The way to Hell, we are told, is paved with good intentions. The same may be true of roads in the Spelthorne division of the Parish of Sunbury in the County of Middlesex but this did not help the Editor who, at about the time the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis had told his men to give advice to motorists rather than go about looking for “bankable” offences, was “gonged” while driving a thought briskly along a straight, deserted road in that locality.
The road in question is subject to a 30 m.p.h. speed-limit but it can be classed as a “dirty thirty,” the term applied some years ago by The Motor‘s brilliant columnist, Douglas Tubbs, to speed-limits not fairly and adequately defined for the motorists’ protection.
The road where the unsuspecting Editor of Motor Sport was stopped and told by a courteous police constable that “the matter would be reported” is straight as a die and has no houses on one side, dwellings divorced from it by a service road on the opposite side. It is technically a built-up area because it is served by lamp-posts, even though two of these in one direction appear to be more than 250 yards apart. But the lamp-posts are rather scattered and so are not readily apparent, the road resembles a through-route (it is signposted as such by the R.A.C.), there are plaques that could be mistaken for derestriction signs on some of the posts and, although by the route taken the speed-limit area is as much as 3.9 miles in length, over very varied roads including a right-angle turn, no repeater signs warn drivers that they are in a built-up area.
Technically the police were within their rights and they had the decency to state that as the road was deserted they did not regard the Editor’s speed as in any way dangerous. In due course he was fined £3 and his licence endorsed. He accepts the fine with equanimity, because his only previous fine for exceeding a speed limit was inflicted 23 years earlier and a contribution of 3/5d. per week from one who covers a very considerable annual mileage, frequently in fast cars, cannot be regarded as excessive. As at school, the crime was not so much the offence as getting caught, for which a sense of (false) security generated by the sun shining warmly through a folding roof was a contributory factor. But he regrets the endorsement.
Because of the length of this speed-limit, the varied spacing of its lamp-posts and the fact that no repeaters are to be seen, even when turning into it from a minor road (the position being rendered more confusing because another, winding road at right-angles is not subject to a speed-limit) this must surely be set down as a nasty example of the “dirty thirty.” In fact, the situation is rather more serious than that, or we wouldn’t waste so much of your time over it.
Driving along the same route in the opposite direction it was found that, following a derestricted section of road, no further sign was encountered for well over four miles, and this was — another derestriction sign! This called for investigation and it was discovered that at the entry to the stretch over which the Editor, had been “gonged” a sign, which should have been a “30” sign,had become uprooted and was lying on the grass at the roadside. Its fellow, on the opposite side of the road, moreover, was of the older, small-diameter sort, set comparatively low down, not at the road-edge but back beyond the pavement, where it was already partially obscured by foliage. It could have been completely obliterated by a stationary vehicle to drivers on the opposite side of the road. Is this fair, one asks, to motorists liable to prosecution for exceeding the speed-limit along the next four miles of road?
Of course, a speed-limit sign can be uprooted by a carelessly reversed van or by children tampering with it. It may not be possible to set it up again that day, or the next. But this recumbent speed limit sign was first seen resting on the grass during the Month of May.When we last went that way, on July 20th, it had not been restored to a visible position . . . Even if the Middlesex police patrols have other things to do which prevent them reporting the collapse of signs on which motorists rely for guidance, it might be thought that, the Editor having referred to this sign as being down for the count in his Statement of Mitigation, someone would have gone out and quietly brought it to its senses. But his case was heard on June 23rd and 27 days later this sign was as self effacing as ever although someone, possibly a pedestrian who had fallen over it in the dark, had propped it sideways against a tree.
This really isn’t playing the game by the motorist. The Spelthorne division of the Parish of Sunbury in the County of Middlesex appears to be decidedly indifferent to its responsibilities in this matter of properly-depicted speed-limits.
The authorities concerned should take immediate steps to get rid of these “dirty thirties,” thereby giving law-abiding drivers a chance of keeping out of trouble. If they fail so to do, more and more motorists may prefer to avoid trouble by boycotting the areas concerned. For example, no one can force the Editor (or his friends) to shop, eat, visit a place of entertainment or fill up with petrol and oil in the Parish of Sunbury if he decides not to do so . . .