Friday 14 March 2014

I broke the law!

I’d always call myself a law abiding citizen.  I don’t think it really goes with being Christian to be breaking the law on a regular basis but the truth is that many of us are. In fact a number of times a week and often we don’t even realise it.

Back in November I was caught on camera for doing 38 mph in a 30 zone. My defence – I thought it was in a 40. Since November I have told my ‘woe is me’ tale to anyone who would listen. ‘Oh can you believe it I was on a big ‘A’ road and it changed from a 60 to 30 and I did not see any signs? Now I have to pay a £100 fine and have 3 points on my licence or go on a 4 hour speed awareness course for the cost of £85. Argghh, I’m so hard done by!’ or something along those lines.

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This Monday was the date of my course and I turned up on time and found 24 other people all there to do the same. I felt like a criminal as we all waited in silence, none of us wanting to be there but all desiring to keep a clean licence. We headed in for the course and after the usual housekeeping the trainer asked us what we hoped to get from the course. Obviously 95% of us where there as we had to be and some were candid enough to say this. I’ll admit I was one of those people and I could not imagine any value coming from this course.

Having now sat through my 4 hours, I’ll tell you that yes it is too long and could be condensed but then I realise they don’t want to make it too easy. However, the course content is excellent, I think every driver should attend this course and have a refresher and learn about the impact their driving can have.

I wanted to share with you some of the information I learnt on this course.

Are you aware of the street lighting rule? It seems to have been around for ever but has changed in the last twenty years since I started driving, there is no longer any rule about the distance between the street light. Basically nowadays if there are (three of more) street lights on either side of the road then it is a 30 mph unless there are clear signs to say otherwise.

In the absence of street lights you can then assume the road is national speed limit, again unless there are clear signs to the contrary.

Did you know that national speed limit means different things for different vehicles? Large vans, towing cars and minibuses all have a maximum speed of 50 mph where the road is a single carriageway and is national speed limit. Large goods lorries then have to go slower still and the maximum is 40 mph. Why is this important to you if you don’t drive one of those? Because it means you need never get irate again behind a slower vehicle, they are just keeping to the law and being safe.

Do dual carriageways have to have 2 lanes for each side of the road? No, not at all. What makes a road a dual carriageway and takes the national speed limit for cars up to 70 mph is the fact that it has a central reservation (a physical barrier – hedge, grassed area, concrete divider, metal low barrier etc)

Have you ever heard the phrase – ‘Only a fool breaks the two second rule’? I hadn’t before yesterday but it is a useful one. We spoke a lot about tailgating and how dangerous it is. If you are being followed too closely by another car the answer is to ease off the gas and start to slow a little, this creates room between you and the car in front and either allows the impatient car behind to overtake or at least you get safe breaking distance in the event of an accident.

The two second rule is about watching the car in front of you and as it goes past a fixed marker you would start to count ‘one thousand, two thousand’ and if you reach that marker as you finish speaking then you are staying a good two seconds behind them and have kept a safe distance.

Why are 30 mph roads so important?  I’ll be honest, I always feel 30 mph is far too slow, it feels boring and I think to myself can another 5 mph really hurt or often I won’t even be looking at the speedo and won’t notice my speed has crept up.

I learnt that if I hit a pedestrian at 20 mph there is 2% chance I’ll kill them, at 30 mph that rises to 8% and at 40 mph it has risen to a 32% chance of killing them. Now I could be blasé or over confident and say that I’m a careful driver and I won’t hit anyone as I’d stop in the time as I always have 100% concentration but I’d be lying. I try to be careful and I try to be 100% aware but kids in the car don’t allow for that, nor does poor weather conditions, pot holes in the road or shaky emotions on a bad day!

We also saw some examples of how just a few mph at the point of breaking makes a massive difference at the point of impact. If you compare a car doing 37 mph to one doing 42 mph when they both break, the 37 mph car has managed to come to a stop by impact whereas the 43 mph one is still going at 22 mph when it impacts, how super scary is that? And who knew? I certainly didn’t.

The top tip I received was that if you have a new car (one with an electric engine management system, like all built nowadays you should drive in 3rd gear for 30mph. Your car is made to do that and is happy enough, it won’t let you go over 30 without sounding like it is really pulling and thus you will stay to the limit.

There is so much more I could share as the course was very enlightening but I expect you might be feeling a bit preached at by now. 

So if you are interested to find out more, I’d recommend these sites –


I won't embed it as it is a bit sad but here is a recent TV ad from New Zealand encouraging drivers to slow down. It is very impacting, have a watch....
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