Monday 31 October 2011

Road – Speed Limiters

I have come to a decision. After spending a week with a van fitted with a speed limiter restricted to 62 mph then any such vehicle must have a sign on its rump advising following road users that the vehicle they are following has a maximum speed limit.

This sign must be legible and clearly visible at all times, especially to those ‘eedjits’ (quaint Scottish term for idiots!) who overtake and gesticulate digitally or wave their fists as some form of Neanderthal greeting.

Driving such vehicles on a three lane motorway causes little problem, but on dual carriageways, overtaking manoeuvres have to be planned carefully. Overtaking on country road s becomes even more fraught.

And yes I know there are speed limits governing light commercials which differ from motor cars, but to those of us who live in the ‘real world’ and have to use non-motorway roads on a regular basis, there is a risk of ‘bunching’ and this is where the real danger lies.

Frustrated drivers following tractors and trucks will now have to contend with slower moving vans too, and a frustrated driver can be a dangerous driver.

So not only does the speed restricted driver have to cope with the limitations of his or her own vehicle they have to allow for the limited intelligence and impatience of other drivers.

Neither must they allow themselves to become frustrated at not being able to pass slower traffic – and get caught out mid-manoeuvre by something approaching unexpectedly.

Driving such speed restricted vehicles demands a whole new set of skills and road-awareness, and I would question whether those who are buying such vehicles are fully aware of the issues.

There is a difference between people who drive vans for a living and those who use vans simply as part of their business. Jumping from a normal car into a speed-limited van is just asking for trouble.

Anyone who proposes that speed limiters be introduced for light commercial vehicles should spend at least a week in such a vehicle on typical working journeys. It’s simply not enough to assess such a vehicle by driving it up and down a main road and then looking at the fuel savings. The money could be better spent on training drivers and rewarding them for fuel efficiency rather than enforcing them and endangering the rest of us.

These legislators and do-gooders have made no allowance for the ability or skills levels of the average person who drives a van. We already have speed limits in this country, we don’t need speed limiters.

Over the weekend I drove a Vauxhall Vivaro ECOflex fitted with such a speed limiter to the Galloway Hills and back. Most of the time it was a relaxing and restful experience, but dealing with traffic on the A75 and A701 required a lot of planning ahead – while wondering what the eedjits would do next.

Vauxhall, like other manufacturers, have produced this ECOflex vehicle in response to demand from fleet buyers and managers who want to reduce their transport fuel bills, but I think these people need to re-think their strategy. The simplest way is not always the safest.

We already have speed limiters on goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes – we don’t need any more.

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