Too many laws and customs of driving make speed more important than safety, from the driving instructors’ “make good progress down the road” (e.g. “hurry the fuck up”, which most drivers internalise as “drive at least as fast as the speed limit unless there’s literally another car right in front of you”), to every transport investment ever being marketed to (presumably furious) taxpayers as “reducing journey times”.
This is in contrast to other European countries, where safety is #1, and speed just a nice-to-have. Surely it’s time for the national Government to admit – as London’s TfL have – that the UK is blessed with only a fixed amount of road space, so with growing numbers of people using it, we all have to accept that journeys will get slower in future, not quicker.
We have a real blind spot (pun intended) in the UK about traffic jams. On the one hand, we are only too aware of all the time we **WASTE** sat in stationary traffic each day – most car journeys are fewer than five miles, made by commuters, and involve up to half that time in queues – so traffic jams are a fact of driving life here in the UK.
On the other hand, peoples’ frustration / anger / surprise about being stuck in a traffic jam on any given morning (when they are, every morning) is total. But this is bizarre… We know the traffic will be there, but still get in our car expecting a free road, at 08:30 on a weekday! Where’s all that traffic come from!
Surely it’s time to admit traffic jams exist, will get worse, not better, and constantly lurching from 0 to 30mph and back again is pointless as well as dangerous?
Imagine a world where the DoT’s published targets and main priority were to reduce accidents per mile travelled, and included walking and cycling targets, not journey times? Where 20mph became the standard urban default speed limit, not exception? Where satnavs routinely pointed out to users when (given traffic conditions) particular journeys, short and long, were quicker by public transport / foot / bike?
A safer UK. A calmer UK. And – just possibly – a healthier, richer, and happier UK.