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Dame Sarah Storey calls out "entitlement" of speeding drivers — "too many 'my driving offences won't cause harm' attitudes"

Britain's most decorated Paralympian is now active travel commissioner for Greater Manchester and joined the discussion surrounding Suella Braverman's speed awareness course controversy...

Paralympic cyclist-turned-active travel commissioner Dame Sarah Storey and leading roads policing figure Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Cox have added their views to the wider discussion about speeding on Britain's roads, discourse that has been in the public eye during the scrutiny of home secretary Suella Braverman's alleged desire to arrange a private speed awareness course following a speeding offence.

Yesterday, we reported that cycling campaign group the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) had criticised Braverman for "avoiding public scrutiny" by allegedly requesting civil servants arrange a private speed awareness course in order to avoid the Conservative politician being recognised by members of the public.

The story has prompted many national newspaper and talk show opinion pieces on the wider issue of speeding, one from Simon Jenkins in today's Guardian titled 'Get a grip, Westminster – Suella Braverman speeding is hardly the issue of the day' and the Mail's Richard Littlejohn calling it a "squabble [...] nobody died".

"Utterly unacceptable"

However, stressing the seriousness to road safety, DCS Andy Cox — the national lead for fatal collision reporting who has now taken a role within the Metropolitan Police — called speeding an "utterly unacceptable" act.

"In the last 24 hours, there has been a lot of debate regarding speeding," DCS Cox noted. "Speeding is a leading cause of fatal crashes, destroys life and leaves bereaved families with lifelong impact. I hope the debate moves onto the offence itself, the risk it posed and why speeding is utterly unacceptable."

Adding to Cox's thoughts, Storey, who last year replaced Chris Boardman as Greater Manchester active travel commissioner, said some of the social media replies to the tweet, downplaying the danger of speeding, showed the "entitlement and subsequent risk" posed by many.

"Some of the responses and quote tweets on this statement, from a leading police expert, demonstrates perfectly the level of entitlement and subsequent risk posed by some drivers," Storey wrote. 

"Too many 'my speeding/driving offences won't cause harm' attitudes, but every driver who contributed to the c.1800/year death toll thought the same. Also many thousands are left with life-changing injuries because a driver didn't acknowledge it could happen to them. Driving is a skill that's never retested despite the size of machine and risk.

"Are speed awareness courses trivialised by so many because they aren't proportional to the offence? Is the content lacking impact to reduce reoffending? What would work better? Ultimately the choice can't be that speeding is accepted as part of life."

> Dame Sarah Storey joins South Yorkshire Police on close pass operation – and almost one in five drivers get pulled over

Simon Munk, Head of Campaigns at the LCC yesterday told road.cc that "anyone in public life, let alone someone responsible for the public's safety, attempting to stand above the public on this issue and avoid an appropriate punishment is deeply concerning".

Braverman says she is "confident nothing untoward happened", but also refused to be drawn over whether she asked civil servants to arrange a private speed awareness course having been caught speeding in 2022.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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17 comments

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El Tim | 10 months ago
0 likes

When I passed my driving test in ‘86, it was the norm to do 40 in a 30 zone, 50 in a 40, etc. Nowadays, most people travel close to the limit, especially in built up areas, so things have improved immeasurably over the last 40 years.

What I dislike about the current obsession with speed is as follows:

  1. Decent rural ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads given reduced 50 limits due to lazy councils’ box ticking exercises, whilst keeping the national speed limit on back roads - the ones I am more likely to be cycling on. Derbyshire are a particularly bad culprit and have a nice racket going with vans deployed on the sections.
  2. The vast majority of 20 limits in towns on the better sighted roads. Now I am jostling for road space with vehicles that should really have gone past me and be on their way
  3. Away from the places where I cycle, the poor lane discipline and positioning on motorways and dual carriageways especially where there are cameras. The main risk is from lane changes where people don’t check blind spots correctly, often where there is a bunch of traffic all scared of breaking the limit, but driving too close to each other.

The number of dangerous driving incidents I have seen within the speed limit vastly outnumbers the incidents where odd driver is travelling over the posted limit.

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chrisonabike replied to El Tim | 10 months ago
0 likes

El Tim wrote:

What I dislike about the current obsession with speed...

Who's obsessed with speed?  People driving!  Or rather we all seem to be frightened of the ire (or worse) from other drivers if we fall below the posted minimum speed limits!

Who is not obsessed with speed at all?  Police, councils, politicians ...

El Tim wrote:

...is as follows:

  1. Decent rural ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads given reduced 50 limits due to lazy councils’ box ticking exercises, whilst keeping the national speed limit on back roads - the ones I am more likely to be cycling on. Derbyshire are a particularly bad culprit and have a nice racket going with vans deployed on the sections.
  2. The vast majority of 20 limits in towns on the better sighted roads. Now I am jostling for road space with vehicles that should really have gone past me and be on their way
  3. Away from the places where I cycle, the poor lane discipline and positioning on motorways and dual carriageways especially where there are cameras. The main risk is from lane changes where people don’t check blind spots correctly, often where there is a bunch of traffic all scared of breaking the limit, but driving too close to each other.

The number of dangerous driving incidents I have seen within the speed limit vastly outnumbers the incidents where odd driver is travelling over the posted limit.

The whole point about higher speeds is that they bring a whole host of issues: less time to react (for given distance travelled), reduced ability to do something (e.g. break to a stop, danger of entering a skid and losing control entirely).  In a collision higher speeds have an exponential impact on damage done because physics - especially to any vulnerable road users involved.   (Since you passed your test cars have got much safer - for those inside).

I'd agree our LAs / the highways agency make some arbitrary decisions in both directions - although I'd suggest they mostly go with "too high".

I find your point 2 a bit odd.  Urban areas are where there are the most interactions (especially between motor traffic and vulnerable road users).  Given the marked difference in outcomes from driving into a pedestrian at "somewhere in the 20s" (what is mean in practice by maximum 20mph limit) and "north of 30" (30mph limit) urban areas need more of these, not less.  TBH given the average speed of traffic in urban areas you'll always be "jostling for space" with cars - until we get round to building the cycle infra needed to get some of those drivers out of their cars...

Point 3 is even odder.  If the problem is poor driving, how's less restrictions / enforcement going to improve the standard?

TBH the whole thing sounds like "people would drive sensibly with fewer restrictions and less monitoring".  I can't agree given there is currently very little monitoring, minimal enforcement, mild punishments (and you can make an excuse) and a substantial number of people still can't control themselves!

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Hirsute | 10 months ago
6 likes

I remonstrated with a driver today - 48 in a 30.
He braked to a halt to see what the problem was
"It's 30 mph and you were doing at least 45"
"No I weren't,"
Then he drove off.

It was a windy road, no pavement and the section is used by walkers and dog walkers.
I doubt his behaviour will change as he clearly had no idea of his speed.

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brooksby replied to Hirsute | 10 months ago
4 likes

Hirsute wrote:

I remonstrated with a driver today - 48 in a 30. He braked to a halt to see what the problem was "It's 30 mph and you were doing at least 45" "No I weren't," Then he drove off. It was a windy road, no pavement and the section is used by walkers and dog walkers. I doubt his behaviour will change as he clearly had no idea of his speed.

It's weird:  I mean, on my (very) old car, there's this round, clock-shaped thing on the dashboard (just below my eyeline if I'm looking ahead).  It indicates how fast I'm driving, giving me fair warning to change my speed if I'm going faster than that marked up as the "speed limit" on big steel painted signs at regular intervals along the side of the road.

It can't be that different on modern cars, surely?

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Hirsute replied to brooksby | 10 months ago
12 likes

Forgot to say it was a wankpanzer so rules don't apply.

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wtjs replied to Hirsute | 10 months ago
1 like

Forgot to say it was a wankpanzer so rules don't apply

One thing the WP drivers have learned, in addition to the 'accelerate out of trouble' mantra, is to confidently state blatant untruths- they are unrepentant liars. This one simply declared that he had 'given me 1.5m' when I caught up with him at temporary traffic lights just beyond, before threatening to 'fucking flatten' me and to knock me off my bike.

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Daveyraveygravey replied to Hirsute | 10 months ago
4 likes

Hirsute wrote:

Forgot to say it was a wankpanzer so rules don't apply.

Sorry but it isn't just wankpanzers.  Almost everyone that drives picks and chooses which bits of the law apply to them, and when.  Whether its speed limits, driving tired, doing a 3 point turn just round a bend, stopping on double yellows for a couple of minutes, having a couple of pints, putting off the service til next month, not replacing worn tyres, we all know the problems and their excuses.

The police are too busy to have proper traffic cops any more, or a decent number of them.  They sympathise with minor offenders.

If cases ever get to court, judges and juries sympathise too, because they have done it as well, and can you imagine not being able to drive somewhere?!

I know, because I have been guilty of this in the past when I have been driving.  I'm trying to improve.

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chrisonabike replied to Daveyraveygravey | 10 months ago
1 like

Daveyraveygravey wrote:

...I know, because I have been guilty of this in the past when I have been driving.  I'm trying to improve.

Honest comment and good point.  The problem with general low standards is it also means that people who're mostly better than them (probably everyone, in their estimation) then gives themselves a pass at "being a bit naughty" or letting things slide every so often - "I never normally do this ..."

Mostly there are no lasting consequences.

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Robert Hardy | 10 months ago
1 like

I can quite understand why a senior public figure might request a private course, those of us who have been offered such a course have not had to contend with a mob of reporters outside the testing place nor the security detail that would inevitably accompany such a piece of theatre. It is gratifying that her request was turned down, the law shouldn't allow special exemptions and part of the learning experience of such a course is having to confront ones own selfish and irresponsible behaviour in public. Instead she rightly chose to be prosecuted instead.

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Wingguy replied to Robert Hardy | 10 months ago
3 likes

Robert Hardy wrote:

I can quite understand why a senior public figure might request a private course, those of us who have been offered such a course have not had to contend with a mob of reporters outside the testing place nor the security detail that would inevitably accompany such a piece of theatre.

Not really applicable anymore. Since Covid every provider is offering remote courses by Skype/Zoom/whatever, AFAIK. No security needed.

Pretty clear that her only motivation in trying to arrange a private course was so no-one would be able to verify the reports that she'd been caught, and she could keep sending her taxpayer salaried special advisors to flat out lie to the press about whether she'd been speeding.

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the little onion | 10 months ago
12 likes

Simon Jenkins wrote an attrocious comment piece in the guardian that straight-up lied that locla councils push for lower speed limits, so they can fine people and increase their revenue.

 

Spoiler - the revenue doesn't go to them. It goes to central government coffers.

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mark1a replied to the little onion | 10 months ago
0 likes

the little onion wrote:

Simon Jenkins wrote an attrocious comment piece in the guardian that straight-up lied that locla councils push for lower speed limits, so they can fine people and increase their revenue.

 

Spoiler - the revenue doesn't go to them. It goes to central government coffers.

That's true if a fine has been given (either via FP or court), but the excess revenue (minus costs) from the driver awareness courses goes to the local camera partnership, which in most cases, comprises of the police, fire service, local council, etc.

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brooksby | 10 months ago
7 likes

Many, many drivers don't think that speeding is a "real" crime (I suspect).  Until that changes, or until the police have funding &c to be able to properly enforce it, then nothing will change.

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SimoninSpalding replied to brooksby | 10 months ago
11 likes

I did an online speed awareness course a couple of years ago. I thought it was appalling because the instructor assumed that we all felt we had done nothing wrong, and implied that he agreed with us. (For the record I was mortified that I had been doing 38 in a 30 in a neighbouring village, and felt very fortunate that the only consequence of this was spending 3 hours on a course).

When the intervention that is supposed to improve driving actively reinforces that speeding isn't too serious and you are just unlucky to get caught in the "money making" system we have no hope of things getting better.

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tootsie323 replied to SimoninSpalding | 10 months ago
5 likes

That's unfortunate. I attended an awareness course several years ago and the instructors on that cause made a very good case for the effects of excessive speed. It definitely made me sit up and think about my driving.

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Robert Hardy replied to brooksby | 10 months ago
6 likes

Too true, as is demonstrated by all too frequent giving of exemptions from a ban to people on the grounds that it would damage their livelihood, despite often three previous recent speeding convictions which should have served as severe warnings to amend their behaviour.

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Carior replied to Robert Hardy | 10 months ago
9 likes

Indeed, given that I rarely see mobile speed enforcement, to get caught 4 times for speeding in the relevant period you have to be either monumentally stupid or monumentally reckless.  When the safety of other people is at risk, either of those "qualifications" should be sufficient to justify a ban and the hardship is a) one you have brought upon yourself knowingly; and b) far less hardship that will be felt but the person who ends up on the receiving end of you accident waiting to happen!

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