LETTER OF THE WEEK: Concentrate on dangerous driving, not just speeding

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I read your report on speeding and Matt O’Connell’s comments in last Thursday’s Northamptonshire Telegraph.

In the 1970s, I was fortunate enough to attend the British School of Motoring’s High Performance Course (now The HPC), at the time directed by John Lyon.

John was a successful racing driver in his own right, a Hendon Class 1 Police driver and reckoned to be one of the top driving instructors in the UK.

John said to me: “It isn’t speed that kills. It is the inappropriate use of speed, without due regard for road, weather and traffic conditions, the skill
of the driver and the design and handling ability of the
vehicle.”

John’s view was reinforced in 2003 by the then Chief Constable of Durham, Paul Garvin.

He said that accidents were almost always caused by factors other than speed – including drinking, drug-taking or simple carelessness.

He said: “The cause of accidents is clearly something different than exceeding the speed limit and we ought to be looking at those other factors.”

My own experience, based on driving between 12,000 and 40,000 miles annually over nearly 50 years, bears these comments out.

Almost all the incidents I have witnessed in recent years have been the result of the failure of drivers to follow the “mirror, signal, manoeuvre” sequence; the failure to observe correct lane discipline at roundabouts; or doing other things whilst also driving.

Last year while driving near Weedon I narrowly missed being crushed by a 38-tonne semi-trailer.

The driver was well within the speed limit but he wasn’t paying sufficient attention to the traffic around him and he couldn’t stop within the limits of his own driving skill and the design of his vehicle.

I cannot agree with Matt O’Connell that “the stark reality is that speeding on its own is one of the biggest causes of collisions”.

More importantly, his views don’t match those of much greater experts than me like John Lyon and Paul Garvin, who have come to conclusions very different from his.

There is a risk that we are starting to equate safe driving with slow driving and dangerous driving with fast driving, and that therefore reducing speed will of itself reduce accidents.

The police have their hands full with combatting a range of crimes, including particularly terrorism as we have seen all too recently in Manchester.

More officers are needed to combat serious crimes rather than speeding offences.

While it is important that
each police force has traffic officers, these should concentrate on those who drive dangerously (and sometimes fast), not on those who simply drive fast.

As J M Fangio once observed: “Driving is an easy art to acquire: the secret is concentration”. That is the real key to safe driving.

Jimmy James

Stanwick