4 Jul 2013

You Can’t Do A U-Turn On A Motorway

I’m cross.

A while ago, a group of smug bastards in suits said that they would consider raising the speed limit on motorways. Modern vehicles were capable of being driven safely at speeds in excess of 70mph – the proof of this, they said, was that lots of people drove on motorways at speeds in excess of 70mph and most of them didn’t end up even a little bit dead – and that perhaps it was time to reconsider an upper limit that was introduced in 1966, when most cars, let alone their drivers, would have expired at anything approaching that kind of velocity.

Allowing people to drive a little bit quicker would mean they got to where they were going sooner, and goods could be delivered quicker too, meaning it would be good for business, and so good for the economy. It was a plan with no drawbacks, allegedly.

Drivers* rejoiced.

But making such a major change, even when the increase involved was just ten miles an hour, would require trials and pilot schemes and information campaigns, all of which cost money (although to be honest, all they really have to do is revise the settings on the speed cameras and not say anything at all), so the timescale for this was a bit vague.

And then they changed their minds.

I can’t say I’m entirely surprised. We’re constantly being reminded that this is a time of austerity, and a small increase in the speed limit is hardly going to be a priority at a time like this. And if they’d come out and said that this was the reason, nobody would have been particularly upset. We could wait; we’ve waited this long.

However, they cited a number of reasons, one of which was this: raising the speed limit could ‘alienate women voters’.

Excuse me, but sod off.

There will always be a certain type of hand-wringing, tying-bootees-to-fences, wholegrain, won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children women who will consider any attempt to make drivers’ lives easier a direct assault on them and their offspring, but they are very much a minority, and let’s face it, they aren’t going to vote for Mr Cameron and his shiny-faced chums even if he moves parliament out of Westminster and into a vegan peace yurt in Glastonbury. The rest of us, however, are unlikely to be alienated by not getting flashed by speed cameras, getting where we want to go a bit faster or being allowed to carry on doing what most people are doing every day anyway without worrying that the DVLA will want to put us in prison for driving at 76mph.

I took a quick poll of female friends to gauge reaction to the news. “How would you feel,” I said, “about driving at 80mph on the motorway?”

“I probably wouldn’t drive at 80mph,” said one, her tongue perhaps slightly embedded in her cheek, “I did most of this morning’s journey at 85.”

“Fine,” said another.

“Don’t you think the government would be disregarding women and pandering to nasty, nasty men in big, powerful cars if they increased the speed limit though?”

They looked at me as if I’d suddenly started speaking Mandarin, because all their cars could do 80mph on the school run/going to Sainsburys/taking the dog to the poodle parlour/whatever else it is Mr Cameron’s chums think women voters do in their cars, if it was permitted. Of course, we don’t drive at those speeds or anything approaching them for any of those reasons because that would be stupid, as well as illegal, but the point is, our cars could. And if you’re someone who might find traffic flowing on the motorway at 80mph a bit intimidating, the chances are you already find 70mph a bit much anyway.

Okay, okay, I know I’m probably overreacting, and you, dear reader, should take this rant with a rather large bucketful of salt, but I’ve never heard such a patronising load of nonsense. They’ve probably alienated just as many women voters by dropping the proposal and then using them as the excuse for doing it.

*Perhaps not all of them. But most of the ones that use motorways. Probably.

Article by the wonderful Sharon Endacotte**

**See all of Sharon's stuff here