of bunch of child molesters, and the Pro car lobby (for want of a better term) get sick and tired of the same old TV approach of wheeling out people who have had relatives killed/injured in road accidents It's such an easy option for the documentary makers (as it makes such emotive programming) and it's basically calling any one who speeds a child killer. Not surpassingly, this puts their backs up a bit! 150,000 people die from smoking related deaths each year, but of course they're usually older and don't make such good TV do they!
Andy G.M. Wood
Kingston upon Thames

We have all been behind one lorry inching past another on a motorway and speed limiters are the reason for this occurring. Nevertheless, these devices have been fitted to lorries and coaches for many years now. When they were introduced there certainly was not the moral panic from bus and lorry operators which is currently accompanying the proposals for 'intelligent' cars highlighted on yesterday's programme. Why not? The reason being that the bus, coach and road haulage industries have never had as powerful a voice as the pro-motoring lobby, who will vigorously oppose any curbs upon their freedom. This is not to deny that speed limits are a good thing, merely to raise awareness that they have existed in a cruder form for many years, and that their introduction and setting at significantly lower speeds than that which cars travel at on motorways, has affected the ability of coach travel to remain or become an effective competitor to the car for long distance travel.
Donald Booth
Glasgow

Police officers checking speed on a fast road without a pavement hardly strengthens your case. Very urbanocentric. If the UK is so bad with our relatively low speed limits how come France and Spain have less deaths per 100,000 than us. The have less speed enforcement but maybe kids realise that it is best not to go on the road. If we want to blame people what about the councils that have sold off parks and recreation facilities to builders and developers.

If we want to blame people what about the councils that have sold off parks and recreation facilities to builders and developers.

Steve Goode, Leominster
Let's keep kids away from traffic - 20 mph zones will result in deaths with toddlers etc being reversed over. These 20 mph zones create a whole ne problem. In our town one ofthe biggest problems is at 3:15 when the kids come out of school - the road is lined on both sides and often double parked as parents pick up kids. Sooner or later a car is going to have an accident on one of these ramps and some one - possibly a child is going to be injured.
Steve Goode
Leominster

All I can say is that it was a well balanced and thought provoking programme that made many arguments in favour of the government's plans to reduce urban speed limits. We, as drivers, have to face the facts that cars are dangerous and that speed kills - its THAT simple - more speed = more deaths and serious injury.
Rob
Coventry

I am horrified and disgusted as a mother that profit and the aesthetic design of cars are more important to the government, local authorities and the motoring manufacturers than the lives of our children. Do these people not have children of their own. Or do they just not care?
K Hadfield
Leics

There's no incentive to buy a car which doesn't go over the speed limit. The programme showed that the technical ability exists for developing and creating such a car. How about the government provides an interest free loan to those people who want to purchase a car which doesn't go over the speed limit ! I put it to you that a lot of people would be interested in purchasing such a car with such a financial advantage. The loss on our roads is unacceptable.
Philip Lavelle
Nottingham

Why were there no dissenting voices, apart from a rather half-hearted contribution from Edmund King of the RAC, to give much needed balance, when it is clear from this page that there are many entirely responsible people who care deeply about road safety but believe that 20 mph limits in urban areas would be an inappropriate solution? And I wonder how many of the contributors to this page who are arguing in favour of 20 mph limits actually practice what they preach, because the number of people I see driving on urban roads at a maximum of 20 mph is nil. Is it something like voting intentions, when people claim to be in favour of higher taxes but then do not vote for them in the secrecy of the ballot box?
Peter
Stockport

When I was a small child we had the Tufty Club to promote road safety to pre-school children, and then when older Dave Prowse in his green tights promoting the green cross code.

I wonder how many of the contributors to this page who are arguing in favour of 20 mph limits actually practice what they preach, because the number of people I see driving on urban roads at a maximum of 20 mph is nil. Is it something like voting intentions, when people claim to be in favour of higher taxes but then do not vote for them in the secrecy of the ballot box?

Peter Stockport
Education and continued testing of drivers is also important, until recently I was instructing motorcyclists for their compulsory basic training. A significant proportion of these people already had full car licences, and yet the their knowledge of the Highway code was scary. The bottom line however is that motorists, parents and pedestrians must take responsibility for their safety and that of their children rather than expecting government to legislate the nasty statistics away. What next, a ban on DIY?
Simon Crouch
LEWES

Thanks for the excellent programme. I've written to my MP and local newspaper concerning the matters raised, especially recommending the 20mph speed limit in towns and cities. Perhaps a brief indication of things that can be done by the viewer at the end of the programme would be helpful. John Adlington.
John Adlington
Crawley

I completely disagree with those contributors to this site who accuse last night's programme of being "simplistic" and "emotive". These people are just turning a blind eye to the very real nature of the problem. Speed, though, is only one symptom of the problems stemming from our car culture. The fundamental problem is that There is no disincentive to use the car. Drivers might think twice about using their vehicles, roads would be safer, and the physical and social environment would be hugely enhanced through the introduction of a number of pro-people, anti-car measures. Huge improvements in public transport have to be the starting point, otherwise people will continue to drive more than necessary because they do not have (or claim that they do not have) any choice. Add to this a number of "pay as you drive" measures, such as a system where the annual road tax is based on engine size (say £10 per 100 cc) and mileage covered in the course of a year (e.g. £1 per 100 miles): so somebody driving a car with a 2 litre engine, doing 15,000 miles per year, would pay (20 x £10) + (15,000 / 100) = £350 in road tax.

Speed, though, is only one symptom of the problems stemming from our car culture. The fundamental problem is that There is no disincentive to use the car.

Peter Watts Rugby
This might encourage people to stop and think before getting into the car to make yet another unnecessary journey, while ownership of a flashy motor might become less desirable. Every driver should also be required to take a test every five years - and, if they fail, to wait another 3-6 months before being allowed to re-sit. On top of this, dangerous driving should be discouraged by making the punishment fit the crime. Anybody found guilty of causing an accident of any description should be banned for a fixed period; anybody guilty of causing death by dangerous driving should be banned for life. I know this sounds naive and idealistic (or completely stupid, depending on your point of view), but the point is that something has to be done to control and limit the excessive use of the car, and it appears, sadly, that it has to be done through legislation because many people are not going to take the responsibility themselves. I am a car driver myself, but I am also a pedestrian and a cyclist, and I would happily support any such measures if I felt that they were going to make people sit up and think about the way they drive and the way they use their cars.
Peter Watts
Rugby

Speeding is an emotionally charged subject as is evident from the Panorama programme and comments in this forum. However, as is always the case with charged emotions, common sense tends to take a back seat. Let us apply that common sense I referred to earlier. I suggest the setting up of an independent motoring review body that is fair to all interested parties and not subject to political goals or unnecessary politically correct sensitivities. Let us review all motoring issues of concern to the Public such as correctly assessed (and correctly monitored) speed limits, the correct redistribution of revenue obtained from speed cameras, driver education, inherent vehicle safety, viable Public Transport alternatives etc and not just concentrate solely on speed. Taking the moral high ground by adopting a blanket anti-speed mentality is not the answer.
Richard
Chatham

Disgraceful, one of the poorest pieces of "responsible" journalism I've ever seen on television. The BBC should be ashamed of themselves. Of course a single death on our roads is one too many, but suggesting speeding by motorists is the only or even the major cause is absolute rubbish. The programme showed a complete disregard for the governments research into road accidents which showed that speed was a contributory factor in only 6% of accidents and 85% of fatal accidents involving pedestrians were caused by the pedestrian themselves. The intimation is that motorists kill pedestrians on purpose, this is clearly nonsense! If we accept that modern society needs flexible personal transport (cars) and we surely do, then we have to find ways of keeping these vehicles and pedestrians apart. Road design, traffic calming measures, vehicle design, pedestrian/vehicle interface (crossing) design, additional pedestrian only areas, driver and pedestrian education and yes speed ALL play a part.
Mark Cole
Lightwater

In a country where practically every household has a car, "motorists" means "everyone". It is not "those motorists" who speed, it is you and me. I found the program to be oversimplified, and as usual the TRRL came up with completely hatstand ideas. As for Lord Whittless... I agree with reduced speed limits on residential-only streets, "home-zoning" etc, but not a blanket 20mph instead of 30. Use speed limits appropriate to the road: 20 in shopping areas, 30 on through-routes, 40 on dual carriageways, 60 on trunk roads and raise the limit to 80 on motorways.
Adrian
Borough Green, Kent

What utter, emotionally-biased and politically-inspired anti-car drivel! Whatever happened to ideas like driver- and pedestrian- education? The required skill-level for passing the driving-test is very low, and most children these days are seemingly not taught the "Green Cross" code, or cycling proficiency or any similar such stuff that we were taught as kids. Rather than yet more unnecessary speed- restrictions, educate people (whether pedestrians, cyclists or drivers) to behave sensibly. I don't want a 20MPH limit in my street, the existing 40MPH one is bad enough!
Pete Morgan-Lucas
Wiltshire UK

Why did the producer fail reference any INDEPENDENT reports, especially TRL Report 323 entitled "A new system for recording contributory factors in road accidents". This report looks into Incidence of commonest precipitating factors, by type of accident. And finds that ¿Pedestrian entered carriageway without due care¿ accounts for (84%) In essence, the majority of accidents are caused by people walking out in front of cars and has little to do with speed. The government et al should be combating the deaths in an effective manner rather than being anti car. Their current policy will do little to save lives when the public is being tricked into thinking that speed kills. Yes inappropriate use of speed kills, but why do we never see reports on the German autobahns where there are no speed limits? The report also finds that after dark, 77% of all adult pedestrian fatalities are caused when the pedestrian is above the legal drink-drive limit. And yes by killing someone with whatever tool (be it a car) should carry a hefty prison sentence if the circumstances are correct. People should remember that speed limits are just that ¿ and not targets. For the real facts visit http://www.geocities.com/MotorCity/2195/speedtrap_facts.html (including summary of TRL report).
Tim
Loughborough

On viewing some of the comments made by the pro- car lobby what chance is there to change attitudes. For example, why in a 60 mph limit would someone want to pass a vehicle doing 59 mph? If we cannot alter the attitudes of irresponsible drivers then draconian laws will be the only option left. It would also be nice if the pro-car lobby could extricate themselves from their vehicles once in a while. I for one consider myself a transport system user: a driver, a cyclist, a pedestrian and a public transport user. Nearly everyone will use at least two of the above on any one journey. Sometimes listening to 'drivers' I get the feeling that their lives take place wholly within their vehicles.
K McMahon
Edinburgh

Do statistics exist as to how many pedestrians are killed by buses? My 17 year old daughter was killed by a bus trying to beat the traffic lights and going through on red. Forensic evidence showed that he was going too fast. Since the accident, I have been horrified at how many buses speed and pass through red lights. Since de-regulation, bus drivers are put under enormous pressure to pick up passengers before the opposition, to keep to almost impossible timetables given today's traffic conditions. Competition has led to the demise of the bus conductor. Surely, one of the ways to reduce such accidents would be to resurrect the conductor to take the pressure of the driver, so that the necessity to speed would be reduced. In addition, traffic would move more freely and pollution would be reduced.
Lesley Lomax
Sheffield

I find it hard to fathom any humanity at all in some of the comments ...basically saying that anyone who steps in front of traffic is irresponsible and deserves little or no sympathy. The point is all human beings make a mistake, children more than most; but they should not expect to pay for it with their lives. I'm sure any "at fault" pedestrian run over by a car would gladly change places with an errant driver and pay a £40 fixed penalty fine. I wonder, however, how such drivers would react if the next time they made a "mistake" and drove "irresponsibly" over the speed limit they were taken aside by traffic police and executed for their misdemeanour.
John Ramsay
Greenwich

It seems fairly obvious from most comments so far that even the most ardent car drivers agree that the standard of driving needs improvement. Statistics show that accidents at lower speeds reduce fatalities, so why do there seem to be no moves by government to protect all road users (including pedestrians) from each other's bad road practices by reducing limits in places where they are likely to come into contact? Even so, arbitrarily lopping speed limits on main roads is just going to encourage rat-run behaviour. Let's encourage the motorist to keep his desire for speed to trunk routes and away from the sight, sound and lives of the 'locals'.
Richard Barber
London

I would have liked to hear some discussion as to why our child accident rate is so much higher than in other countries. I have lived on the Continent for 34 years (until quite recently) and feel that people drive more considerately and safely here in UK. I am, therefore, surprised by this fact. In Italy, for example, there is no road safety publicity worth speaking of and the standard of driving in French cities is pretty awful. In a test of the effect of speed on city journey times, the Italian car magazine "Quattro Ruote" once sent two drivers out to cross Rome. One was told to do everything possible to get to the destination quickly. The other was told to stick strictly to speed limits and so on. The result showed that speed made little difference to the journey time. I should like to see the figures for the relationship between the severity of injuries sustained by child pedestrians and car speed more widely published. I personally was greatly impressed by them and will, in future, bear them in mind when driving in town. I am sure others would too.
Dr. George Helcke
Winchester

The proposals for intelligent cars to know the speed limit and prevent the driver exceeding it are inherently unsound and dangerous. The driver will always know more about the situation than the intelligent system and may have need to override the system. Remember the Airbus that crashed at the French airshow about ten years ago when the fly-by-wire overruled the pilot's order for a steep climb, but didn't know about the trees at the end of the runway? What would you do if descending a steep hill in a 30mph zone with a runaway 40-tonne lorry behind you and no means of accelerating? The way to use the technology properly is to use it to warn drivers, then to automatically send standard fines to persistent offenders. But that would cost more, so the "experts" propose an unsafe system instead. I say, "Nice try, but think it through properly and get it right". As a side issue, what about retro-fitting to existing cars? For the system (either the proposed one or my suggested modification)to work it would have to apply to all cars to be effective. That means fitting it to my present car, which I have been driving since 1985. I suspect the system would cost more than the current market value of my car. Is there an ulterior motive to get older, but perfectly sound, cars off the road?
Jon Maynard
Southampton

Society which tolerates the level of death and injury that we see today in Britain is one which places little value on human lives. The self-interested comments of Peter Chiswick and R McBroom are representative of a large proportion of drivers.Why should I give up a few seconds or minutes of my time in order to protect other peoples' lives? It makes me feel sick. The programme touched on many aspects of the problem: cars are designed for the racetrack rather than the city street; driver education is as minimal as possible; central and local governments are fearful of the powerful motorist lobby. Car drivers need to be held responsible for their actions - a mandatory ban for all motoring offences including dangerous parking, and manslaughter charges where criminal activity leads to death.

Traffic calming areas give a false sense of security. A road is for a car, not a playground for children to play football on. Children should also be supervised by parents

Nicola Lockie, Amsterdam:
As Dr Ian Roberts, Director of Child Health Monitoring Unit, University of London put it, "The political neglect of road danger must be one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 20th century". Let's not make it a great unsolved mystery of the 21st.
Neil Gall
Edinburgh

The Netherlands report. I guess this section was created by a number crunching statistics wiz. Well yes it may be true that the figures are reduced in Holland but to expand on the reasons why. A greater quantity of resources are spent over here, but on cycle paths and residential calming. As for the remaining traffic conditions the word CHAOTIC springs to mind. As a driver you take your life into your own hands when at the wheel here. Cars are at the bottom of the food chain and as such have to be very aware that "BIKES RULE" is common knowledge and the penalties are severe if you collide with one. It is instilled into you that they have right of way even if they are in the wrong. Motorist fear the cyclist and as such are very alert to world around. As for glorifying the road systems here, think again. You have to drive here before you realise that the majority of the highway code adhered to was clearly written by NODDY. Last note. Traffic calming areas give a false sense of security. A road is for a car, not a playground for children to play football on. Children should also be supervised by parents. Let them take some responsibility for a change.
Nicola Lockie
Amsterdam

There is nothing wrong with lower limits in certain urban/residential areas, (quite a good idea in fact) but at the same time as lowering those limits, INCREASE motorway limits. Motorways are the safest roads. There are no schools on them, no cyclists, no horses, just cars, lorries and bikes. The 70 limit was set when the average car was a Ford Anglia was an average car. Modern cars can travel faster more safely, and still stop in a shorter distance. Motorways are roads on which the most miles are done, so they should be roads on which you can go the fastest.
Keith Churchill
Dartford

A good programme with some thought-provoking questions for politicians both local and national. Why the emphasis on traffic's effect on children? Are no adults affected? It appears that the newsworthiness of these types of features depends on the youth of those affected. I would be interested in the formula you use to calculate exactly how interesting a story is, based on the subject's age. Is it inversely proportionate, so that a 25year old is twice as interesting as a 50year old ? Or is there some other relationship?
Simeon Hope
Durham

I was appalled at such sensationalistic journalism from the BBC after watching this programme. It seems no research was done by the team responsible for this programme, or if it was, it was very poorly interpreted. What about the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) and Department of Environment, Transport and Regions (DETR) joint report "A new system for recording contributory factors in road accidents" (Report 323)? This report clearly shows that accidents are caused by "Failure to judge other person's path or speed", "Behaviour - carelessness/thoughtlessness/recklessness", "Inattention", "Looked by did not see" and "Excessive speed" - in THAT order. Excessive speed was a definite factor in 6% of accidents. The report also shows that 84% of pedestrians were seriously injured or killed due to "entering the carriageway without due care". The BBC should look into how such programmes are currently made. Panorama, as a serious current affairs programme, has gone way down in my opinion.
Jamie O'Shaughnessy
Wokingham

A very good and timely programme. I think mention should have been made about the indirect benefits of lower speed limits; if speeds were lower then people would be more willing to cycle and walk and would be less worried about allowing their children to do so. One of the reasons for the school run is parents' fears for their children's safety.

The 70 limit was set when the average car was a Ford Anglia was an average car. Modern cars can travel faster more safely, and still stop in a shor stop in a shorter distance. Motorways are roads on which the most miles are done, so they should be roads on which you can go the fastest

Keith Churchill, Dartford
We have a generation growing up that has less independence to go out on their own and is becoming obese.
Shawn Pearson
Bristol

Last night's Panorama programme "Speed" put forward the most narrow of perspectives. It concentrated on the situation after the pedestrian had been struck by a car and paid little attention to how the pedestrian came to be struck in the first place. The road surface is primarily for cars, not for pedestrians, and therefore any pedestrian on the road surface must take their share of the responsibility for avoiding a collision. I was horrified to see the Asian family in Manchester walking along the road playing ball games - how irresponsible, yet the programme seemed to be implying that it was their right to behave like this. Very few details were given of the circumstances in which those interviewed has lost relatives yet, tragic though it was, it seemed that they might actually have been doing something perhaps unwise or possibly even dangerous. Crossing a dual carriageway was mentioned once. Ideally, all speed limits should be abandoned and a new offence of "driving at an inappropriate speed" introduced. That would not only catch those who drive too fast when it is not safe to do so, but also catch those who drive too slowly in those circumstances when that too can cause dangerous situations. An example of the latter is those people who drive at 50mph in the middle lane of a motorway when the left lane is empty - a situation equally as dangerous as anything in your programme. I do think there is a case for having 2 levels of driving licence, however, with extra training and qualification required before driving high performance cars. High performance cars are not in themselves dangerous - in fact they are often safer than the average car because they are engineered and perform better in all sorts of ways. It is the way they are sometimes driven which can be dangerous, but that is the same for any car.

High performance cars are not in themselves dangerous - in fact they are often safer than the average car because they are engineered and perform better in all sorts of ways. It is the way they are sometimes driven which can be dangerous

Graham Sturrock, Salisbury
Could we see a further programme which presents a more balanced view? Last night's programme was just propaganda from a small pressure group. Not up to the normal standard of programme we expect to see from the BBC's Current Affairs flagship.
Graham Sturrock
Salisbury

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