The Association of British Drivers
At the wheel of a drivers' revolt
Phil Llewellin meets the founder of a new pressure group dedicated to a fairer deal for the motorist.
Brian Gregory, Chairman of The Association of British Drivers writes.
Cast your mind back just a few years. Do you remember when "The Wall" came down? Remember our political leaders hailing it as a victory for individuality, for freedom of expression, for everything that is Right?
1. Government is concerned only with revenue, not road safety.
2. The 70 mph limit is being retained not for road safety purposes (it serves none) ONLY to generate revenue from the many drivers who will be caught exceeding this outmoded and inappropriate limit.
3. Government is embarking on a campaign of blatant and ruthless exploitation and oppression of the motorist for the sole purpose of getting out of its current fiscal bind.
4. Once it gets a taste for the suppression of individual freedoms, who knows where Government will stop? A police state is a police state, whether of communist, capitalist - or any other political persuasion.
THESE MEASURES MUST BE DEFEATED!
£200 to drive from London to Manchester
Yes ! This is a not the proposal of some loony from an Anti-Car fringe group. This is what could happen if Mr Robert Key Minister for Roads has his way. He has proposed a penalty charge to be recorded electronically-of up to 50 p per mile for every 5 mph over the limit a driver travels. Thus a 200 mile journey could cost £200 at 80 mph. Oh Yes, and that is on top of the standard road charge which the Government would like to introduce. The Government's green paper on this subject "Paying for Better Motorways" suggests a charge of 1.5p mile, or £3.00 for 200 miles (that works out at £225 for a typical 15,000 annual mileage) AND on top of the so called "Road Fund" Licence AND on top of excise duty and VAT on fuel. Well we suppose the Government is desperate to make the soon to be privatised Railways look cheap - even after the fares go up! With your help, we want to stop this madness. Make your feelings known - contact you local MP. Julien Rowden
ABD's response to motorway charging proposals
Letter addressed to the Department of Transport.
I write to offer my comments in response to the Governments proposals as set out in the document "PAYING FOR BETTER MOTORWAYS: ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION".
I strongly disagree with the Government's proposals to charge drivers for using motorways.
AA and RAC at Loggerheads
ABD officials have contacted the RAC and AA to check their stance on the motorway speed limit. Jeremy Vanke Public Policy Manager at the RAC confirmed that the RAC supports an increase in the motorway speed limit to 80 mph, but said that the policy was under review. Andrew Howard of the AA stated that the AA does not support any increase in the speed limit. The membership is advised to join the RAC and cancel their AA subscription and write to the AA to tell them why.
Lies Damned Lies and Statistics
ABD members have written to the Minister of Roads and Traffic to protest at the use of robot radar traps on motorways, (virtually the safest roads in the world), in the safest traffic conditions, and the failure to increase the motorway speed limit to a realistic level, not less than 85 mph. The Minister has confirmed that the speed limit will not be increased and stated that "international evidence suggests that a 1 mph rise in average speeds results in a 7 % rise in deaths". No doubt a reduction in average speeds of 15 mph will make our roads entirely safe ?
The D.o.T. is going to install German style traffic controls on the new widened (dual four lane) sections of motorway only, starting with the M25. The system measures traffic conditions and adjusts the speed limit to the optimum level. In Germany the system reduces the speed limit in poor conditions to prevent motorway madness type pile ups, but in good conditions speed is unlimited. The D.o.T. has confirmed that the upper limit under the new system will be, yes you've guessed it 70 mph!
Julien Rowden ABD Committee Member writes.
The History of the 70 mph limit
Until 1965 there was no overall speed limit on Britain's roads. The 70 mph limit was introduced by Barbara Castle, then Minister of Transport, who incidentally, did not even hold a driving license herself ! It was expressed to be an "experiment" (isn't every unpopular new measure?), and for the most part those exceeding the limit were given no more than a rebuke. Little did anyone realise that one day this "experiment" would be enforced using space age technology and sophisticated electronics, and that large sections of the community would be "criminalised" simply by the act of driving a little over an arbitrary limit regardless of whether any danger was actually caused.
Just to paint a brief picture of the era, Britain had just begun to put in place a motorway network a quarter of a century after Germany, The United States and Italy. Part of the M1 was open, as was a short length of the M6 and a stretch of the M5 just south of Birmingham to a point just south of Worcester. The M4 elevated section had just been opened and that motorway extended to just beyond Slough. Elsewhere traffic crawled along roads whose routes would, for the most part, have been quite familiar to Roman soldiers two thousand years earlier.
Congestion might be a problem today, but it is certainly not a new one. Many main roads were notorious for their traffic jams as cars fought their way through town centres and villages in the 1960's. The early motorways were all two lane only and crash barriers, already common on the continent, were almost non-existent here. As a consequence there were horrific head on collisions where vehicles had crossed the central reservation. The 70 mph limit may have seemed reasonable at the time. A few makers produced fast luxury cars and sports cars, most of them hand built, but any car capable of reaching the magic 100 mph was quite something. The recently launched E-Type Jaguar was one of them.
Tackling Road Casualties - The Logical Approach
Despite what the government may have you believe road casualties in Great Britain have been falling steadily since the 1930's despite a twenty fold increase in the number of vehicles on the road since then.
Great Britain Car Crime Capital of Europe
Time was when wise men and women cautioned against taking expensive and desirable machinery to Italy because car theft there was said to be endemic. In 1992 car thefts in the United Kingdom were approaching 600,000 (excluding thefts from motor cars) nearly double the rate in Italy. Meanwhile , the Germans think they have problems. Since re-unification car theft there has risen by 245% - but is still only a quarter of the rate over here.
The Association of British Drivers held its first meeting in Derby on September 26th, 1992. Our objective is to provide an active, responsible voice & lobby for the beleaguered British car driver.
Formed by a number of responsible people from all walks of life & including long standing members of the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
The Association wholly rejects proposals for trunk road and motorway toll charges and road pricing as an unprovoked and totally unjustified assault on the liberties and livelihoods of Britain's motorists. Government already extracts FOUR TIMES AS MUCH from British Motorists as it ploughs back into transport related projects. It is therefore completely unacceptable for Government to suggest that British road users should be compelled to further contribute (even to the extent of the lowest reported estimate of an additional £15 to £20 per month) for the "privilege" of using badly maintained urban and rural roads, and often congested and persistently under-engineered motorways; to which latter roads are frequently applied an ineffective (in road safety terms) traffic control policy and an archaic speed limit policy.
The Associated considers the placing of speed cameras on the safest roads in the country, our motorways, to be little more than a cynical, revenue generating measure; like toll charges and urban road pricing.
It does, however, WHOLLY SUPPORT the positioning of cameras at such places as traffic lights and in other urban locations, where they can be expected to make a genuine contribution to Government's stated aim of reducing road casualties.
If the purpose of the 1991 Road Traffic Act is to reduce road casualties, then the enforcement and punishment policy is topsy-turvy when a driver travelling at 40 mph in a 30 mph zone (33% above the limit) is much more likely to be involved in a fatal accident, and yet remain un-apprehended; while the points penalty and fine which can be imposed on a driver proceeding responsibly at 93 mph (the same proportion, 33%, above the speed limit) on an empty motorway (who is much less likely to be involved in an accident) could be substantially stiffer under the provisions of this Act.
This is a nonsense: there is no correspondence between the points penalty and the seriousness of the offence. Many people may be unaware that two minor motoring offices within a three year period could now result in loss of driving licence, and hence liberty, for 6 months. Surely, if Government's concern is truly road safety, and not merely revenue, penalties and fines should be assessed to reflect the TRUE ROAD SAFETY IMPLICATIONS of a given offence.
Clearly, the main thrust of Government road safety policy should be to educate motorists to obey REALISTIC speed limits and above all else to make safe use of speed and stopping distance on all roads. Unrealistic speed limits are unlikely to be respected, and those drivers apprehended will merely feel aggrieved at being persecuted (and prosecuted) illogically.
A transport policy as blatantly mercenary as this is currently proposed is a indisputable indication that Government is totally unconcerned with road safety, and committed only to extorting as much from the British road user as is conceivably obtainable. The Association of British Drivers aims to bring these vital transport issues (with their worrying implications for the preservation of individual liberty) to the forefront of the political agenda; with the objective of, if necessary, influencing the voting intentions of road users in the direction of whichever political party offers them the fairest, most logical, consistent and truly road-safety conscious set of policies.
The detailed objectives of the Association of British Drivers include:-
Counter Anti-motorist Lobbies
Oppose Unnecessary and Oppressive Policing
Oppose Unreasonable Motoring Taxation, Fines and Toll Charges
Campaign to Raise Driving Standards
Campaign to Raise Vehicle & Road Safety Standards
Campaign to Raise The Motorway Speed Limit in Safe Traffic Conditions
Promote The Responsible Use of Modern Traffic Control Technology
Campaign to Achieve An Increase in Transport Investment Funding
Achieve Effective Communication between the Government and the Motorist
Don't delay! As a motorist your liberty and your wallet is under threat. Join the Association of British Drivers and help other ordinary motorists campaign to protect our right to drive on British roads without being subject to unreasonable speed limits, unfair fines, tolls and gross over taxation.
Just fill in the form below and send, with a cheque (payable to The Association of British Drivers), to the Secretary, The Association of British Drivers, [address removed as no longer applicable]. (If you have been convicted of any motoring offence in the last ten years please give details. (The Association reserves the right to refuse membership to any persons convicted of dangerous or reckless driving, drunken driving or similar offences). The Committee has set the membership subscription at £12 per year January to December, (Less £1 per full month after January).
[ Form omitted ]
Evil Eye Technology
The authorities have installed a video camera system on the M20 in Kent to police the temporary 50 mph speed limit in road works. The system is able to read car number plates and measure vehicle speeds. The registration numbers of speeding drivers are displayed on a variable message sign further down the road. More advanced systems are being developed which will connect with the DVLC computer in Swansea thus enabling the complete robotisation of traffic speed policing. A summons could then arrive on your doormat without a specific decision to prosecute you having been made by a human being!
Electronic Tagging First Criminals Now Motorists
Electronic tagging first used in America to keep tabs on offenders on bail is being considered for use on our soon to be privatised motorways. Cars will by law carry an electronic identifier which will be logged by road side receivers. The receivers will be connected to a computer system which will issue "Road Charge Bills" to motorists. The computer will know when and where you have travelled and so will the authorities! This will be an unprecedented assault on the privacy and civil liberty of millions of law abiding citizens. It is interesting to note how quick our Lords and Masters, politicians, are in drafting legislation which will protect their privacy from prying journalists and how cavalier they are with our privacy.
GATSO on M5 in Devon?
Signs indicating the use of police enforcement cameras have appeared on the M5 at the Devon border. Assuming that this is not an empty threat, GATSO cameras are being used to police traffic speeds on what are very nearly the safest roads in the world and in the safest traffic conditions. Note that GATSO cameras are preprogrammed robots which can only police fixed speed limits and are therefore useless in policing reduced speed limits, as indicated on matrix signs, in poor traffic conditions or in emergencies. Speed limits are therefore not policed when they are really needed and policed only when they are not. Motorway Madness!
British Motorways nearly bottom of the class
According to a survey conducted among 7,000 frequent European motorway drivers, when asked "Who has the best motorway systems in Europe" 47% of those questioned responded West Germany; 21% France; 8% Belgium; 7% Switzerland; 6% Italy; 5% Holland; 3% Spain; 2% UK; 1% Portugal. It is worth noting that the most popular motorway system in Europe has no overall speed limit.
Living with risk
According to Government statistics if you drive 10,000 kilometres a year on this country's motorways you will suffer a risk of one in 33,000 per annum of being killed in a motorway accident. The BMA Guide to Living With Risk states that the annual risk of fatality from smoking 10 cigarettes per day is one in 200; from violence or poisoning, one in 3,300; from influenza, one in 5,000; from a road accident, one in 8,000; from leukaemia, one in 12,500; from playing soccer, one in 25,000; and from an accident in the home, one in 26,000. Driving on our motorways is therefore comparatively safe despite the fact that most drivers ignore our outdated motorway speed limit.
Budget Road Fund License increase likely
Media reports have indicated that the Chancellor Kenneth Clarke is considering hitting motorists with a massive hike in the road fund license in order to help get the Government out of its " Awful Hole"! Apparently one option being considered is the "layered" system as used in France; the motorist would suffer a levy based on the engine size, fuel consumption and list price.
Matrix signs not working in fog
On Wednesday 15th September 1993 Brian Redhead on the "Today Programme" reported a burnt out vehicle at junction 1A of the M40 and warned drivers to take care. What Mr Redhead had failed to mention was that the M40 in the Chilterns was covered in thick fog and that the matrix signs were not switched on. Had there been a bad accident on this section at that time the traffic control authorities would have been in no small way responsible for the death and injury thereby caused.
DoT Plans Monster Motorways
The DoT intends to accommodate the forecast growth in demand for road space by widening part of the existing motorway network to dual four, and seven lane standard. The DoT is considering allowing undertaking on these widened sections and has put the proposal out for consultation. Furthermore the DoT proposes reduced speed limits to offset increased accident risk that would result from the introduction of undertaking. Trucks would no longer be limited to the two inside lanes. Imagine driving on a dual five lane section of the M1 at a maximum of 50 mph sandwiched on all sides by massive juggernauts. A pretty grim prospect!
Lone Drivers to be Banned from Outside Lane
The Transport Secretary has visited the USA to investigate the use of restricted lanes for the sole use by passenger carrying vehicles. Car drivers unless carrying at least one passenger would be banned from using the fast lane at peak times. This would mean that lone drivers travelling from the North intending to reach the channel coast via the M25 would be severely delayed by being caught in the congested inside lanes on the M25. The small proportion of drivers choosing to share their cars would not fully occupy the outside lane leaving it virtually free of traffic. Highly convenient for chauffeured VIP's, Government Ministers and Royalty. Not only would this be unfair, it would be an inefficient way to use scarce road space. Another bright idea from the DoT.
Members urged to write to their MP
The Committee urges ABD members to write to their MPs to make their views known. MPs will reply to their constituents letters and will obtain an answer from the Government Department concerned. In our case this is the DoT. This ensures that Government is made aware of our views and teases out the issues.
Speed alone is not the problem
An article in the Guardian newspaper on 28th August 1993 reported the views of a senior traffic policeman, Inspector Michael Cunningham, of Hertfordshire Police's Traffic Management Unit. He was reported to have said that, the biggest single cause of motorway accidents was not speed alone, but drivers misjudging their own speed and the distance between vehicles and that it was important for drivers to look beyond the car in front and to adjust their speed to the traffic conditions.It was further reported that 28 % of all accidents on the M25 were caused by drivers misjudging their speed and distance and 27% were caused by motorists driving too close to the car in front. The Guardian's correspondent made the point that while speeding was not a problem on its own it could compound other problems such as roadworks, drivers misjudging speed and distance, and close following.
Members urged to send in letters and articles in to On The Road
This journal seeks to provide a forum for debate. Please send in letters and articles for future issues of this journal. Your views count. Preference will be given to items on 3.5 inch floppy plus hard copy (any mainstream WP format will do). Publication cannot be guaranteed and items may be edited. Please give your name and address when submitting items. (disks will be returned after copying). Please send items to the Secretary, The Association of British Drivers, [address removed as no longer applicable].
ABD needs more members
Government is in the process of taking decisions which affect you as a motorist.
Your liberty and your wallet is under threat.
Encourage your friends and colleagues to join the ABD and to help in the campaign to protect our freedom.
It is vital that we as motorists organise NOW. If we delay it will be too late!
This edition of 'On The Road' was published in November 1993