Thank Frankel it’s Friday: Speed restrictors tackle the symptoms, not the disease itself
So from 2022, all new cars will have to be sold with technology that restricts their speed to whatever the limit is for the road they are on. And I say? Rejoice!
What this legislation will ensure is not just the long-term survival of the classic car business, but a virtual guarantee of rude health and for decades into the future as pre-2022 cars become classics in time. I know this is not what the legislation intends to achieve, but I cannot remember when I last heard of a ruling more likely to invoke the law of unintended consequences. Here are just a few.
What happens when everyone drives along the same stretch of road at exactly the same speed? If you’ve driven in Australia – where limits are ruthlessly enforced – you’ll know already. It becomes disorienting because there is very little movement around you relative to your own. It makes changing lanes, entering and, in particular, exiting motorways more difficult because those gaps that are always opening when traffic flows at different speeds are no longer there.
What happens to driving standards if everyone drives at the same speed? They fall off a cliff because doing exactly the same as everyone else, with nothing to draw your attention or focus upon is profoundly boring. On a long journey it is far too easy to switch off because so little is happening around you. It shouldn’t happen, but it does because we are human. The worst driving standards I have ever seen in the developed world are in, you guessed it, Australia and the Australians I know agree.
What happens when the on-board tech disagrees with the posted speed limit? It happens all the time in even the most expensive cars that show what they think to be the prevailing limit. Do you want to be behind the bloke whose car autonomously brakes from 70mph to 30mph because of some software glitch?
What happens when cars using this technology and those that do not are forced to inhabit the same roads? Will some drivers who cannot exceed the speed limit not resent those who can, and is that a healthy attitude to play out over our entire road network?
And what happens to sales of sporting cars after 2022? What would be the point of driving one if even on the quietest, most open of roads on the driest day you are not able to exceed a speed limit designed to keep safe the worst driver in the worst conditions? I wonder how many jobs will be lost as a result?
Of course the legislation will reduce deaths on the road, but so would banning cars. The truth is this is being done because it is far easier to address the symptoms than the disease itself. Education is the real answer, starting with a massively more wide-ranging driving test not merely allowing, but requiring all new drivers to be familiar with driving at night, in the wet and on the motorway before they can ditch their L-plates. I’d be in favour of mandatory, classroom-based refresher courses too: a couple of hours every ten years doesn’t seem much to ask to be able to command a tonne or so of high speed metal on public roads.
In the meantime there are classic cars to enjoy for years to come. And even when the legislators wise up and force them to carry black boxes that may not be able to control the car’s speed but can shop their drivers to the authorities when limits are broken, there’ll still be classic cars that are much more fun at 50mph than moderns are at 100mph. One more reason I’ll never sell my 1958 2CV.