Thursday, May 31, 2007

Inappropriate Speed Limits

I recently spent a few days in Mayo, driving around the Newport/Westport area. Although many of the roads there are narrow, winding, undulating and with uneven surfaces in many places, the speed limit is 100kmh. I rarely felt it appropriate to exceed 80kmh.

I was puzzled by the fact that the County Council could paint the instruction “Slow” or “Very Slow” on the road without any reduction in the legal speed limit. Similarly, there was no reduction in speed limit where yellow warning signs, e.g. “Dangerous Corner Ahead“, “Road Narrows” (particularly for small bridges) etc., were displayed. I assume that this situation is replicated in other counties too.

I understand that the local authority must pass a resolution for each local variation from the official speed limits as set down by the Dept of the Environment, and this clearly could be a huge exercise for a county the size of Mayo.

Surely the logical solution is for the national rules to be changed so that, where it is deemed appropriate to put up certain warning signs, the speed limit should also be automatically reduced.

The corollary is that, on national roads where there is no justification for a warning sign (e.g. stretches of the N11), local authorities should have their wings clipped with regard to the imposition of unreasonably low speed limits.

Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Independent 9th June 2007 & the Irish Examiner 11th June 2007.

Postscript: I filled the tank before leaving Dublin, drove to Mulranny observing the speed limit and spent some time touring locally, as described above. I refilled the tank after 520 miles, the warning light hadn't come on yet. It took 53.5 litres (11.8 gallons) and that translates into 44mpg. That's some performance for a 2-litre petrol engined, 8 year old car. Clearly, slowing down makes economic and ecological sense.

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