Drivers oppose automatic speed control, says IAM

EU not planning to make speed controls mandatory anyway

A majority of drivers oppose the mandation of ‘intelligent speed adaptation’ technology to stop drivers exceeding speed limits, according to the Institute of Advanced Motorists. Drivers believe it would compromise rather than enhance safety.

Intelligent speed adaptation uses location systems such as GPS to detect speed limits and control the vehicle’s speed accordingly.

Reports last month claimed that the EU was considering forcing car manufacturers to install intelligent speed adaptation in all new vehicles and to make drivers retro-fit it to older vehicles.

These reports were based in part on a statement by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin that the government was opposed to the measure.

A government source quoted by the Press Association said: "To be forced to have automatic controls in your car amounts to Big Brother nannying by EU bureaucrats."

However, it turns out that not only was the European Commission not proposing to foist speed controls on unwilling British motorists, it wasn’t even thinking about doing so.

European Commission blog ECintheUK called the claims “inaccurate beyond the limit”, and said: “Reports in the press ... have suggested that the EU intends to bring forward “formal proposals this autumn” to introduce automatic speed controls ... into cars. This is quite simply not true and the Commission had made this very clear to the journalists concerned prior to publication.”

Reports on the subject had deliberately left out the first sentence from a European Commission statement on the subject which said: “The Commission has not tabled – and does not have in the pipeline – even a non-binding Recommendation, let alone anything more.”

Nevertheless, the IAM asked drivers what they think, and it turns out they’re not keen. (We have asked IAM why they went ahead with the survey despite the stories about the EU's plans being false.)

“Fifty-seven per cent of drivers feel that ISAs won’t have a positive impact on road safety – avoiding crashes, deaths and injuries,” says the IAM.

And 78 percent don’t want to be forced to retro-fit the systems to existing cars.

The IAM found that a majority of drivers like systems that leave control with them. “Sixty-seven per cent would prefer ISAs to operate with warning messages with no control of the vehicle,” says the IAM.

Opposition to mandatory safety measures in cars in nothing new. The British government examined making the wearing of seatbelts mandatory as early as the 1960s and returned to the topic in the 1970s.

In 1973, the RAC advised the government: “The time for consideration of such a drastic measure has not yet been reached ... (it would) have undesirable effects on relations between police and public, many of whom would justifiably resent prosecutions and convictions."

The police agreed, saying that it would cause them extra work and make them unpopular. “Any further deterioration in the good relationship between police and public is to be deplored, but it is difficult to see how this could be avoided.”

As a result of such opposition, the wearing of seatbelts did not become compulsory in the UK until 1983. 

Instead, the government continued to rely on the ‘Clunk Click Every trip’ series of public information films hosted by Jimmy Savile. The road toll in the UK remained above 6,000 per year for most of the seventies.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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