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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February 2005, 15:46 GMT
Head to head: Motorists who speed
More than half of drivers admit to regularly breaking the speed limit, according to a survey by the RAC.

The motoring organisation is calling for tougher measures to combat what it calls a "speeding epidemic".

Are harsh penalties needed to force drivers to stick to the limits? Proponents on both sides of the debate put their views:

PAUL HODGSON, RAC SPOKESMAN

Today's report has revealed a nationwide speeding epidemic. Fifty-five per cent of drivers - equivalent to 15m people - told us that they broke speed limits on most days.

The number of drivers speeding regularly is up almost 10% on a year ago. Overall, 57% of drivers break the motorway speed limits and two thirds break 30mph speed limits.

The main reason drivers gave for speeding was that there was little chance of being caught - something the RAC has termed "driving under the radar".

The findings are concerning as speeding is the cause of one third of all fatal accidents.

Just a few mph can make a huge difference - in a collision at 35 mph you are twice as likely to kill someone than at 30 mph.

Speeding is the cause of one third of all fatal accidents
Paul Hodgson

Drivers told us that only draconian measures would prevent them from regularly speeding - for example instant bans and in-car tracking systems.

To tackle this speeding epidemic RAC believes a wide range of measures need to be given serious consideration.

The government is seeking to introduce graduated speeding penalties which would mean the worst offenders receive the harshest penalties.

This is certainly a step in the right direction.

Higher visibility traffic policing is something that is urgently required and new technology should be looked at.

For example, "black box" electronic tracking for serious offenders should be considered.

Education about the dangers of speeding and other road safety issues is vital and something that the RAC actively promotes in schools.

PAUL SMITH, CAMPAIGNER ON SPEED ISSUES

Compared to last year's results, it appears more drivers admit to speeding - but Department for Transport figures show speeding behaviour is unchanged after a full decade of ever-increasing speed cameras.

I'm not surprised because the large number of fines issued to responsible and careful motorists encourage everyone to believe that it isn't about safety.

Clearly the speed camera program is making speeding more socially acceptable rather than less.

Flawed official road safety policy lacks basic public credibility
Paul Smith

It's a major concern that flawed official road safety policy lacks basic public credibility.

The government will now have to scrap all speed cameras to restore confidence in important official messages.

That's not a bad thing because cameras have not improved road safety - deaths are up.

The cameras give out an oversimplified and misleading message. It is important that people don't drive too fast, but "too fast" is not normally well defined by the speed limit.

We must all adjust our speed according to the conditions and that is what the responsible majority do.

It works well and very few crashes are caused by normal responsible motorists exceeding a speed limit.

We need to use skilled traffic police to identify the small percentage of drivers who misuse speed - there is no alternative.

MARK MCARTHUR-CHRISTIE, ROAD SAFETY SPOKESMAN FOR THE ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH DRIVERS

The debate on speed has become tragically simplistic. It's become focused on speed limits rather than inappropriate speed.

There's a world of difference between belting past a school at 40mph and driving at 70mph on a straight, clear road - and drivers know it - yet both offences are treated the same.

Every driver speeds at some point, even if only by a few mph.

Drivers can see that the relationship between speed and safe driving isn't as simple as the government is trying to pretend.

This report shows that the majority of drivers break the limit - but no-one has so far suggested that if the majority of the population break a law, it might be the law at fault.

Couple this with local authorities installing limits way below the safe speed for the roads, and it's no wonder drivers have lost all faith in speed limits as a road safety tool.

Driving is a massively complex activity, but is being reduced to a simplistic driving-by-numbers mentality.

We want to see drivers looking at the hazards ahead - looking for the child about to run into the road, not staring at their speedos.





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