Matters of moment, April 1973

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Our “Stop Clobbering” campaign

MOTOR SPORT received an overwhelming response to the views expressed on this page in the February issue. Consequently, we have decided to take our plea for the Government to stop clobbering drivers so hard in respect of radar speed traps, and the possibility of losing their driving licences through receiving three endorsements for non-criminal motoring offences in the over-long term of three years, a good deal further. After studying the correspondence received we became quite certain that a great many drivers of differing ages, interests, experience and occupations agree that the time has come, especially if decent citizens who also drive motor vehicles are to remain staunchly on the side of the Establishment in these troubled times, for the clobbering, which has no genuine bearing on increasing road safety, to cease. To this end we have sent a copy of MOTOR SPORT’s February Editorial to both the Rt. Hon. Edward Heath, MP, Prime Minister and to the Minister of the Environment accompanied by the following letter:

“The February issue of MOTOR SPORT contained an editorial of which we enclose a copy.

“In view of the very great amount of correspondence our comments have caused, we are returning to the matter in our April issue and would ask you to let us have your views on the matter for publication in an early issue.”

Mr. Heath may well be too busy to give much attention to this urgent matter during the prevailing troubled times (murder as a means of settling religious differences cannot be right) but it is most certainly the concern, or should be, of Mr. John Peyton, Minister for Transport Industries. We shall hope in due course to publish the answers from both gentlemen. When our Petition for the abolishment of the 70 m.p.h. speed-limit on Motorways was presented to a former Labour Minister of Transport, with its 280,000 signatures, there was a sorry lack of response. However, it is also likely that this significant demonstration of public opinion stopped the limit being reduced to 60 m.p.h., as was then under consideration. One hopes that Mr. Heath will never find it necessary to go to the country over the matter of maintaining Law and Order in these Islands. But should this be the case, surely he would not wish to have disgruntled drivers, many of them young and impressionable, entering the polling booths—and there are at least 18-million driving licence holders in Britain, many dependent on their licences for their livelihood. (The Establishment is not sufficiently concerned about its, apparently, to know the exact number, for telephone calls to Scotland Yard’s Press Office, the Ministry for the Environment and the big motoring organisations failed to reveal the figures.)

As for the letters which have encouraged us to put the matter to the Prime Minister, these are in the main extremely well compiled but in some cases so vehement that it might he unwise to publish the writers’ names and addresses! Almost all are concerned about the points our February Editorial raised, while agreeing that there must be no let-up in the punishment meted out to criminal offenders, such as drunken drivers, drugged motorists or the simply dangerous driver. To take a cross-section of them, there is one from a racing driver whose suspended licence, for three mild speeding offences (deserted roads, early a.m., etc.), is just being returned to him; in the meantime he lived out the exile in Australia. He remarks that the psychological effect on young people so apprehended could very well be damaging to Society as a whole. Many similar letters refer to long, entirely accident-free spells of driving, marred only by being caught in radar traps. There is a letter from a Department of the Environment Approved Driving Instructor who thinks one should be able to avoid losing one’s licence—he claims one endorsement in 28 years and suggests radar meters are usually set on the generous side. But he is in full agreement about abolishing the 70-limit on Motorways. Someone else, in saying “more power to you”, thinks the motoring organisations a bunch of “yesmen” and that if something isn’t done soon we shall need permission to blow our noses. A Company Director agrees wholeheartedly with us, after his first endorsement in 24 years, and others with no brush with the Law say the same. To be fair, two out of all these correspondents disagreed with raising the 30 limit to 40, citing the danger to children and old people, but even they had no use for the Motorway 70. A well-known RAC personality, writing in a private capacity, says he has often taken the side of the Police on TV but never again, after being taught in a particularly futile radar trap (his fine worked out at 50p per chain as he slowed down on entering a built up area). Then a Solicitor had this to say: “I feel I must write in wholehearted support of your editorial in MOTOR SPORT for February. As a Solicitor and a convicted speeder I think I am qualified to say something on the matter. What the Authorities must realise before it is too late is that motorists will not regard themselves as criminals so far as petty motoring offences such as speeding are concerned.

“Almost without exception the offenders I meet are embittered against the Police, because in their view the Police would be better employed combatting real crime. The view I hear expressed is that whilst people appreciate the Police do not make the laws they point out that the Police have it great deal of discretion as to the extent to which they enforce a particular law and that the Police also have an important voice in the forming of new laws.

“It would be nice to feel that the Police are sympathetic to the plight of the motorist, but unfortunately there is very little evidence to support this.

“The totting-up procedure relating to endorsements is the most iniquitious law devised since the Middle Ages since, as you rightly say, the punishment it can, and does, inflict is far more severe than that suffered by real criminals in respect of crimes which have no doubt caused far more damage to the community.

“In fact speeding itself, unless coupled with some other offence, e.g. dangerous driving, cannot be said to inflict any damage whatsoever on the community. It seems to me vital that, if speed limits cannot be totally abolished, which would be the best arrangement, petty motoring offences (including speeding) must be divorced from the remainder of motoring offences and fixed penalty punishments inflicted for the former. Only then can the community hope to benefit from better Police/public relations and there is no other way this can come about in the absence of any desire by the Police to help themselves is for your magazine and others like it to try and get through to the small handful of right thinking people in Authority.”

So we are convinced we are doing the right thing in thus representing your interests. If the above letter is replied to, we will let you know.

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