July 02, 2003


And let them be fast:

The Tories promised yesterday to raise the motorway speed limit from 70 to 80mph as part of a "fair deal for drivers".

Tim Collins, the shadow transport secretary, said this was part of a set of reforms to be unveiled later this month.

They will include the removal of the bus and taxi lane on the M4 between Heathrow and London and speed cameras that trap motorists "unfairly".

Unnecessary road humps and road tolls will be abolished.

Posted by Tim Blair at July 2, 2003 06:09 PM

Well everyone drives that speed anyway. What they are really doing is raising the speed to 90. But a good step anyway.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Castel-Dodge at July 2, 2003 at 07:37 PM

Is that unnecessary road tolls or all road tolls they want to scrap, I wonder.

The policy seems reminiscent of the recent promise to scrap university tuition feeds - part of a Tory retreat from the use of market mechanisms to fund public services.

Posted by: David Steven at July 2, 2003 at 11:43 PM

In fact the scrapping of tuition fees is mentioned in the same article cited by Tim. But then Tories have always been unprincipled and fairweather friends of free markets,

Not sure what raising the speed limit has to do with free markets, though. Surely that's solely an operational question which a rational private roadowner or government should arrive at the same answer to and that answer isn't necessarily 'higher speed'.If there are negative externalities from speeding and these cannot be sufficiently internalised by simply applying tort law and setting a high enough penalty everytime an accident occurs(because a penalty that is optimally high but without the speed cameras which car hoons so detest would bankrupt the violator and not be a credible deterrent because it would be unenforceable, not to mention the excessive administrative costs and litigation costs of such a system) then the second-best but most realistically efficient policy is to rachet up probability of detection (i.e. speed cameras) or reduce speed limits even if this comes at a disutility to a minority of road users because the other alternatives are overall more costly.

Posted by: Jason Soon at July 3, 2003 at 12:24 AM

Jason Soon,
I am in awe of your scintillating verbosity and exhibition of how to write utter bullshit without a full stop.

Mrs Murray, 3rd Grade English teacher at Glenferrie Primary is undoubtedly spinning in her grave, not to mention projecting her severe ghostly whacks over your head with a ruler for writing such pretentious tripe.

Posted by: Pete at July 3, 2003 at 12:40 AM


I'd hazard a guess that what Jason is saying is that highway speeds need to be policed and regulated because mere civil tort liability for dangerous driving isn't a sufficient deterrent.

That's as far as I got before my pickaxe broke.

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at July 3, 2003 at 01:02 AM

Go easy on him fellas, he's an economist after all.

Posted by: Gareth at July 3, 2003 at 02:19 AM

I think you misunderstand, Jason. I was referring to the Tory proposal to abolish tolls, not change speed limits. It's the last sentence of the extract Tim quotes.

Posted by: David at July 3, 2003 at 02:20 AM

Jasons comment raises the interesting question of how we should deal with externalities on comments boards given that reading is for most of us a costly affair and that there is not really an efficient pricing method for equalising time spent reading with time spent posting.

Posted by: Giles at July 3, 2003 at 03:34 AM

Jasons comment raises the interesting question of how we should deal with externalities on comments boards given that reading is for most of us a costly affair and that there is not really an efficient pricing method for equalising time spent reading with time spent posting.

Posted by: Giles at July 3, 2003 at 03:34 AM

Giles, I would certainly rate doubleposting at the top of costly and inefficient externalities.

Posted by: T. Hartin at July 3, 2003 at 08:10 AM

Go IDS!!

What's all this bollocks about the Tories not being for free markets? Theie University policy is far more broad than just removing any top-up fees. What they are saying is that Labour's proposals represent the worst of both worlds in that they use the market poorly and would cause more complexity in a system that is already riddled with red tape.

Posted by: Toryhere at July 3, 2003 at 09:14 AM

You poor blokes might as well raise the speed limit while you can. Once the Euro-weenies take over, you'll all be driving at 80 kph.

Posted by: George Peery at July 3, 2003 at 09:15 AM

I forgave the Tories for banning the Union Jack at their conference for fear of been seen as Europhobic. I forgave them for changing their slogan to “helping the vulnerable” and “public works in public hands” (or words to that effect). But the blatant socialisation of uni fees this is the final straw.
My understanding was that the Tories were the party of Maggie, and not Marx.
Obviously I was mistaken.

Posted by: Tim A at July 3, 2003 at 09:45 AM

Could Mrs Murray please explain what are externalities?

Posted by: Fred at July 3, 2003 at 11:03 AM

Meanwhile, US researchers say that higher speeds lead to more and deadlier crashes: http://www.hwysafety.org/safety_facts/qanda/speed_limits.htm

Which is a bummer for those trying to get to the next gig in a hurry...

Oh, and these blokes aren't some bunch of lefties - they're bought and paid for by the capitalists of the insurance industry.

Posted by: Bon Scott at July 3, 2003 at 11:14 AM

No, Bon, that particular "research" simply shows that the higher the speed, the greater the percentage of fatalities. Using your selective interpretations, it also makes a good case for banning males under 30 from driving.

As to the source ... it's like going to Gun Control Australia expecting to find unbiased information on handgun ownership and usage.

Posted by: BruceT at July 3, 2003 at 11:30 AM


1. Is speeding really a safety problem? Yes. Speeding reduces the time drivers have to avoid crashes and lengthens stopping distances, increasing both the likelihood of crashing and the severity of the crashes that do occur.

As to the source: yes. They're biased. In favour of making lots of lovely moolah. I thought people liked that around here.

Posted by: Bon Scott at July 3, 2003 at 11:38 AM

Bonita's nervous little "speed kills!" summary ignores any variables -- driver skill, car quality, etc. A good driver is safer at 200 km/h than a poor one (Bon) is at 100 km/h in his pitiful Hyundai.

Posted by: tim at July 3, 2003 at 01:45 PM

LOL. Of course the Highway Safety Commission is going to say "higher speed means higher kills." They're the Highway Safety Commission. They aren't going to tell people "Go ahead, drive faster! You've only got one life to live!"

Besides, I have heard of other studies which indicate that it isn't the faster driving that kills people, but moronic driving that kills people. It stands to reason (something only the living can use, so we must forgive Mr. Scott, being that he is dead) that moronic driving is more fatal at higher speeds. Also the population of an area, traffic patterns, geography area ll other factors which affect traffic fatalities. It's not just one thing. Maybe we'd all be safer if no one was allowed to drive faster than jogging speed. Maybe we could go back to horse-drawn carriages too.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 3, 2003 at 02:40 PM

No, Bon -- "the likelihood of crashing" does NOT equal "**more** (and deadlier) crashes", as you said.

Posted by: BruceT at July 3, 2003 at 02:54 PM

Bloody hell Bruce, learn to read:

"increasing both the likelihood of crashing"

- say we have a sample of 100 people. The chance of them crashing in our time period is 1/10 at granny speed. So we'd expect about 10 people to crash. Now imagine our sample is travelling at race car driver speed, increasing their chance of crashing to 2/10. Now we'd expect about 20 crashes.

20 is more than 10.

If you increase the chance of something happening, it will happen more often in your population.

"and the severity of the crashes that do occur"

- ie it makes them more dangerous. Deadlier? Yep: "8. What is the effect on fatalities of raising speed limits above 55 mph? Higher travel speeds mean more deaths."

Andrea, you don't provide any links to this research. Nonetheless, you may be right: morons do tend to speed, making the two factors difficult to seperate. That said, forcing morons to drive slower decreases the amount of damage they do to themselves and others.

Posted by: Bon Scott at July 3, 2003 at 03:12 PM

I didn't post a link to my "research" because I didn't do any "research," dead boy. I used my own reason (that word again, I know) to state that there were other factors besides higher speed limits that contributed to an increase in traffic fatalities. Simpletons like you think we can wave a magic wand like lowering the speed limit, and that somehow the morons of this world (who, yes, tend to ignore speed limits along with all the other things they ignore -- and I never said that morons didn't speed, what I said was morons drive badly, or do you think that fast driving is all one needs to be considered a lousy driver?) will obey this law. The highway speed limit was lowered in Florida in the 70s by Granny Carter, and all that did was cause more people to get speeding tickets, since what had once been a normal speed was now fifteen miles beyond the pale. And as for a decrease in traffic fatalities, we never saw it, due to those other factors, such as more people moving to the state in the following decades, and road deterioration, and so on.

No fucking links, do your own "research." I'm not your student.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 3, 2003 at 03:48 PM

Oooh, Andrea, you are a feisty one. Have a double scotch and calm down...

You specifically mentioned "other studies"; I, with the grace and wit that made me a world-famous rock star before my untimely death, accepted your premise for the sake of argument.

What's the hassle?

And of course there are many other factors - who would deny it? It's just that we were talking about speed in particular here, I seem to recall. You may not like to provide me links, but I am as generous as I am forgiving: here's a whole bunch of research on every accident factor under the sun, courtesy the same mob: http://www.hwysafety.org/safety_facts/safety.htm

Posted by: Bon Scott at July 3, 2003 at 04:17 PM

PS: the highway speed limit was raised back up to 70 from 55, and as far as I know no one is driving any faster or slower than they ever did. It's just that the highway patrol doesn't have to waste their time giving out speeding tickets to everyone going above 55. Not that there is anyone in the state who drives the speed limit on the highways whatever it is -- they either drive around 80-90 mph (we don't use kilometers either, and the signs with alternate kph have been quietly replaced) or they drive exactly 54.75 mph (these drivers are invariably about five hundred years old, shrunken due to their advanced age to about hobbit size, and driving cars that are slightly smaller than the average naval aircraft carrier; and the left blinker is always on).

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 3, 2003 at 04:20 PM

And you keep linking to the same Highway Safety Commission site, and I keep telling you that this organization has a vested interest in telling people to drive at a crawl. They simply aren't going to approve of faster driving, no matter what you or I or anyone says. Of course they will have a study saying that faster driving contributes to more fatalities.

But hey, what do you care about safety? You're dead. Getting crowded down there in that hot place?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 3, 2003 at 04:24 PM

Andrea - I am curious: what is the "vested interest" that the Highway Safety Commission has in telling people to drive more slowly?

Posted by: Mork at July 3, 2003 at 04:51 PM

Yes Andrea, do tell. What is this "vested interest"?

And, please, no more jokes about bonn scott. It's wearing thin.

Posted by: Dan at July 3, 2003 at 05:25 PM

Will all you septics go and argue somewhere else?

Posted by: Pete at July 4, 2003 at 12:56 AM

Here is an interesting article discussing the lack of impact of the revocation of the 55mph national speed limit, with a number of links to other studies.


Even if one accepts that lower speeds are automatically safer, why would 55 mph (or 60 or whatever) be the magical best number? If safety is the one overriding factor, then 20 mph speed limits would surely be better than letting everyone drive like maniacs at 55.

Posted by: Sean E at July 4, 2003 at 04:27 AM

i'm sorry, i'm sure that all this dribble about rates of people dying in car crashes at various speeds is awfully interesting and all, but can we please concentrate on the important point here:

"Unnecessary road humps"

the few i've been privileged to experience have been quite necessary, i assure you, and i'm quite willing to take any that you may feel not to be so.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at July 4, 2003 at 07:01 AM