Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Back On The Block

Just back from a brief trip to where I spent most summers growing up. Staying with family and generally having a relaxing and fun time. It was also my first opportunity to drive on the roads in the UK for some time. Almost all my previous trips over the last few years there was no cause, but I was lucky (unlucky?) enough to get some solo time on a motorcycle.


I really was taken back at how much things have changed on the roads. The only time I saw police was for a parade going through the town on Sunday, but out on the roads...speed camera's of various flavours seemed to be on every corner. It was unbelievable. The amount of money that must have been invested to undertake such a thorough saturation on the roads must be ridiculous. Money that should be going into traffic police, training schemes for bad drivers, better roads...the list is endless.


Of course the counter argument is that they make the roads safer and the money they raise is...well I have not seen were all that money goes, maybe I should consider a freedom of information act request? Safety? I am not sure, in many areas speed cameras have led to road fatalities going up, in one county by 100%! Imagine that. If a drug manufacturer brought out a drug and there was a 100% increase in patients dying it would be off the market in a second.


Also, more often then not, you would see people staring, not just glimpsing, but staring at their speedometer as they went through towns trying to watch their limit. Is there any wonder that the minimal reduction of road fatalities over the last 5 years has flattened out. The building of new cameras and introduction of more advanced units just will not bring down road accidents and deaths any further, just catch more tax paying citizens.


There is the ironic situation that if the majority of us were less speed inclined then the camera's would not be able to pay for themselves...funny how we are now seeing more and more special speed limits in some very unusual places. Forget the 20mph in a town, 40mph on a dual carriage way, fully lighted and with traffic lights at the end! What is going on? If the driver test standards are so low that any idiot can get on the road maybe the government should be trying to prevent rather then cure?


Anyone serious about making roads safer and reducing fatalities knows that road engineering is the key. Not “quick-fix” cameras. Roads need to be improved vastly. A country (if not European) wide introduction of genuine road classification and scoring. With top scores being reserved for the best and latest techniques. If name and shame techniques is good enough for the government to use against citizens, then they can have a taste of their own medicine. That way traveling from one country to another will allow the driver/rider a reasonable expectation of what to expect. I was genuinely surprised to be riding in the Liverpool area and constantly finding road quality less then my country road in Ireland.


Government needs to stop thinking about how to get more money out of us, but to start trying to make out lives better. We elect representatives, not shareholders!