i'm terrified of average speed cameras

BOLIVIAN DEATH ROAD? no, it's doing 50mph on a british motorway that will kill me

The only time I’m truly scared while behind the wheel of a car is when I’m forced by average speed cameras to drive at 50mph on a British motorway.

Even when I was driving up Bolivia’s death road, and there was a sheer thousand foot drop to my left, and a car coming the other way, I had to wind up the acting because the truth is, I had a steering wheel, and a brake pedal. And if I used them correctly, I’d be fine. Which I was.

It was the same story in the McLaren P1, at Spa, in the rain. Yes, it did all sorts of weird things with its rear wheels if I tried to accelerate even a tiny bit but I solved this by not accelerating at all. Then, all was well.

In the rain at Spa, the McLaren P1 did all sorts of weird things with its rear wheels if I tried to accelerate even a tiny bit, but I solved this by not accelerating at all

Jeremy Clarkson

But when I drive down a British motorway, under the ever watchful gaze of the government’s yellow cash machines, the steering wheel, the brake and the accelerator make no difference to whether I reach journey’s end or not. Because I’m completely at the mercy of other people.

Behind, there’s a Lithuanian lorry driver who is busy texting his mistress in Finland. To my right, there’s a big woman in a Peugeot who’s too close to the steering wheel and far too close to the car in front, which is being driven by someone who arrived last week from Syria and who can’t read English, so while he’s seen the signs saying “average speed cameras” he doesn’t know what that means, so he’s impatient. He’s roaring up to the car that’s in his way, and then braking, a lot.

I’m fearful that at any moment, the big woman in the Peugeot, whose grasp of stopping distances is up there with a dog’s grasp of how a sewing machine works, will swerve left to avoid our Syrian friend, and there won’t be a damn thing I can do because to MY left, there’s a giant diesel tank that’s suspended under a 40 tonne wagon It’s like being on an escalator, surrounded by bad tempered sociopaths and terrorists. You just have to stand there and hope.

The problem is that local councils and civil servants and people on the Highways Safety Partnership, who are all morons or they’d have a better job, have got it into their heads that speed is more dangerous than smearing yourself in meat and poking a great white in the eye. They think that if they can tackle speed, all will be well.

We’ve seen this before of course. In Victorian times, people were convinced that passengers on the new fangled railways would not be able to breathe if they went past 30 mph. Then we were told in the mid forties that anyone who attempted to travel faster than the speed of sound would surely die in a fireball. And now we have a whole army of bitter and twisted halfwits who think that on a motorway, when everyone is traveling in the same direction, and there are no pedestrians, 50 mph is as fast as we should be allowed to go.

They use cameras to enforce their will but these cameras? Can they catch people who have no driving licence? No. Nor can they spot people on the phone, or people who are drunk, or people who have just eaten a big K and E sandwich. They are concentrating on speed, which doesn’t matter at all, and ignoring all of the things which do.

If you try to point this out, you are told that since average speed cameras were installed on a 99 mile section of the A9 in Scotland, the number of people being killed has fallen by two. And that’s lovely of course for the two people who are now not dead, but could it be, I wonder, that they continue to be alive because the weather’s better these days, or because cars are safer? The speed Nazis don’t really have an answer for that one.

And they get all the support they need from the government who rather like the revenue from the fines.

When a Prime Minister says to some hapless member of parliament “I’d like you to be Transport Minister”, what they are actually saying is “I hate you”.

Jeremy Clarkson

The truth is that 50mph is too slow in this day and age. And because everything can travel at that speed, it causes bunching. It causes stopping distances to go out of the window and it causes minds to wander. You need to separate the faster traffic from the slower traffic which means you need the lanes to move at different speeds.

One of these days, I promise, average speed cameras will cause an enormous accident and many will be killed. But how do we get this message across?

At the moment, we blame whoever happens to be running the Department of Transport. But that’s pointless because he or she is invariably a here today, gone tomorrow, journeyman who isn’t bright enough to be Foreign Secretary or the Chancellor. No really. When a Prime Minister says to some hapless member of parliament “I’d like you to be Transport Minister”, what they are actually saying is “I hate you”.

So, the person or people we want to find are those who are advising the Transport Minister, the ones who turn up at meetings with algorithms in their plastic briefcases and dreams of a class war in their pale and uninteresting heads.

Seriously, they have our names and addresses. It’s how they fine us. So let us use the reach of social media to find theirs. And then its power to bully them into a change of heart.

Credits: iStock.com/NigelParke

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Comments (379)

  • Down a steep hill in Devon on a big A road there are average speed cameras. It is possible to exceed 70mph coasting or using engine braking in 4th gear. I spend more time looking at the speedo than on the road in front of me, dabbing the brakes and driving like an scared 80 year old. Glance up look at the road then study the speedo, dab the barakes, look at the speedo, dab the brakes, look at the speedo, glance up, make a judgement call on the conditions, look down at the speedo, dab the brakes, check the speedo, dab the brakes, check the speedo, glance up at the road, check the speedo. This is not driving it is risking everything and puts driving out there with other adrenaline sports where safety is sidelined for executing a task within permitted boundaries. Average speed cameras are worse than Hitler. Say no more.

      4 years ago
    • I know where that is and I have to use that road occasionally. You're description of the driving method is absolutely spot on.

      It's dangerous!

        4 years ago
    • I know this steep road, and my cruise control stops working because it can't control the car at that gradient. The last car I went through it at was a 2017 Kia, so it wasn't using old technology

        4 years ago
  • How true mr. Clarkson, how bloody true!

      4 years ago
  • Agreed. Speed saved my friends life. Literally!! This may unfortunately for Jeremy, be a point for team bikers, he was going along on his bike one day, and some 'big lady in a Peugeot' pulled out on him, he thought to himself 'if I am going out this way, I'm going straight out' and he sped up from 60 to 90mph, how did this end? If he kept at 60 he would be in a coffin, but at 90 he was able to slip by the thick bitch and is alive and well today. There are times (as I am sure that we all have known) where upon one has had to break the limit to stay safe, Fact.

      4 years ago
    • Having been trained by a police instructor through advanced driving, one of the things you are told is if the situation calls for it you should "break" the speed limit to stay safe. The example was: overtaking on a single carriageway road, if...

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        4 years ago
    • 4 years ago
    • It would be sensible, it would also be sensible to have whatever the limit is on the back of them. But.... Then hardly anyone would get caught speeding so no fines.

        4 years ago
  • Bang on.

    The only thing I took away from a recent speed awareness course (which I felt compelled to attend; despite it undoubtedly costing more in loss of earnings and booking fees), is that the number of people who die on the roads in the UK per annum is not even 1% of our population. Which considering the size of our country and the lack of intelligence engaged by the average car user; is a statistic to be proud of. Yes, people dying on the roads is terrible; but so is death caused by alcoholism.

    I do feel that ALL motorists should attend a driver awareness course periodically. They should spend an amount of time in a classroom with a session in a car/van/bike with a driving instructor. I feel this would be a beneficial way to spend some of the revenue earned from speed cameras and would help everybody improve as drivers and road users alike.

    It's almost completely mad to think I could pass my driving test, not drive a car for 20 years say, then just start driving again with my own idea of the Highway Code and what is good driving.

    There are a lot of issues on the road besides speed. One such issue, which can only be put down to ignorance is the lack of people who think to turn their lights on in poor visibility (or rain). This typical driver probably never thought of why somebody would ever want to overtake on a single carriageway road; never mind in the wet!

    It would be good to weed out some of this ignorance and belligerence to try and help everyone use the road in a more ameanable confident manner, without making everyone slow down (which is not a satisfactory solution).

    I won't start on the use of dual carriageways! But the way a lot of people seem to use them; there's no need for average speed cameras as it's almost self-policed by ignorance and belligerence.

      3 years ago