Monday, May 11, 2009


Since becoming a Magistrate I've become a rather strange animal - a 20,000 mile a year motorway driver who obeys the speed limit.

Well, I'm more compliant than I used to be anyway.

You might think my improving behaviour was because of first-hand experience of the real impact of the fines and bans I've been involved in handing out. It does makes me cringe to think of the shame involved if I ever had to come to court to be punished for driving misdemeanours. I'd especially hate to be in the position of pleading "exceptional hardship" in order to save my licence so that I could continue to do my day job. Plus, there's an outside chance that the local papers might enjoy a "Magistrate in Speed Ban Scandal" headline. There would certainly be some uncomfortable disciplinary meetings I'd be eager to avoid.

All this is reason enough to back off the gas, but the real incentive to change has been the careless/reckless/dangerous driving cases I've seen. In far too many of these, excessive speed has been a factor in the resulting injuries and deaths - so much harm could have been avoided or reduced had the speed limit been obeyed.

Here's a device that's worth some serious consideration. It's a speed limiter that uses GPS satellite technology to stop drivers from accelerating to above the prevailing speed limit. The usual knee-jerk response is nicely encapsulated in the feedback to the article in The Times above :-
"I like the idea but what scares me about these is: What if I need a little extra speed in order to finish overtaking a car instead of crashing into oncoming traffic? What if a lower speed limit starts while overtaking? Is this system intelligent enough to recognise these situations?"
The answer is "No, of course it isn't that intelligent, you pillock. It's up to you to be intelligent enough not to start overtaking unless you can finish without breaking the law."

Modern cars are full of technology that assumes that drivers are idiots and steps in when they are in danger of hurting themselves. ABS forces you to brake like a professional driver, traction control forces you to accelerate smoothly, Air Bags stop you breaking your face on the windscreen. They all make decisions for you.

You are never in total control of what a car made this century is going to do. This means that people who learned to drive last century have needed to learn to drive in a different way, but the overall effect is that driving today is a lot safer than it used to be.

Some will say that it's a lot less fun, but none of those people have ever sat through a trial involving road deaths at a Magistrates' Court.

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