All the signs of another TTS road safety campaign

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In the UK, ‘de-restricted’ single carriageways normally have an upper limit of 60 mph, dual carriageways 70. So take pity on the hapless UK visitors faced with signs which are familiar but mean other things.

In general, I prefer the decent approach, which tells you what you need to know rather than forces you – on pain of fine or prosecution – to do your own research. I know ignorance is no defence, but don’t let’s play games. Clear, readable indications to all road users are more than just a courtesy; they are also defendable in law.

Furthermore, I champion the clever French habit of repeatedly displaying the designated speed restriction throughout the zone, with the word ‘rappel’ (remember) displayed prominently below the number. A definite ‘force de freinage’!

Now TTS has joined the speed debate with the promise of an Islandwide review. The UK is seriously considering reducing the 60 mph limit to 50, as both a fuel and safety measure. Buoyed by the Rospa advert which demonstrates how survival rates increase as speeds decline, the urban 30 is likely to be reduced to 20, especially near schools.

Many UK town centres already impose 20 mph zones. They’re familiar here too, though curiously, at some locations where you’d expect to find restrictions because of impaired visibility, lack of pavements, narrow carriageways etc, we’re allowed to zoom along at black-slash 40.

With savage perversity or ungodly irony, many of our local parish churches come with graveyards attached, but a distinct lack of safe passage – as if they’re waiting for something.

Local ‘cut your speed’ campaigns have been launched – though these can fall victim to the Nimbys and publicity-seekers.

While it makes obvious good copy to show kiddies waving placards at the roadside and accident ‘victims’ hobbling on crutches, protesters need to ensure their evidence is unshakable. People do get injured if they step out without looking.

From Toad of Toad Hall to Jeremy Clarkson, the thrill of speed behind the wheel has pumped up testosterone levels by the bucket-seatful. Indeed, motor-head TV shows like ‘Top Gear’ have recently been castigated by anti-speed campaigners for encouraging teenage drivers to break the speed limit – assuming they know what value the black slash on white background represents. The UK’s Road Safety minister is backing the criticism, saying that those who speed ‘play Russian roulette with their lives and those of others’.

So it’s with a certain irony that the chief executive of one of the companies responsible for the speed cameras enforcing the limits recently collected a deserved ban and six-point penalty for doing over a ‘ton’ in a 70 mph zone.

You could argue that driving is probably the second most popular after-school activity most young adults will go on to experience, so why not include it on the curriculum? It would represent a good investment for individuals and the community, and prevent the take-up of bad practices learned from amateur instructors or ‘chancers’ getting behind the wheel without professional instruction.

School kids are, after all, used to sitting theory examinations and practical sessions could be scheduled into timetables. But while it would be institutional, it shouldn’t be a push-over.

Both here and in the UK, motoring authorities are inclined to make the driving test harder. It’s a long time since all you had to do was to saunter up to your parish hall and, with the connivance of a principal, and perhaps a derisory circuit of the car park plus the ability to read a number-plate across the street, gain the seal of approval from the duty Centenier and a stamp in your little book.

And at the other end of the age scale, there are recommendations that the proficiency of our senior citizens be scrutinised more closely. How many elderly residents will tell you of their reluctance to drive into town or venture out at night fearing that a minor accident after a lifetime behind the wheel could rob them of their licence, insurance and mobility?

And support for the toughening-up is coming from none other than Dame Joan Bakewell, the champion of the elderly, who feels it’s in their own interests as well as for the protection of other road users that their skills are reassessed and endorsed.

When it’s not nine-tenths obscured by branchage-hungry hedgerows, our local signage tends to represent a traditionally ‘minimalist’ approach. Even original displays of felt-tip pen poster art have popped up to adorn country parish waysides. So, along with the roadside black-slash recruits, what else might be coming to a signpost near you?

Given the incremental spread of SUV body-shells, perhaps more ‘Narrow Road’ indications for country lanes, or ‘Tow-away Zone’ to combat the mayhem created by sloth and selfishness around school gates and approaches.

It nearly slipped me by, but I did notice that 5 May saw the launch of the International Safe Roads campaign, in that paragon city of road manners – Rome.

With the current obsession with international plagues and illnesses, it was chilling to learn that road casualties now account for more deaths than malaria in the developing world. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

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