Matters of moment, September 1960

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Are we going, mad ? Is the country suffering from an inexplicable mania for roadside signs and speed limits? It seems so, as we motor about we encounter more and ever more roadside embellishments! Not only do these signs-cost the tax-payer money but a profusion of speed-limits seems unfair to the motorist and will soon become a subject of ridicule if any more are imposed, causing even more warning notices to be erected. This is a matter that is of more concern to keen drivers than to manipulators of family saloons who motor in fear and trepidation, at a habitual 38mph (40mph indicated) in the centre of the road, for such never dare to turn their heads and must miss most or all of the growing multitude of signs in consequenee.

Seriously, though, what is Britain coming to? At week-ends we have the “50” signs topping unpainted wooden sticks on certain main roads only. On week-days these signs are covered over with sacks—what must visitors from Overseas think?—which, in the case of the A30 highway, appear to give a free advertisement to PK Nuts . .

The other day, on that super-safe new dual-carraigeeway that drops from what was once the romantic Dartford Bridge Flats to Blackwater in Surrey, we noticed that a “50” sign was displayed, naked if ashamed, on a week-day morning amidst the derestriction signs—sure indication that Britain is suffering a severe attack of signitis.

“40” signs are spreading and an economy of posts on which to support these and other speed-limit signs sometimes results in droll proximity of “40s” and “50s” and of “30s” and so on—which town or county holds the shortest piece of derestricted road?

Not all these signs have Whitehall origins. There was the huge “30” board displayed on A30 near Sutton Scotney some time ago because they had strewn the surface with loose chippings —-what a way to treat the tax-paying motorist in AD 1960! And on the Bath road where it is being widened, some clown has erected giant notices proclaiming that modern motor vehicles must reduce their headlong pace to—you may find it hard to credit —5 mph! To respect this notice, which you can hardly plead you didn’t see, because it is gigantic, is to have heavy lorries leaning on your back bumper to emphasise that the drivers of these juggernauts regard you as a law-abiding sap.  Did the person who was permitted to spend our money erecting these silly signs try driving at 5mph? If he had he must surely have accepted that 30mph would have been safe round this open, if elevated, bend.

But there you are, we live in an age of signitis. It costs money, it distracts drivers, it brings frquently unwarrented summonses, but unless motorists and their semi-dormant organisations protest, and protest violently, it will spead to the detrement of the countryside and the pleasure to be derived from driving.

It is as illogical as testing 10 year old vehicles while letting rusty old bicycles,ragged, water-dripping contractors’ lorries go free. But then the M of T is not always logical. Take for one example the enormous and elaborate “Clearways” boards on the A30 near Egham, they cover a mere 23 miles of road, yet are prolific in quantity, even to the final “Clearways” notice within yards of a “Clearways cancelled” sign. And within yards of the opening of this particular clearway you will find a ‘bus stop with no pull-in provided. Another where the omnibuses are allowed to stop again on the roadway, on a bend … Presumably it would he too logical to require all main roads to be treated as clearways for their entire length …

Are ten-year-olds dangerous?

Considerable interest has arisen over figures published in Motor Sport last month in an Editorial which suggested that the forthcoming compulsory tests of cars made prior to 1950 may prove to have very little bearing on increasing road safety, especially when they are to be undertaken by private garages. We drew attention to the fect that in 1958, in which the 237,265 accidents in which the 7,490,000 vehicles in use were involved, Police analysis showed that a mere 7,481 were attributable to defects. I t now transpires that of these defective vehicles, only 2,033 were cars, pedal cycles contributing to 1,892 of these accidents. How therefore can the Minister of Transport leave bicycles out of his elaborate testing scheme ?

The Police analysis showed that of these car defects, tyres and wheels numbered 675, bad brakes 417, and worn-out steering 321. Police patrols can very easily spot defective tyres and wheels, so it looks as if the elaborate garage-tests are being instituted mainly to eliminate defests, which on the last official count count applied to 739 out of 7,490,000 vehicles, and that bicycles (and those tatty contractors’ lorries) be immune.

Incidently will the Labour Party fight the scheme when it realises how many workers rely on pre-1950 cars to get to and from work, and that conscientiously maintained cars will of 15s per annum merely to prove themselves roadworthy?