Wednesday, 23 September 2009


What would save more than a thousand lives a year, billions of pounds in government spending, cut CO2 emissions, whilst making society generally a more calm and rational place – and cost the government absolutely nothing? Introduce a law requiring all new cars to be fitted with working GPS-based speed-limiters.

Government figures show that more than a thousand people are killed each year as a result of speeding drivers. Each death affects dozens of families – mothers, fathers, aunts and cousins – as well as friends and colleagues. Speed-limiters prevent cars exceeding the speed limit on all roads. They produce less aggressive and calmer drivers, able to take more rational decisions as unrealistic expectations over timing are lowered, whilst eliminating road-rage and lowering both energy usage and CO2 emissions.

Although this would cost the government nothing to introduce, it would mean adding around £500 to the price of a typical new car. But the benefits to government expenditure would be immense. Over the last few years the government – mostly through local authorities who wield major road budgets – has poured money into various traffic calming measures: road humps, pedestrian crossings, traffic lights, chicanes and warning signs. All of these would no longer be necessary as drivers were unable to speed, whether in 20mph residential zones, 30mph urban environments or 70mph motorways. Billions of pounds would be saved.

And why stop there? Let’s take the opportunity to do away with all speed limit signage since they cannot be exceeded, all traffic cameras which would now be obsolete, and any other wavy-line clutter that currently ruins our environment. And whilst we’re thinking about it, how about doing away with all speedometers? They just became redundant. Instead, we can now look forward to drivers concentrating on the more important aspects of their task: other road users, pedestrians, cyclists and the road environment itself. Driving might even become more pleasurable, since drivers would now be forced to empathise with their fellow travellers.