The proposed raising of the speed limit – won’t somebody think of the Pandas?
The need to speed up and save time is part and parcel of our accelerated lifestyles. People want to get rich quicker and lose weight faster. They want their instant Wonga cash, their instant coffee, and their instant five-minute celebrities. Untranslatable words such as ‘snack’ and ‘quickie’ appear over time. Even subatomic neutrinos may now travel faster than light.
And now the latest news that the Conservatives are reviewing the speed limit on motorways, intent on raising the limit from 70 to 80 mph.
As a student I spent weekends in a friend’s loyal, but sloth-like Fiat Panda, attending debating tournaments with three hung-over wizards in the backseat. Over-burdened Panda trundles down the slow lane, not able to go much faster than 60 mph, whilst the monsters of the motorway zoom past us at threatening speeds. Modern technology may allow the rich to feel safer, smugly cocooned in their silent beasts, but as they accordingly increase their speed little attention is paid to those around them. Raising the limit endangers not only the Pandas, but the poor, those who transport more people in their vehicles (i.e. their families) and the more nervous drivers amongst us.
It’s not exactly environmentally friendly either, as travelling at 80 requires 20% more petrol. Whilst politicians condemn oil companies whose shipping catastrophes threaten environments and livelihoods, our addiction to petrol is never questioned. Politicians appear zealously green, yet policies that appease the rich motorist reveal the hypocrisy. Why can’t rail services be made more efficient instead? Then commuters could do their work on trains, which would presumably still boost the economy, appeasing Philip Hammond and the more environmentally conscious.
But most alarmingly, it’s a shocking concession to law-breakers. The government proposal highlights the many motorists already breaking the current limit, and increasing the limit brings them ‘back inside the boundary.’ Apart from the glaring fact that 90 will surely become the new 80, as driving faster than what authority deems appropriate will always strike an enticing chord for all bad boy racers (ever watched one race around the fictional, but terrifying streets of Grand Theft Auto?) the moral argument underpinning the proposal is disastrous. Should we scrap the law banning alcohol on the underground to bring drunken fools back inside ‘the boundary’? Should we abolish paying taxes too, just because they’re unpopular? The proposed change reflects a transport secretary with little regard for the law, the poor, or the environment. But maybe he was a bit rushed that morning.