March 30, 2012

A memorable public information campaign once urged: Kill your speed not a child.

Speed, regardless of whether and how some portion of it may be said to belong to a particular individual, being a concept rather a living being, is inherently less susceptible to the finality of decession than an ordinary mortal child.

Presented with a simple two-way choice, however, between the attempted annihilation of one or the other, most of us, surely, would sooner attempt the morally neutral, if potentially impracticable “killing” of speed than the less elusive but morally and socially questionable termination of a child.

Messing with the fabric of the universe may sound drastic, but who would want child murder on their conscience?*

Child welfare considerations notwithstanding, however, Britain’s drivers have proved remarkably resistant in practice to anti-speed rhetoric down the years, and today there is more of it about than ever. Insurer LV= got itself in the Telegraph this week on the back of having compiled some FOI police statistics revealing that there were almost a million “speeding cases” in 2011.

To be more specific, there were 955,459, up from 899,934 in 2010. Insurance Times’ rehash of the Telegraph story claimed “2011’s riskiest driver clocked at 152mph” which sounds deeply alarming. More prosaically, however, it turns out that 152mph was simply the fastest speed recorded on Britain’s roads last year – eight miles an hour faster than 2010’s top speed. An implicit challenge here to would-be record breakers for the current year.

Meanwhile a separate survey commissioned by LV≥ suggested that 4.2% of motorists got done for speeding last year. This is clearly nonsense, however, because that would equate – as LV< themselves note – to 1.5 million drivers nabbed speeding, rather than something well under a million, as the police figures suggest, allowing, of course, for multiple offences by single individuals. So it’s barely worth our reporting LV˘’s further extrapolated national 2011 totals of 2.2 million penalty points and £41 million in fines.

LV±‘s survey did, however, find that 41% of respondents regularly broke the 70mph motorway speed limit when they thought they could get away with it. The good news for them, of course is that the government is now planning to decriminalise this behaviour (see last week’s story) or at least the first additional 10mph of it.

The death of speed still seems a distant prospect.

*Or perhaps those signs were simply saying “speed kills” with the extra dash of pathos that an innocent minor so readily imparts. So the message essentially is that: the faster you drive the more likely you are to (injure or) kill someone, and how would you feel if it was a child? In the time it takes to read all that, though, you might well have driven into someone or something.

Should the government ever feel minded to resurrect a similar campaign, Bankstone News has come up with the following snappy but easily intelligible slogan: “Hey, potential child murderer, slow down a bit!”


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