WHEN the general speed limit of 20 m.p.h. was abolished in January, 1931, under the Road Traffic Act, it was felt by owners of sports ears that a more rational state of affairs was thereby initiated. And they were right, for in addition to removing from motorists’ minds a subconscious admission of law-breaking every time the speedometer needle crept past the 20 m.p.h. mark, the new Act resulted in a substantial decrease in the number of fatal accidents. In 1930, the number of fatalities arising out of road accidents was 7,305, and the number of injured, 177,895. In 1932, after two years without a speed limit for private vehicles, the number of fatalities was 6,651 and the number of injured 206,410. The increase in the number of reported non-tatal accidents is generally agreed as being almost entirely due to the requirement in the Road Traffic Act that all accidents must be reported to the police, and may therefore be disregarded. In view of this undoubted improvement in road conditions, the action of certain people in making an organized to a
ized attempt to reimpose a speed limit for motor vehicles, especially in urban areas, is one that can only be regarded as in direct contradiction to proven facts. The Royal Automobile Club, which is always ready with unremitting toil to bring about a satisfactory condition of road safety to motorists and pedestrians alike, has recently issued a forceful plea in favour of the existing freedom from speed limits. The R.A.C. points out that the official figures of road accidents, quoted above, are abundant proof that speed, in itself, is not one of the main factors to be taken into B
consideration in tackling the vital problem of reducing materially what is commonly called “the toll of the road.” This fact, together with two others, form an incontrovertible argument against speed limits. We refer, first, to the impossibility of fixing any certain maximum as a “safe “speed, for, as the R.A.C. states, “what is safe in certain circumstances and at particular times, may be extremely dangerous when the time or circumstances are varied. A speed limit of 30 m.p.h. which has been suggested in certain quarters as being safe, might at times amount to sheer recklessness” ; and, second, to the equal impossibility of enforcing such speed limits. For our part, while agreeing with the R.A.C. that the powers placed in the hands of the police by the Road Traffic Act to deal with dangerous or careless driving can be effective in every case where a driver indulges in dangerous speed—be it seven or seventy miles per hour—we are of the opinion that such powers are not as fully exercised as they might be. No one can deny that
there is still a great deal of bad driving seen on our roads, largely due to inexperienced handling of powerful cars (seldom sports cars). The only way to combat this danger is by the use of fast motor-cycles, and we consider that the employment of cars by the mobile police —as distinct from the Flying Squad—should be abandoned in favour of a more widespread utilisation of motor-cycles. In point of fact, twice the number of motor-cycles could be brought into service as there are cars at the present time, for each car always has a complement of two.