Matters of Moment, August 1960

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Common Sense and Road Safety

Last month’s Editorial on keeping a sense of proportion over road accidents has brought proof that many authorities agree with us. For example, the County Surveyor of Somerset C.C. in his annual report, protests against the blame always being on the motorist and comments on the increasingly high penalties imposed in the courts for negligible offences, when “more publicity should be given to the inadequacy from a safety point of view of our roads.”

The Medical Press enlarges on this commonsense viewpoint, to the extent of remarking that dangerous roads are all too often brought up in court as evidence against a driver, whereas such danger spots are, in fact, third parties “not in the dock and whose responsibility for an accident is conveniently ignored.” They quote Moss’ disqualification. In a paper in The Surveyor, J. J. Leeming, M.I.C.E., County Surveyor of Dorset, queries whether the accident problem is being tackled in the right way; his opinion being that regulations and punishnient of drivers have little effect on reducing accidents, whereas physical changes in road layout may reduce them very materially.

A high-ranking clergyman, writing in the Manchester Cathedral Magazine, also takes the motorists’ part and puts forward the delightful idea that drivers with good records should be issued with almost unlimited petrol coupons, whereas those guilty of bad driving be prevented from doing much driving by losing some of their petrol allocation, which would be a greater deterrent than paying fines.

We regret there isn’t space to enlarge on the sage views of these eminent authorities but it is significant they all emphasise that too many motorists are being made the scapegoats for inadequate roods, sometimes on the evidence of lone witnesses who are not exactly unbiased in wanting to bring a driver into court.

It is of further significance that Mr. Leeming thinks the Old-Car Tests which start next month may increase rather than decrease accidents, by causing those who now motor on four wheels to go over to motorcycles, scooters and mo-peds, of which they have had no previous experience and which are potentially more dangerous than cars, even old ones.

These compulsory tests will not bother vintage enthusiasts whose cars are splendidly maintained, beyond costing them £13 5s. a year to get on the road instead of £12 10s. Of course, the car-owner pays either way, whether his vehicle passes the garage-test or not! Those who previously bought the older cars to save money or because they liked good, solid engineering without being vintage fanatics, will not find this worth while in future. They may have to fork out 22s. a year just for failing the test, or a total of £2 7s. if they have to appeal against an over-zealous garage mechanic’s decision. So old cars will be out ! This may be fine for the new-car industry but it will virtually sound the death-knell of a prosperous used-car trade.

We question very strongly whether the 12,000 officially-appointed test-garages will be able to cope with the high proportion of the two million pre-1949 cars that they will receive. or whether the tests are necessary, considering that vehicle defects accounted for only 7,481 accidents out of 237,265 in 1958. Remembering modern cars that have severe brake fade after a couple of high-speed retardations, develop lots of play in the steering in a matter of months, skid easily and even suffer complete brake failure, it looks as if, like the motorist, old cars are being made scapegoats for accidents caused by inadequate roads. But if the tests help to sell those cut-price Vauxhalls. . . .

Moss’ Recuperation

We join our readers in wishing Stirling Moss a speedy and full recovery from the injuries he received at Spa. He is recuperating very rapidly, for apart from his appearance at the British G.P., he was able to go to a dinner at Skindles organised by Laurence Pomeroy on July 18th, at which those who like the B.M.C. minicars could chat informally with designer Alec Issigonis. On that happy occasion Moss seemed his usual self and it looks as if the greatest of the present-day racing drivers will on be racing again. Which is good news indeed.

M.N. Coverage Increases

The appointment of Stuart Turner to the staff of our companion publication Motoring News means that this weekly paper will have the advantage of on-the-spot competitor reports of all the major International rallies front one of Britain’s finest rally navigators.

Being a weekly newspaper, its production schedules make it possible to give wide up-to-date coverage of all major sporting and club events within a few days of their taking place, which is proving increasingly popular among club-men and followers of the sport.

Overseas enthusiasts seeking the very latest new:, of European motoring are astonished when they hear that, by taking out an airmail subscription to Motoring News, they can have their copy on the breakfast table within two days of publication.

Front cover Picture: EARLY DUEL between Phil Hill (Ferrari) and Jack Brabham (Cooper) during the French G.P. lasted for 29 laps. until the Ferrari’s transmission failed. The dented nose on the Ferrari was caused when it ran into one of Brabham’s tyres.