10 September 2009

Speed

Nowadays, watching over the United Kingdom's roads there are zillions of speed cameras and even more signs warning us that cameras are in the vicinity. Councils fill their coffers with speeding fines and advertising warns us of the dangers of speeding. Let's be clear about it - the limit for cars in built up areas is 30mph, on single carriageways in non-urban areas it's 60mph and on dual carriageways and motorways it's 70mph. All very sensible. All very good. But...

The best selling car in the UK remains the Ford Fiesta. Surely as the highest speed limit is 70mph, that will be the maximum speed that this vehicle can travel at. Won't it? No way! The Ford Fiesta's top speed is 114mph - that's 44mph over the top limit.

I drive a Vauxhall Astra 1.6 and the top speed on the dial is 160mph though in actuality it can only get up to 142mph - more than double the motorway speed limit. Once I drove it at 120mph early one Sunday when the M18 from Doncaster to Hull was as quiet as a farm track. I could feel the possibility of higher speed but resisted the temptation. Still I admit I was guilty your honour.

Not that I will ever own or even drive one but the Bugatti Veyron has a top speed of 253mph which is a full 183mph above our 70mph limit. And what are media and sports stars thinking of when they buy their Ferraris, Aston Martins and Lamborghinis? Why, speed of course.

So here's the rub. How come governments allow car producers to manufacture cars that can massively surpass national speed limits? It's crazy - as stupid and hypocritical as the situation with tobacco smoking where on the one hand they warn us about the associated health dangers and on the other hand rake millions into the national coffers in excise duty. A big step to reducing speeding would be controlling cars' top speeds and creating an atmosphere in which speed is demonstrably seen as a bad thing.

The laddish car programme "Top Gear" seems to do all that it can to celebrate automotive speediness, contributing to the mischievous, adrenalin-pumping cult of the fast car. In my view no speedometer should be allowed to indicate potential speeds of any more than 100mph and "Top Gear" should occasionally and responsibly be reminding viewers of the 70mph limit and the obvious dangers of speeding.

5 comments:

  1. I saw my first Ford Fiesta at a festival in Rhode Island this summer. It's a great American car -- that they don't sell in America! All the cute little fuel-efficient cars go overseas, and we get all the SUVs.

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  2. What a concept! Limit the machines instead of the drivers. I like it!

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  3. YP you should get an award for forward thinking. Speed reduced, fuel saving, cost cutting cars should be here NOW. If coaches can work on restricted speeds why can't cars? School traffic has only been back a few days and already there are maniac speeding risk takers on the road. It's scary.

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  4. Clarkson wagging his finger at us at the end of each programme and warning us of the dangers of speed? Our pants would never dry!

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  5. I used to drive a Citroen 2CV - - - top speed 71 I think but I reckon you would have had to push it down a cliff to get that. Magnificent vehicle.

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