Matters of moment, July 1960

The Spa tragedies

As we close the last few pages of this issue, for printing news is to hand of the tragic outcome of Spa. At such times words of sympathy are but slight consolation but nevertheless we offer on behalf of the world of sport deep commiseration to the relatives and friends of Stacey and Bristow. Also, we sympathise with Moss and Taylor in being out of racing for some time hence.

A sense of proportion

The papers, the radio, T.V., all are full these days of the dangers of motoring. placing emphasis on the horrors inflicted by ruthless drivers of lethal weapons as they roar along the highways.

As Motor Sport takes some pride in being ” different ” (there’s a fine opening for our critics!) we have decided to take a different line from the majority in this matter of road accidents. Isn’t it time that the vast cavalcade of road-users was complimented on managing its various vehicles pretty well under conditions of congestion, over roads quite inadequate for the flow of traffic they now carry? Instead of bewailing the “toll of the road” shouldn’t someone in authority get cracking and praise the high standard of skill and restraint of the average road user—whether cyclist, sports car owner, lorry driver or pedestrian?

You see, it is so easy to publish totals of killed and injured without any kind of qualification. Couple to such figures the total wheeled mileage covered by Britain’s motoring population and the figures, though grey. are no longer inky black. The ordinary pleasure motorist must cover some 13,000 miles a year. business drivers three to four tithes that figure. while the distances covered annually by commercial and public service vehicles arc astronomical. Multiply such mileage figures by the enormous number of vehicles which roll along our inadequate, badly signposted, often slippery roads every minute of the day and night and the annual mileage will be seen to be almost beyond comprehension. Divide the result by the numbers killed and there is cause, not for complacency, but for souse feeling of having achieved a sense of proportion.

Mr. Marples is a Minister of Transport full of ambition and ideas. Some of his ideas are very good, but be, toe, should keep a sense of proportion. There has been no decisive evidence that the new Whitsen 50 ns.p.h. speed limits should be drastically extended. That speed in the right plane is not deadly is proved by the line accident free record of our only real motorway, M I. Conversely, that motorists in general exercise restraint is shown by the comparatively low speeds at which the owners of family ears drive along this very safe high-speed road.

To take pollee permanently away from traffic control and other duties in order to spy on drivers on the holiday 50 M.p.h. roads would be as reprehensible as is the astonishingly naive and unBritish suggestion of the Daily Telegraph’s, referred to in our correspondence columns, that motorists he encouraged to spy on one another.

“Clearways” are a splendid accidents reducing move, far and away better than 50 m.p.h. speed limits. But why only a few easy miles here and there, requiring elaborate signs like ” No Stopping— Except at Traffic Lights ” and similar “obvialities”? Better by far to state that anyone stopping a vehicle on any main road will be in serious trouble with the police unless there is a very valid reason for thus causing obstruction. No signs, hut really clear roads, should be the result. 

We deplore the growing disfigurement of our roads by a succession of notices which read like the pages from a beginner’s guide to motoring—” Don’t Follow Too Close,” ” Keep Well to the Left “, ” Be Careful “, Don’t, Do, Don’t. If those in authority really believe that the citizens who take out complicated pieces of transport mechanism are so dim 05 to need this elementary roadside instruction they must surely agree that it is a cause for congratulation that, in sober fact, so few are in such an astrono few people are killed in such an astronomical mileage over such sadly inadequate roads?

Tests for ten-year-olds

We are told that cars built before 1950 are so dangerous that the Government is anxious to institute tests of them, yet these tests, claimed to be so vital, have been postponed again and again. We are now told that by next November no cars of this age will be allowed on the road, unless certified as having been passed by a garage mechanic as safe in respect of brakes, steering and lamps. Tests of all road vehicles at Government test stations might have much to commend them, but checks of ten-year-old cars and motorcycles (and bicycles ?) by garages with the power to institute big repair bills on their own initiative sound far from satisfactory. There is the subsidiary points that it is usage rather than an-no domini which wears out maehittery. that even if yew meticulously restored vintage car passes with a clean bill of health you, being a motorist, pay a fee, and that November would seem a most inappropriate month to introduce these tests, berause delays are likely to occur and those who hold licences valid to the end of 1960 will then be deprived of their cars through no fault of their own.

Over and above that, are these tests likely to justify their complexity? Reliable figures show that, in 1958. vehicle defects contributed to only 7,481 out of a total of 237,265 accidents and this wasn’t confined solely to old vehicles. It would be interesting to see figures for the numbers of old cars the police have had to caution off in reeent years as unsafe. If the number is very great, elaborate tests are needed to relieve the overburdened police of this duty. If, as we suspect, fewer and fewer cars are stopped in had order the tests are a cumbersome way of doing what motor-trained police already do effectively and well.

Is the Minister of Transport really Concerned primarily with the mechanical condition of the older ears or does he seek to rid out roads of the slower forms of transport? If so, he should, while trying to thin out the ranks of the less-rapid road users, pause to regard the horse-drawn cart, two-abreast cyclists and those smoke-hidden commereial monsters toiling up every hill.

Whether the ten-year tests do good or not they are going to prove a burden to owners of old cars if delays occur in carrying them out. So, from next November onwards, we suggest you leave those garages which have agreed to test old vehieles free to expedite this Government contract.Do not harry them by going to them for petrol, oil, accessories or repairs to your modern car, or else you may be delaying the test of smite forlorn 1949 vehicle which has been accused of being a potential killer and which cannot clear its good name until the hard-worked mechanics have looked it over….