Estimated Time to Read: 3 minutes

Have you ever been walking along the street and been caught behind an older person or a pram? Of course you have, and it can be incredibly infuriating, especially if you’re in a rush and need to get somewhere. But would you consider them dangerous? Well, perhaps if they suddenly stop and you bump into them, you’ll probably curse them just as one might curse a table that they stub their toe on despite it being an inanimate object.

This is the line of thinking of Ian Tootill in Vancouver, Canada, who is opposing the current speed limits in the area and says they should instead be increased to 130 or even 140mph. Tootlill’s justification, the latest in a long line of run-ins and quarrels he’s raised with auto-authorities, is that drivers will be able to judge for themselves when is too fast even if the legal limit was raised just so; that many already exceed the limit anyway so to penalise them for profit through fines is ridiculous.

We should ask whether it is right to blur the lines between limits? Is it right to complicate things by saying that, ‘yes this is OK but you should really only go at this speed’? This seems to rely too much on “unspoken rules” or “smallprint”, and would not be defined clearly enough. It all seems a bit too lax and liberal when speaking about driving when you really can’t be. When on the road, you travel alongside total strangers that you can not account for, so essentially your life is in their hands, and vice versa, which is incredibly worrying. While it would be nice to think that people can judge for themselves when they’re going too fast, you’re not taking into account things like alcohol consumption which affects self-perception and inexperience behind the wheel. It’s too much to assume of complete strangers.

Tootill isn’t calling for some revolutionary upheaval of the road or drink driving limits. He points to Germany and their autobahns as evidence that it can work to have slower drivers keep to the right, with an emphasis on what he calls ‘smarter driving’. However, surely “smarter driving” can only come with time and experience on the road? Plus, by lifting the limit that much higher, you’re putting that temptation for drivers to try it out if they have never, which is a dangerous game to play. If they have never driven that fast before, what say they will still manage to control their vehicle at such speeds, without even taking weather or road-conditions into consideration. You can’t really dangle that carrot, without expecting some repercussions when drivers take you up on it.

Of course the problem with all of this and applying it to different areas or even countries, is that every location has different needs, landscapes and demographics of drivers populating it. If one area gives in and does this, then a small minority in another will have something to point to and cause a fuss for the limit to be increased in their area. It is also difficult to define what exactly is “slow” from one person to another, whether in general or in particular circumstances; when we’re in a hurry or late, what we consider “slow” can be very different to when we have no place to be in a hurry.

However, the main problem with this idea is that for years, the public have been given the message in promotional campaigns that quite simply, ‘speed kills’ (literally, this has been the short tagline in many ads). To increase the limit now would be akin to turning your back on all that previous work, and mixed messages is not something you want to deliver to drivers.

Paul works with a firm of road traffic solicitors who specialise in defending those charged with driving offences. Part of his role for them requires keeping up-to-date with news related to preventions, laws, penalties and stories regarding road traffic, so as to provide relevant content.