“Speed kills” is a well-publicized saying. The posted limit is “the maximum for ideal conditions only”. However, driving much slower than the speed limit is also a safety concern and can be a type of “speed” offence.
Recent news reports have discussed the story of Stephanie Cole, 58, of Bristol, England. She received a seven-day driving ban for driving at less than 16 km/h on a major highway, the M32. The speed limit for much of the M32 is 100 km/h. Reportedly, when apprehended, her car was straddling the hard shoulder and the inside lane, that she was “dawdling along” and that she fully intended to do so. She had posted a sign in her car’s back window—“I don’t do fast. Please overtake.”
Despite admitting to driving without reasonable consideration for other persons using the roadway, Ms. Cole emerges as someone who gave her actions careful thought. She is reported as having multiple sclerosis and depends on her car, a Perodua Kenari—a compact and inexpensive people-carrier imported into Britain from Malaysia—to get around. She described her predicament this way: "I didn’t intend getting onto the motorway, but all of a sudden I found myself on it and I could not get off…. I just panicked. I hate that particular stretch of road and I avoid it normally. It is my nemesis.”
Ms. Cole characterization of the road as her ‘nemesis’ may find sympathy with many people. She recognizes the challenge that highway driving presents. This is unlike drivers who appear to find being behind the wheel no different from being in their favourite lounge chair, with phones, food and music all being accessed throughout the drive.
A new study from the University of Utah concludes that the use of cell phones by drivers is probably making everyone’s rush hour commute even longer. The study found that drivers “talking away”, even with hands free devices, do not keep up with the traffic flow — they are about 3 km/h slower on busy roads. Overall, drivers talking on cell phones took about 3 percent longer to drive the same traffic-clogged route and about 2 percent longer to drive a medium-congested route.
These delays add up, especially in light of studies indicating that as many as 10 per cent of US drivers are using cell phones at any given time. As engineering professor Peter Martin noted, “Delays in traffic streams of very small amounts grow into massive numbers when you project it across a highway and across a nation.” As David Strayer, the psychology professor who led the study team said, “If you commute by car an hour a day, it could all add around 20 hours a year to your commute.”
Of course, we can conclude that Ms. Cole, driving her “Perodua Kenari”, was not using a cell phone at the time she got a ticket. It seems she was just trying to cope. Cell phone or “Perodua Kenari” – whatever tends to slow us down, we generally have a responsibility, within reason, to keep up with the flow of traffic.