No, not the journal founded by the late Alan Hess and absorbed by Motor Sport before the war (Hitler, not Gulf). Not a guess at what pace this year’s Fl cars will attain. Not even a look-back at how splendidly Richard Noble regained the LSR for Great Britain.
Simply the speeds attained by ordinary motor vehicles on ordinary roads. Speed which is regarded by those who apply speed limits as the potential cause of accidents and the very thought of which sends many bureaucrats into hysterics. Thus at a time when responsible Police Chiefs are convinced that a higher Motorway speed limit would be a safety move, France is likely to reduce that on her autoroutes by the equivalent of 13 mph, on the excuse of following the EC requirement to save fuel, of which there is no shortage. Even so, the French limit will then be almost the same as the British blanket-limit introduced here in 1967! Then Norwich, Sheffield and Kingston set town limits of 20 mph last January, on some safety excuse (statistics can be made to prove anything), thus reverting to a pace regarded as safe 56 years ago and ignoring the improvements in brakes and tyre-grip which suggest that 40 mph would be more appropriate than the present 30 mph set for urban roads.
It is ironic that these authorities are reverting to a speed regarded as safe back in 1903 and that when this limit was increased by ten mph in built-up areas, no top speed was then applied to other roads. Yet now, in the 1990s, you can be fined and incur licence penalty points for exceeding 60 mph by a few paltry mph. Then there is our fatuous Motorway 70 mph restriction, applied regardless of the fact that these M-ways were constructed at vast cost expressly for the purpose of improving the traffic flow. Even this 70 mph speed limit can become a joke when the excessive number of delays caused by repairs to these expensive Motorways are taken into account, such as the disruption to the M40 so that it can take drivers to Birmingham instead of being extended to its original destination, Oxford, or the recent long delay on the M3 caused, not by an accident or road-works, but because two good lanes had been coned-off and the cones were not being removed until after 10am on a busy Saturday morning.
It is time those who get hysterical at the thought of speed realised that many other factors contribute to road accidents. What of antiquated roads, congestive parking, ill-placed direction signs, and so on? Even diversions due to road repairs, if not clearly indicated, can cause delays and frustration, and frustration can be a contributory cause of accidents. For instance, many drivers, truckers as well as commuters, were badly lost in dismal Bridgwater not long ago, due to the last-named lack of consideration for drivers.
It seems astonishing that although the “carriage without horses” has passed its first century, it is still savagely controlled, on the assumption that if it moves, fine it, if it doesn’t, it must be fined for obstruction. You and I know that 100 mph done by a capable driver in a sound car in clear weather along a deserted stretch of M-way is not exactly criminal. But woe-betide him if he is caught and tried by those who fix the 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70mph speed restrictions. Yet “the Ton” was first reached by a motor car 87 years ago and the driver came to no harm. In Fl and at Indy and Le Mans, it is more than doubled and production supercars comfortably exceed it. But the car still comes in for most of the accident blame. Drunk pedestrians can cause accidents and we suspect that there may be more of them than drunk drivers; but how often are they breathalised?
It is not only speed that is held against us. The Ramblers Association, via the Government, is trying to have off-road vehicles banned from country lanes (bridle paths perhaps, but lanes?) and the RAC is telling us that the forthcoming Road Traffic Bill imposes a serious threat to events like the Lombard RAC Rally. When, we wonder, will the Motor Age dawn? — WB