About this Site
I passed my driving test in November 1976 and have owned a car since July 1980. I have always enjoyed driving and valued the freedom and mobility it gave me, but it was something I tended to take for granted and have never been any kind of "car nut" or owner of high-powered cars. Indeed I currently drive what might be called a "supermini", albeit a mildly sporty version.
In my driving career stretching back to 1976 I have so far (touch wood) only ever had one motoring conviction - and that was in January 1981, for speeding in a Morris Marina, which I feel should count as some kind of achievement.
However, it became clear in the mid-1990s that a variety of new restrictions were being placed on the motorist, including road humps, fixed speed cameras and reduced speed limits. These trends have greatly intensified following the election of the Labour government in May 1997 - although most were started under the Tories. While I may have been personally irritated by these developments, at first I grudgingly accepted them as things that would, on balance, make the roads safer. When I looked into the subject more deeply, though, it became clear to me that the road safety justification for these kind of measures was extremely questionable, and very often their introduction was motivated less by a genuine concern to reduce accidents than by a desire to demonise car use and make it more frustrating and less attractive.
So the key theme of this website could be said to be that real road safety will not be enhanced by placing ever tighter curbs and restrictions on road users, but by educating drivers to behave responsibly, and by building new, safer roads and improving the design and layout of existing ones. And that the motor car, all things considered, is unquestionably A Good Thing.
The website doesn't have a single focus, and is a mixture of material, mostly serious, some less so. Probably the most distinctive element is the listing of Speed Limit Reductions in and around my local area, something I have not seen anywhere else.
Other key pages include:
Speed Cameras in and around Greater Manchester, Britain's Best Driving Roads, largely culled from other people's suggestions, the Photo Gallery, and a number of opinion pieces, particularly Limiting Speed, Limiting Safety, about the danger of requiring cars to have speed limiters, Turning the Screw, looking at the background to speed limit cuts, and Is the Price Right, questioning the rationale behind plans for road user charging.
This site should not be seen as simply "pro-car", as I am strongly in favour of greater investment in improved public transport provision. This particularly applies to railways and light rail systems, as I feel buses, while they have a role to play, are inherently limited and are always going to be seen as a second-best option. See Horses for Courses for more details. I have also over the years taken a lot more interest in the historical aspects of railways and canals than I have in motor cars.
However, as I have said elsewhere, it is wrong to present public transport as an either/or option with the car - the two should be seen as complementing each other within a properly integrated transport system.
I also strongly believe that a lot more could be done to develop vibrant urban communities, as can be seen in the centres of cities such as Bath and Edinburgh, where people, if they choose, do not need to depend on the permanent ownership of a motor car. But that has to be through choice, not compulsion.
It must be admitted that part of my support for better public transport arises from self-interest, as I am also a member of the Campaign for Real Ale, and obviously the breathalyser strictly limits the usefulness of a car in pursuing this particular interest.
The Association of British Drivers
You will notice favourable references on this website to the Association of British Drivers, an organisation that campaigns for transport choice, improved road user training, and a better road system, and takes road safety seriously rather than using it as an excuse to harass responsible drivers, and of which I am a member. The ABD describes its objectives as:
In some quarters, the ABD has been branded as a group of "Mr Toads" who want the right to drive high-powered cars at maniacal speeds down country lanes, scattering pedestrians and cyclists into the hedgerows. However, I feel this is simply untrue, and if you look at their website, particularly in the section dealing with their submissions to various government policy initiatives, you will find some very serious, responsible and well-considered pieces on road safety. Most of the national committee members of the organisation possess an advanced driving qualification from the IAM (see below) and/or RoSPA, which is more than can be said for most other bodies campaigning on road safety.
Many opponents of the motor car would brand any questioning of the simplistic and misleading "Speed Kills" slogan as irresponsible in itself, but even a cursory examination of the issue shows that it is not speed per se that kills, but inappropriate speed. Motorways may be our fastest roads, but because of their design they are also our safest.
As with any organisation, there is a kind of purist element in the ABD who believe that there should be no speed limits and no planning controls and Britain should be turned into a kind of giant retail park. I wouldn't go anywhere near as far as that, but I certainly believe that many speed limits are unreasonably low, speed cameras are widely abused for the purpose of revenue raising and harassing drivers, rather than deterring unsafe driving, and that Britain is investing far too little both in building new roads and maintaining the existing ones.
I think it also needs to be recognised that the motor car is one of the most liberating and empowering inventions in human history, and has given to ordinary people a degree of freedom of movement and lifestyle choice way beyond anything they had enjoyed in the whole of human history before the 20th century. However even its strongest advocates should accept that the one thing it does not excel at is moving large numbers of people from one specific location to another at the same time, as typically happens in commuting into and out of big cities.
Why do many people claim to detest cars? Very much, I suspect, because they detest freedom - not in abstract terms of votes and manifestos, but in terms of people actually exercising it to do what they want. There's still a lot of nostalgia in the Labour Party for the days when the ordinary working man was a council tenant and travelled on the bus, and they must cringe to see him driving his Mondeo Estate to the local B & Q to get some more stuff to tart up his owner-occupied house.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists
One of the key tenets of the ABD's policies is that the way to bring about genuine improvements in road safety is not through ever stricter regulation and enforcement, but through improved training of all road users - cyclists and pedestrians as well as drivers and motorcyclists.
In the Spring of 2000 I went through the Institute of Advanced Motorists Associate Course and passed the IAM Advanced Driving Test. My main motivation for doing this was that, having created a web page dealing with transport-related topics, I felt I should practice what I preach, and make a positive demonstration of commitment to road safety.
I found it a very worthwhile experience and certainly feel it has improved my driving both in terms of car control and hazard perception and anticipation. I would recommend it to anyone who drives a car or rides a motorcycle - and there are certainly plenty of people out there who are in dire need of it. One of the key things it teaches you is how to watch out for and keep out of the way of the other idiots on the road.
The IAM is a very worthy body and it should be mentioned that all the training is done by unpaid volunteers. However, it is hamstrung by the fact that it cannot be seen publicly to condone breaking speed limits, however daft they may be, and however much many are disregarded by the vast majority of drivers, and consequently sometimes comes across as having a dull, stick-in-the-mud image.
If you are interested in advanced driving issues, you may like to join an e-mail discussion group Roadcraft which is open to all, although mainly intended for those who have passed an advanced test.
Peter Edwardson: November 2003