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Monday, September 20, 2010

Car wars

In the UK, where somewhere around a couple of million drivers have no insurance, uninsured drivers kill 160 people and injure 23,000 every year. When I was on the M4 last week, the guy in the car behind me (both doing 70mph) was talking on a non-hands free mobile phone for miles, and I see this all the time. Outside the school that my kids used to go to (where there are no speed cameras) my wife stopped to let a woman and her children cross at a zebra crossing, only to be overtaken by a woman driving a chelsea tractor. This sort of thing also goes on all the time, so it's no wonder people like me get outraged getting done in a camera trap at 10am on a Sunday morning on an almost empty dual carriageway leading to a motorway. Increasingly, this is our only nexus with the police.

Many years ago, I got nicked by a police car when I was doing 60mph heading toward the A3 out of Epsom: I was caught "bang to rights" as they say. I didn't feel outraged. I shouldn't have been going that fast on that stretch of road, and the guy was right to do me. Fair enough. But getting done by a camera on a nearly empty road doesn't feel the same.

Almost 25% of under 21-year olds confessed to having driven without a license, an MOT-checked vehicle or a valid driving license.

[From Uninsured drivers cost motorists £1.25 million a year - Telegraph]

Cameras don't catch people driving badly, even dangerously, and they don't take account of the traffic or the conditions. And there's always the suspicion that they are there to tax (that's why they're on the A40 and not outside my kids school). So are middle class whiners like me simply hypocrites who want the police to get tough on crime and on the causes for crime, except for speeding. Maybe. But now that the country is conducting a live experiment on the worth of speed cameras, the evidence points in another direction.

In the first nine months after the cameras were switched off in Swindon on July 31 last year, there were 315 road traffic casualties in the area as a whole, down from 327 in the comparable period the previous year, a reduction of around 4%. There were two fatalities compared to four, while the number of people seriously injured fell from 48 to 44.

[From Speed camera opponents hail success of Swindon switch-off - but do figures back that up? | | The website for pedal powered people: Road cycling, commuting, leisure cycling and racing]

So there. Time to re-examine rational incentives. Talking of which...

Motorists who drive without insurance face a £200 fine

[From Number of uninsured drivers falls - Motoring, Life & Style -]

Well, that seems like quite a bargain, given the cost of insurance, so I think I'll act rationally given the incentives presented and cancel my insurance to use the money to pay for speeding tickets, and then I'll get a new car with some Belgian plates and drive with impunity, since the chances of getting stopped are negligible.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

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