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Speed in the spotlight

Sir – I was interested in Mr Clark’s comments on the matters of drivers’ attitudes to speed cameras (Fleet News, August 5). Our own company car drivers generate a number of speeding tickets each year as a result of passing a static camera. On most occasions the drivers are contrite and accept they are in the wrong. I rarely hear anyone trying to justify their speeding, but I do hear many comments relating to the setting of the speed limit and the positioning of the camera.
Not all speed limits appear to reflect the nature and hazards of the road and not all cameras appear to serve any purpose other than to ‘catch’ the unobservant.
Yes, in an ideal world, we would all be perfect, law abiding drivers whose attention is never distracted, who can judge our speeds perfectly without constant reference to the dashboard and who are happy to drive for miles, on a deserted road, in the middle of the night, sticking rigidly to an arbitrary speed limit. The fact that not all drivers conform to this stereotype does not make them criminals. Most certainly, it does not mean that they are ‘selfish, arrogant’ and with a ‘couldn’t-care-less’ attitude.
Most drivers are law abiding and have no desire to break the law. Most drivers (not all) are skilful, knowledgeable and experienced enough to be able to judge what is a safe speed in the circumstances.
Unfortunately, these drivers are also being penalised for what even the police and the courts deem to be ‘minor’ speeding offences. If we do hear the occasional ‘whinge’ we can afford to be a little sympathetic and, perhaps a little less judgemental than Mr Clark.
Whilst there are drivers who are unsure of the national limits, we can all cite occasions when we have been momentarily unsure of the speed limit in force on the section of road that we are driving along. Yes, I appreciate that we should all know the applicable limit at all times, even when it is going up and down like a Yo-Yo, but then we are not all perfect.
If we all need to be taken off the road as a result, this will presumably make them nice, quiet and empty places along which Mr Clark can proceed at the correct legal speed, feeling suitably gratified that all the bad guys have been locked up.

David Mullins
Administration manager, Slough Estates

Speed cameras test limit of my patience

Sir – I was snapped almost three years ago for the first time ever. I paid the fine and took the points. I drive about 10,000 miles per year on business and the same privately.
I have moderated my speed since and now drive at or below the limit, making extensive use of the cruise control facility fitted to my car. As a result, I get better fuel consumption, am relaxed and do not arrive any later. However, I was subsequently caught on the M25, at 10.30pm, on a Friday. I was with my wife and children, so was aware of safety.
The camera was hidden behind a bridge, which was showing that the speed limit was reduced to 60mph.
Why are there cameras there? Why was the speed limit reduced at this time of night? They are there to catch the unsuspecting. I have no problem if they were to put 1,000 speed cameras on the road outside my house. At all hours people speed down a road which has schools, shops and a hospital on it.
Similarly, on the M60 there are extensive roadworks to widen the motorway. There should be more cameras to protect the workers (there is only one and people slow down, get past, then speed up) – SPECS cameras are an absolute must.
I drive slower, more efficiently and more safely but I think cameras should be placed where they are needed, not just where they can maximise revenue. Also, it was interesting that my fine was handled by a finance and not a safety department!

Martyn H Morgan
Flixton, Manchester

Tailgating a symptom of lower standards

Sir – I was interested to see the results of the recent survey carried out by the National Motorway Month Group on the dangers of tailgating (Fleet News, Aug 5). As the UK’s number one vehicle collection and delivery specialist, we put a lot of effort into ensuring our drivers take care on the road, though their efforts can be wasted by the actions of tailgaters.
In the first half of 2004, more than 10% of all vehicle-related incidents at United Fleet Distribution involved another driver hitting the rear of one of our vehicles. Apart from keeping a two-second gap between them and the vehicle in front, and even more in poor weather conditions, drivers need to take account of the vehicle behind them too.
If the following vehicle is too close, drivers should increase the gap with the vehicle ahead to compensate for their lack of braking distance. In all cases, it is advisable to let the tailgater pass and avoid what could be a possible road rage incident developing.
I strongly disagree with providing more cameras to try to address the problem. What is needed is a greater police presence on the roads. Tailgating is just one symptom of declining driving standards and courtesy on the roads, which are best addressed by high profile policing using marked cars as a deterrent and unmarked vehicles for enforcement. Cameras cannot replace the skill, experience and judgement of a qualified police traffic officer.

Michael Hutchings
Director, United Fleet Distribution

Speed wisdom gets personal

Sir - I respond to the letter published in last week’s Fleet News from Paul Clark (Camera bashers’ argument is absurd). I believe that to use words such as ‘arrogant’, ‘appalled’, ‘absurd’ and ‘whinge’ are indicative of a narrow-minded view on this subject.
While he says that speed limits are ‘set to impose disciplines’ I will relate a recent experience that undermines this sanctimonious approach. I was recently flashed doing 35mph in a 30 zone on a Sunday morning.
Rather than impose a penalty, Humberside Police offered me the chance to attend a two-hour speed seminar and I duly attended.
During many occasions in this session we were told that there are numerous instances where you should in fact travel at speeds lower than the speed limit. We were shown examples of parked cars, where vision is impaired and where it was safer and less dangerous if we slowed down to 20 mph or even less.
We were told to look for vulnerable people and apply care so that if they made a mistake we did not plough into them at 30mph and kill them.
Having driven for 30 years and been a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists for 17, I can honestly say that I do this and have never had an accident. I always look out for children and potential hazards and if that means stopping then I do. If I see a speed limit of 60 mph but don’t feel comfortable at this speed, then I travel slower.
Why then, when my same eyes, same experience, same intelligence and caring attitude tell me that there is no danger in allowing my car to drift to 35mph am I slammed as being arrogant, absurd, a whinger and ultimately treated as a criminal? This campaign is quite rightly called Speed Wise. If everyone wised up to that concept we could look at what really kills people and tackle the real issue of dangerous and careless driving.

There is a time and a place for some speed cameras but even the wise owl knows when to hoot.

Frank Etchells
Account director, CAP

Rental vehicles should be free of charges

Sir – I read with interest your article on congestion charging (Fleet News, July 29). Like any other rental business, the congestion charge has had a large impact on our business. A growing administration burden caused by unpaid fines and rising overhead costs of managing rental sites inside the congestion charge zone have caused problems for Avis.

To put it in perspective, we have received around 1,800 penalty notices per month relating to London congestion charges, which account for 34% of all penalty charges received relating to all traffic offences through the entire UK.

The way Transport for London has introduced the congestion charge scheme, rental companies are in danger of being forced out of the city altogether rather than helping the Mayor fight congestion. And as the zone gets bigger so do our operational problems.

Rather than adding to the problem of congestion, we firmly believe that reducing congestion in inner cities is a job that daily rental companies can help address. Avis offers motorists the flexibility of renting the right size of car as and when they need it, ideal for drivers living inside the zone.

We would like to see rental vehicles exempt from the congestion charge so we can freely move around without incurring additional costs.

With more and more cities considering adopting a similar scheme we would envisage our operational problems getting worse rather than better and one of the main groups to lose out are the corporate drivers who will have to pay more money to rent a car.

Penny Stoolman
Director, sales and marketing, Avis UK

Cutting crashes saves more than just costs

Sir – Many thanks for publishing the article about the ALI’s accident rate (Fleet News, July 1).

However, although the article presented a positive image of how the ALI is managing accidents and reducing costs, I felt it excluded some key facts. Controlling costs is an important function of a fleet manager, but the article promoted this more than the key points of our top-down attitude to health and safety, and that risk management is an integral part of our business.

Reducing the cost of fleet insurance and accident claims are only the product of our policies, driver training, risk assessments, management systems and choice of vehicles. It is not by chance that we recorded only three – yes three – driver-fault accidents in three million business miles in 2003, which the article did not mention.

The article also failed to mention the excellent report we received from Norwich Union, our fleet insurers following their audit of our fleet risk management and policies, which it stated is a shining example to all.

The ALI takes great pride in achieving these statistics and sharing our good practice with other organisations. I would like to emphasise that reducing accidents is not just about saving costs – more important is the resources, manage-ment and attention our organisation gives to maximise the safety of our drivers and other road users.

Graham Hine
Facilities manager, Adult Learning Inspectorate

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