Driving Rage

I note that a number of my esteemed libertarian fellows have picked up on recent plans by the government to clamp down on motoring. Motorists being the new smokers and smokers being the new hunters and so on. The latest two things being medical fitness and yet again an obsession with speed – this time a desire to fit vehicles with speed limiters.

Let’s start with medical fitness. Like the Devil’s Kitchen, I have no objection to the principle of confirmed medical fitness to drive. We already have a fairly crude form of this already. When you attend a driving test, you will be asked to read a number plate at a distance of 67 feet. If you want to be a driving instructor, that rises to 90 feet. That is about it. Hardly a competent eye test, and unless the candidate declares any medical problems then no more is said about it until the licence expires on the driver’s 70th birthday.

So, what is being proposed?

Drivers will have to declare every 10 years whether they are medically able to get behind the wheel, according to proposals to be set out early in the new year.

Okay, not so very different to the current situation…

For the first time, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will issue a series of minimum physical and mental requirements motorists must fulfil including eyesight performance and reaction times.

Well, as the standards setting body, so they should. A similar requirement exists for pilot’s licenses, so why not for drivers? When you take to the road, it is not only your life you place at risk if you are unfit.


Tests, costing up to £80, will be offered to drivers to check whether they are fit to drive.

Why? Surely the sensible (okay, okay, I know, don’t all shout at once) thing to do is for the standards setting body to set the standard and then let drivers confirm that they meet the standard via their GP for example. GPs already provide such services. It’s also worth bearing in mind that I have to undergo a regular medical to access the railway line and the period varies according to age. The last time, it cost me around £125.

I have no problem with the concept of a test, I do have a problem with the state being involved in the testing.

Anyone who chooses not to take the tests but declares themselves able to take to the roads will be committing a criminal offence if they fail to meet the established standards.

Hmm.. on the face of it, that makes sense. However, either we have standards and apply them fairly or we do not. So, surely the state sets the standard and drivers undergo checks with their supplier of choice (which would probably push that £80 figure down) who then issues a certificate of compliance.

The move is designed to weed out tens of thousands of motorists – many of them elderly – who use their cars while suffering from conditions which could make them a danger to themselves or others.

No too much of a sweeping statement, then…

If I was suffering from a medical condition that affected my ability to drive, I would want to know about it. As I already undergo testing for my profession, then I know that I don’t. Surely that test should double up? That would be pragmatic and sensible, wouldn’t it? Yeah, yeah, I know – this is a Labour government and its incompetent agencies we are talking about. Pragmatic and sensible just don’t apply.

The DVLA is not getting at those drivers who should be letting it know about their medical conditions. We really want people to take responsibility.

Fine. Set the standard and then let the market take over.

I note in the piece that there is some interesting use of statistics. This one caught my eye:

By 2021, there will be an estimated 3 million over-70s driving on the country’s roads.

The Association of British Insurers has found that this age group is three times more likely to be killed or seriously injured on the road than those aged 40-65.

See what they did there? People killed on the roads will include drivers, passengers, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Still, this will be a gift to insurers, so they will love it. Frankly, anything insurers like is valid cause for suspicion – insurers remind me far too much of vultures circling the dying beast.

On the matter of speed limiters:

Speed-limiting devices should be fitted to cars on a voluntary basis to help save lives and cut carbon emissions, according to a new report.

The government’s transport advisers claim the technology would cut road accidents with injuries by 29%.

This nonsense despite the government’s own figures placing breaking speed limits being a cause at well below that 29%. What fitting limiters will do is take away control from the driver and that, frankly, is dangerous. Driving at a continuous low speed causes the driver to disengage with the traffic and go into a zombie state. Oh, and we all know what “voluntary” means, don’t we?

The device automatically slows a car down to within the limit for the road on which it is being driven.

So, having moved out to pass a slow moving truck on the motorway, you find it moving into your road space. You have a set of choices; brake, move out into the next lane, or accelerate. You can’t brake because there is a tailgater behind you and there is traffic on your offside, so you hit the gas. Then the limiter cuts in and forces you right into that truck’s sideswipe. The only control must be fully with the driver at all times, because the driver is the only one who understands the prevailing risks and can respond accordingly. If my bike had a speed limiter fitted, I would not be typing this now as I had to make that choice and I hit the throttle good and hard, exceeding the speed limit on the M4 by a goodly amount.

The speed-limiting devices will then use satellite positioning to check a vehicle’s location and when its speed exceeds the limit, power will be reduced and the brakes applied if necessary.

Only an utter moron would believe that this is workable, let alone a good idea. Again, consider the brief burst of speed to overtake a slow moving vehicle on a country road, when suddenly there you are on the wrong side of the road unable to go anywhere except into the oncoming vehicle? Shouldn’t be there? Well, possibly. Are you the perfect driver who is always in the right place at the right time and always makes the perfect judgement? And what if – as as happened to me – the overtaken vehicle accelerates? Thanks to your speed limiter with satellite technology, you are fucked. Literally.

This comment form Quentin Wilson:

Remotely policing the roads from satellites in the sky – I would worry about it an awful lot.

That has to be the understatement of the year.


  1. “The only control must be fully with the driver at all times, because the driver is the only one who understands the prevailing risks and can respond accordingly.”

    Oh, yes. I can still recall vividly the one time (about 10-12 years ago now) I had to make the same choice due to three other drivers behaving like loons. Limiting speed will kill far more surely than excessive speed…

    Still, I expect if this ever does come in, there’ll be the usual exemptions for MPs cars and private celebrity chauffeurs

  2. These days, our crowded motorways seem to make this situation a daily occurrence. When you see a truck indicating to change lanes, it does not mean “I want to change lanes”, it means “get the fuck out of the way, ‘cos I’m coming out no matter what”.

  3. “there’ll be the usual exemptions for MPs cars and private celebrity chauffeurs”

    Indeed there will, Julia, nothing is more certain.

    It must be the holiday season or something because that thought had never occured to me until I read your comment.

  4. I also owe my life (and that of my wife) to reactive pedal/metal action on a British motorway. Indeed, had I been in a lesser car, I would probably have been a goner. It’s bad enough that had a speed camera caught that moment, I would have lost my licence (death-avoidance being no defence). Now they want me to die fumbling for the override (and how long before the override is scrapped?).

  5. I was about to be sideswiped by a foreign left hand drive truck on the A14 dual carriageway on the way to Cambridge. Only by flooring the accelerator was I able to zoom out of trouble. If my car had been sped limited I could have been seriously injured or killed.

    Also, we can see the chaos speed limiters cause when on said dual carriageway one of these dicks tries to overtake another one going up a hill (which of course are quite rare in Cambridgeshire).

  6. Well there’s any easy fix to that problem. You simply ban overtaking as well. Everyone in a big long 30mph line, nice and ordered, in a perfect socialist utopia.

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