Posted tagged ‘speeding’

At great speed

November 15, 2010

My current home is on Anglesea Road, Dublin. At various times of the day and night I come out of the house to walk my dog, and often the first task I have to accomplish is to cross the road. For those unfamiliar with the geography, Anglesea Road is in south Dublin, and it links two major thoroughfares into the city, and also runs past the Royal Dublin Society showgrounds. However, the houses on it are residential only. On either end of the road are some quite impressive speed bumps.

For all that, when I try to cross the road, and unless there happens to be traffic gridlock on it at that moment (which is not that rare), I will invariably find that it is a horribly dangerous undertaking, as the average speed of cars is often around 50 mph (or 80 km/h, in a 50 km/h or 30 mph speed limit area), and a number of cars are clearly going at much higher speeds. At no point since I have moved here have I ever seen a police speed check, and motorists have clearly factored that into their driving. On one occasion I saw a car drive past at what must have been 70 mph or so, and the driver then screeched to a stop as a car had stopped just in front of him; there was no accident, but it was a narrow miss. I walked up and knocked on his window, and then asked him whether he realised what speed he was doing. He gave me some pithy advice which I would be unable to follow, physically speaking.

In this country, speed limits are routinely ignored. Just occasionally I understand why, where some speed limits are inappropriately low – but only occasionally.

Tonight new speed cameras and speed checks will come into operation across the country, but I fear it won’t change a whole lot. Motorists seem to be of the view that speeding is their right, and while they will avoid being caught, for them that seems to be some sort of freedom fight against tyranny. My suspicion is that speed cameras will make some money for the state (perhaps we need that right now), but won’t change habits, unless we do more than just improve enforcement. We need to change attitudes. we need to stop kind and considerate people getting into cars and becoming reckless killers. We need to change the national culture.

Ramping up

September 12, 2010

A day or two ago I was walking down a road in Dublin with a friend. Behind us we could hear the all-too-familiar sound of a car revving up and racing down the road at a speed that was no doubt twice the permitted limit. As it passed us we could see the driver grinning wildly as he roared past in his 1990s Mazda sports car. But what was remarkable about this scene was that it was played out on a road that, like so many Dublin roads, had ramps (speed bumps) all down it. As he raced over each ramp his head must have hit the car roof, and goodness knows what this was doing to the car; well, what it wasn’t doing was slow it down.

I don’t believe I have ever come across a town or city with so many ramps as in Dublin. First they started to appear on residential roads, no doubt as a device to slow traffic down and thereby protect other road users, including pedestrians and children. But after a while they began to appear everywhere, and were just as likely to be found on major thoroughfares.

I suspect there is hardly a car in Ireland with its suspension intact – they have all been shaken and bumped to pieces by the hurdles they have to cross on every road. I am also beginning to wonder whether there are people whose backs or spines have been similarly affected. Of course I understand the thinking behind this policy, and agree that road safety must trump comfort and the protection of suspensions. And yet I wonder whether we have taken all this too far. Indeed the sight of the mad young man in his Mazda now makes me wonder whether ramps actually achieve their intended purpose. Quite apart from what all this stop-start driving must do to fuel consumption.

Arguing against a method to slow down cars is not easy, but Irish roads are bumpy enough at the best of times as road repairs are not our strong suit. ┬áLet us just say that I won’t be terribly sad if we have somewhat fewer of these bumps on our roads in future.