Page last updated at 09:45 GMT, Saturday, 3 January 2009

Calls for 'speed-limiting' cars

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Road testing the speed-limiting device

Speed-limiting devices should be fitted to cars on a voluntary basis to help save lives and cut carbon emissions, according to a new report.

The government's transport advisers claim the technology would cut road accidents with injuries by 29%.

The device automatically slows a car down to within the limit for the road on which it is being driven.

But campaign group Safe Speed warns against its use, saying it encourages drivers to enter a "zombie mode".

Ministers are planning to help councils draw up digital maps with details of the legal speed on every road.

The speed-limiting devices will then use satellite positioning to check a vehicle's location and when its speed exceeds the limit, power will be reduced and the brakes applied if necessary.

The Commission for Integrated Transport and the Motorists' Forum, which both advise the government, are calling on ministers to promote a wide introduction of the system.

Education 'important'

John Lewis, from the Motorists' Forum, told BBC Breakfast he believed the devices would help drivers obey limits and therefore keep their licences.

"But we believe that the system should be a voluntary system, that the drivers decide if they have fitted to their car or not, and that they decide if they want to over-ride the speed limit - that should be their choice," he said.

You've taken the responsibility away from the driver and that is not [good] for road safety
Claire Armstrong
Safe Speed

There would also be a positive impact on emissions and fuel consumption, he added.

Jon York, fleet manager for British Gas, whose vans are already limited to 70mph, told BBC Radio 5 Live the system had reduced road incidents for the company.

But he said the introduction of technology had to be combined with safety education.

"It does aid road safety, it does reduce incidents, but it is part of a wide-ranging number of initiatives within British Gas and one of those is driver training because you have to change people's behaviour."

Overtaking worries

But Claire Armstrong, from the road safety campaign group Safe Speed, said that the devices could be dangerous.

She said truck drivers using speed-limiting devices had been shown to "go into fatigue mode or zombie mode" and stopped paying attention to the road.

"That makes it highly dangerous in those scenarios. So you've taken the responsibility away from the driver and that is not [good] for road safety."

Derek Charters, from the Motor Industry Research Association, has extensively tested speed-limiting technology.

He believes that if all cars were fitted with the system, safety would be improved, and that vehicles without it present a greater danger.

"The last thing you need is one car to be overtaking and then pull back in, in front of the cars in front, because that braking event will then cause everybody to start to slow down, which will then compress the traffic, which then causes an incident," he said.

Motoring journalist Quentin Willson said he also believed taking away driver control was a "really, really bad thing".

"Remotely policing the roads from satellites in the sky - I would worry about it an awful lot."

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