30km/h only manages to drive me to distraction

A PROPOSAL to introduce a 30 kilometre-an-hour speed limit on Cork city’s main street is not only dumb, it is potentially dangerous.

It follows the introduction on Monday of a similar speed limit in Dublin and on the first day of its operation there it succeeded only in infuriating motorists and bringing the streets of the capital to a standstill.

Many saw it as a revenue-raising exercise as they watched gardaí along the quays in Dublin from 7am handing out penalty points and €80 fines.

Even the Automobile Association sees no logic in the Dublin 30km/h speed limit, branding it “absurd”.

It would make even less sense in Cork. According to Garda sources, there has been no serious motoring accident involving excessive speed on the main thoroughfare, Patrick Street, in the past two years. Yet that is one of the streets targeted, along with Oliver Plunkett Street and possibly side streets leading to the South Mall.

According to senior engineer Ian Winning, the council wants to “promote pedestrianisation and cycling in the city centre”, ie, the Green agenda. But this is a different kind of green – naive, brainless and thoughtless.

In the first instance, it means, of course, that motorists could find themselves out-jogged and out-cycled on Patrick Street. There is no plan to extend the speed limit to cyclists and anyone fit enough to ride a two wheeler knows it is not particularly difficult to exceed 30km an hour from the top of Patrick’s Hill to MacCurtain Street, even if the wind is against you. (Believe me.. I’ve tried it.)

All this new regulation will do is make drivers more paranoid and more enraged than they already are, leading, predictably, to more accidents. For years now, we have been hearing the mantra “speed kills” as if it is simply the speed itself rather than the attitude of drivers that lies behind it that leads to the level of accidents on our roads.

We now have a large population of drivers who regard sticking to the speed limit as their main responsibility towards road safety, without any intelligent thought for safe motoring.

Consider the famous Dutch experiment where they removed road signs and forced drivers to think more seriously about how to deal with junctions and with other road users. The study found that the roads actually became safer – with increased individual responsibility drivers automatically became more cautious and the accident rates tumbled.

We have in the region of 400,000 legal, licensed motorists in Ireland who have never passed a driving test, simply because they were never required to. Yet so long as they obey the speed limits, they are free from annoyance or interference from the “crouching tiger, hidden cop” syndrome that has invaded this country in the past five years or so. They are the battalion of traffic police with hand-held cameras who hide in hedgerows and behind gable walls and pounce on unsuspecting motorists who may be driving sensibly and safely but over the speed limit.

This “caught on camera” fixation by our road safety authorities means that Granny trundling along in her Fiesta to her bridge game is as likely to receive penalty points as the 19-year-old nutter who thinks he owns the road.

Ridiculous speed limits contribute little to road safety. On Dublin’s Stillorgan dual carriageway – as wide as the Liffey – you may, for instance, be required to slow down to 60km/h or less, yet approach Killorglin, Co Kerry from Killarney and you can put the boot down and travel at up to 100km/h. Where is the sense in that?

Excessively low speed limits enforced with the aid of cameras will give us legal compliance but little else. Forcing us all to fox-trot our way to work in the mornings is no way to ensure safety on our roads.


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