Here, for example, is a perfect illustration of the scenario painted so vividly by IanB.
Motorway speed limits could be raised to 80mph to shorten journey times and boost the economy, it is reported.Fantastic! Before the full story emerges, that is.
The current 70mph restriction is rarely enforced, police often turning a blind eye to anyone driving at up to 10mph faster than the limit.See what they did there? They'll change the rules for us (ain't they kind?), but only if we have respect for their arbitrary - and now very much out-of-date - limits. This, in technical parlance, is known as giving with one hand while inflicting buggery by way of sandpaper glove with the other.
Experts have argued that by having a higher speed limit that is enforced more readily, drivers are more likely to have respect for the rules.
Let's look at the history here. Motorways were designed when the average family saloon suffered from speed rattle once you hit a mile a minute. However, engineers - as they have always been wont to do - built in a margin and designed them for safe travel at 90mph (can't find a link but, trust me, it's my job). And this was back when cars were heavier; not regulated to hysterical standards as they are now; didn't have ABS, power steering, crumple zones, etc etc; when there were no seat belt laws; when drink drive limits were not yet set; when crash barriers were mostly non-existent, let alone computer crash-tested; and when the driving test could be passed after an hour or two of shite tuition in a Morris Minor with Uncle Freddie.
The 70mph limit is as irrelevant to the 21st Century as The Bay City Rollers. As illustrated by its origin.
Q: When was the 70 mph motorway speed limit introduced in Britain?This was a rule originally set to tackle either a phenomenon which is much more unlikely now or, as some believe a rare anomaly, but was done in true political fashion to affect just about no-one too unduly.
A: The 70 mph National Speed Limit was introduced as a temporary measure in December 1965. It is often blamed on Barbara Castle, but at the time the Minister of Transport was Tom Fraser.
The reason given was a spate of serious accidents in foggy conditions, but it is often claimed that the MoT had been alarmed by AC Cars testing their latest Cobra on the M1 at speeds up to 180 mph.
It was confirmed as a permanent limit in 1967, by which time Barbara Castle (a non-driver) had become Minister of Transport.There was surprisingly little debate at the time: the fact that the average family car of the time could only just exceed 70 mph perhaps had something to do with this.
This has now been turned into a golden rule which will lead to instant death if it is reviewed. So, yet again, the state approach is to assuage those who would give them grief over it. But unlike in the past, it's not us voters who governments are afraid of, it's the 'campaigners' (aka the righteous). Let's quote IanB.
Just as by the 1970s a government couldn’t make any decision without asking the Unions for permission, now no government can make a decision without consulting The Campaigners. And just as nearly everyone accepted the situation as normal back then, so it is that most everyone treats the situation now as normal too.The Campaigners in question here are no doubt 'experts' like Brake or RoadPeace. And everyone does indeed think this is normal.
The public would now prefer to abrogate their right to have government listening to them, by allowing unelected - and often publicly-funded - quangoes and fake charities to do the dictating instead.
So we have a situation where even if our parliament comes out with a rare good idea - such as raising the speed limit to a realistic level, commensurate with modern living rather than rent-seeking fantasy - they are obliged to temper it with some hideous big boot to get it past the professionally aggrieved.
If this long overdue re-casting of the motorway speed limit is eventually enacted, you can bet your Nat West piggies it will be accompanied by more fines on non-compliance, and a whole raft of initiatives to bring city driving down to a maximum of 20mph.
If not, the nagging, vilification and shrill squealing by special interests whose livelihoods rely on slicing your freedoms up bit by bit, would become unbearable.
This is how government works in the Britain of 2011. They'll give us more rope, but will hang us high with it to avoid suffering the inevitable incessant whinging that would result otherwise.