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'Speed-limit propaganda' in SA

2015-12-09 11:29

NO NEED TO LOWER SPEED LIMITS: Wheels24 user Eric believes a proposed law to reduce limits won't reduce road deaths in SA. Image: iStock

Johannesburg - We are continually being subjected to propaganda regarding the effect of speed on the road accident rate.

The stats presented do not tell the full story because the causes of accidents do not appear to be fully investigated, says Wheels24 user Eric:

How many crashes are caused by the consumption of alcohol, poor maintenance, unsafe condition of tyres? How many by crashes are caused by overloading, poor road conditions and maintenance?

How many are caused by drivers not using indicators, lane-hopping, inadequate following distances, people on cell phones (or other distractions), people who simply have poor driving skills (driver licence issues) or reckless driving to mention a few root causes?

We never see stats on these.

Perhaps the authorities are reluctant to take the investigations to root cause level because of potential legal and insurance issues or to embarrass themselves, but this does not preclude them by doing their own in house investigations for purposes of gathering usable and reliable information. 

Admittedly speed will increase the severity of a crash but how often is it the root cause?

READ: New road rules for SA: 5 laws Govt want to pass

One issue which perhaps has been overlooked regarding reducing speed limits, speed supposedly being the root cause of the high crash rate, is the questionable effect it has on traffic density.

The authorities, in a knee-jerk reaction, in order to appear to be doing something about the high accident rate, are thinking of reducing the speed limit. It is easiest to manage what you can measure. Instead of managing the more difficult to measure behavioural issues, the authorities home in on speed limits which they can measure irrespective of whether in fact they are a root cause or not.

READ: 5 new SA road rules: What users say...

Instead of road safety being the main objective, the public is of the opinion that speed traps are purely a means of income generation!

If speed limits are reduced by 20km/h, like from 120 down to 100km/h, this is roughly 20%.

This means that it will take people roughly 20% longer to reach their destination. For the same number of vehicles, this means that there will be 20% more cars on the road at any one time.

The net effect is that our already congested roads will be more congestion, if all obey the new speed limits. In an ideal world where all cars travel at the same speed and there is no need to continuously change lanes or overtake, there would be no accidents, whatever the speed limit.

Now with a probable increase in frustration level because of greater congestion, slower speeds and time taken, there is bound to be more lane hopping and shorter following distances and therefore more accidents.

For the highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria the increased number of vehicles on the road at any one time, would mean that almost one more lane would be required. If everyone behaved themselves on the road, which in this country would be absolutely impossible, arguably it may well be beneficial to increase the speed limit on good freeways.

In conclusion, the objective of reducing the accident rate by lowering the speed limit would increase congestion and may actually lead to an increase in the accident rate. But who is going to measure this, interpret the stats and feedback on results and change the speed limits again.


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