Why the need to speed?

Gayle Wade on the culture of speeding on our roads

I THINK I am suffering from road rage.

After reading some recent comments on the roads in Suffolk, I feel really angry!

Last week, a district judge commented that motorists who keep to the speed limits are “a bit of a nuisance”.

The apparently thoughtless comment was made in court as Judge David Cooper was sentencing a motorist whose driving he himself described as “catastrophically bad” and “thoroughly irresponsible”.

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A Bury St Edmunds man had been found guilty of careless driving, failing to stop and failing to report an accident. The Judge told him: “We all do behave badly on the road - I do, you do.”

What kind of example is that setting to the region's reckless drivers? A comment like that normalises bad behaviour on the road, with the implication that aggressive driving is pretty much acceptable - after all, “we all do it”.

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The accident involved 'tailgating' then undertaking a vehicle travelling at 50mph on the A14 at the Haughley Bends, an accident black spot where the speed limit is clearly flagged up as a safety measure.

The offending driver clipped the other car on the way back into the outside lane.

The speed limit around the Haughley Bends has not been a complete success. Many drivers flout the spirit, if not the letter of the law, by slowing down only when they are passing the cameras (which have themselves been vandalised). Huge lorries often cruise through, overtaking the 50mph traffic, perhaps feeling that the instruction to slow down does not apply to them.

The fact that so many people have died there does not appear to be a compelling reason to obey the speed limit.

Plans are now afoot to build another, straighter stretch of road which bypasses the bends so that vehicles can carry on their way obliviously without having to hit the brakes. In one way this is a sensible measure, since there are several turnings off the road into adjacent villages. Residents feel unsafe as they cross the carriageway. But the planned change is yet another sacrifice to unbridled speed.

Dual carriageways use to be intentionally designed with bends in them so that drivers didn't fall asleep, cruising in a straight line. Now they are to be straightened out so vehicles can maintain a constant high speed.

Drivers using the A14 experience “near Third World motoring conditions” according to Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley. Is he serious? Drivers in developing countries may find themselves on dirt roads, negotiating potholes big enough for a car to fall into, avoiding boulders, fording rivers. You don't get much of that on the A14, which is a perfectly serviceable and well maintained road.

It is the drivers who use our roads who cause accidents, whether through simple miscalculation or inexperience, or through taking chances, driving too fast and allowing impatience with other road users to cloud their judgement.

In a society where everything has to be fast - from food to internet downloads or speed dating - we are all racing to get ahead of the game. But, to paraphrase an old saying, it is better to travel carefully and arrive.

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