Overtaking motorists blind to the dangers

11.10 | 27 January 2011 | | 7 comments

47% of drivers admit to driving at speeds in excess of 60mph at least once in the past year in order to overtake on country roads, according to a survey released by Brake and Direct Line.

The survey of 942 drivers also revealed that 23% did this at least once a month. One in eight surveyed admitted to overtaking when they couldn’t see what was coming in the other direction.

Ellen Booth, Brake’s campaigns officer, said: “It’s high time we tackle this irresponsible and dangerous love of speed on our roads. Drivers who overtake at speed on country roads aren’t just risking their own lives – they’re endangering their passengers and anyone coming the other way.”

Andy Goldby of Direct Line, said: “Two people die on single carriageway roads every day, and these deaths could be prevented.  Our own data suggests that young drivers and their passengers are even more likely to die on this type of road.

“Drivers should remember that patience is a virtue, when it comes to deciding to overtake another vehicle at speed, as it could be a life saver.”

Brake says that in Britain in 2009, 749 deaths occurred on single carriageway roads with a speed limit of 60mph. Almost a third of people killed on single carriageways with a 60mph limit die in crashes where ‘exceeding the speed limit’ and/or ‘travelling too fast for the conditions’ are recorded as a factor.

The charity says that the coalition government has yet to respond to a 2010 consultation on setting speed limits, which proposed that highways authorities should carry out speed limit reviews on ‘A’ and ‘B’ class national speed limit single carriageways and lower limits on rural roads.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “Brake is right to highlight the dangers of rural roads.  The IAM believes that driver training, especially post-test training, is the real answer to this problem.

“Most crashes are not caused by breaking the speed limit but by the driver’s poor decision-making.  Driving too fast for the conditions is only one example of this.  A blanket speed reduction to 50mph will not stop the human errors that the police record as the real reason for a crash.  Nor will reducing the speed limit reduce the number of people who break that limit.

“Poor overtaking takes place at all speeds and is linked to inexperience and bravado, particularly in young men. Until driving experience on single carriageway rural roads is a compulsory part of the driving test, many young people will only learn about these roads through trial and error, where the most basic mistake can result in tragedy.”

For more information contact Ellen Booth at Brake on 01484 550067.


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    Dave from Leeds. Why overtake at all if it requires one to exceed the speed limit? Descretion should be used and if the vehicle or vehicles in front are making progress ie up or nearly at the speed limit, I may go so far as to say maybe less than 5mph slower then one shouldn’t consider an overtake unless it could be done safely and within the speeed limit. That’s safe driving. not exceeding the speed limit because it may be considered safer?

    bob craven Lancs
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    The answer from Mark in Wiltshire is the best one. Supporting evidence can be found as far apart as Chile, the State of Washington and Switzerland. Some will recall the story I have told many times. Two Kent Police motorcyclists sitting on their machines at the side of the M20 resulted in exemplary driver behaviour for the next 10 miles. A proven strategy not maximised in the UK yet it promotes road safety and encourages casualty reduction.

    Roy Buchanan, Sutton.
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    Overtaking on a country road puts you in direct path of oncoming traffic. Is it better to get it over and done with swiftly and safely or to stick rigidly within a speed limit and risk being on the wrong side of the road for longer than necessary? Have we created an environment where people are so scared of ‘speeding’ that they put themselves in greater danger because of it? Increased traffic levels on our roads mean fewer opportunities for people to overtake to practice the skill and it is something seldom taught to learners. Is it more that people are crashing because they lack the proper judgement of when and where it is safe and appropriate to overtake and also the skills to carry out the manoeuvre safely?

    Dave, Leeds
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    One has to be very careful about reading ‘surveys’ and quoted statistics relating to road accidents. Each accident has it’s own factors from trigger, through causation to effect. To state that speed was ‘a factor’ in any given accident is an almost foregone conclusion if any party involved was doing more than one mile per hour – a box will get ticked and speed becomes a factor.

    More important is to determine the prime cause of an accident, there the true source of the causation and what may have triggered it will be discovered. In most cases it is not speed alone, which may account for less than 7% of all accidents, yet speed is propounded as the all evil sin to be dealt with through regulation and enforcement by camera. Yet it has been shown many times that cameras do not save lives. It is a misnomer, and a disguise to reap more control and income from a society fed on ‘Speed Kills’. It’s a fatally flawed diet.

    Derek Reynolds, St Albans
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    Ask the IAM why this is and the answer would be ‘Making Progress’. I was speaking to a Motorcycle Diamond Instructor recently who undertook an assessment a short while ago with the IAM and during it he was told that 70mph was expected on rural roads (not the 60mph speed limit). When asked why that was ‘making progress’ and an understanding that if you can do it at that speed you would be riding safer? at slower speeds!

    I myself am aware that if I am following a vehicle at 55 mph and decide to overtake I will probably exceed the speed limit of 60 at some time during that overtake but I have never looked down at the speedo to confirm this. perhaps I have just taken it for granted, like everyone else. I was myself criticised by my IAM assessor for not overtaking when confronted by a line of cars, about 12 in all. When he took over, to show me what to do, he ended up on the offside of the road on a left handed curve …. apparently in order to observe …. that it was no use trying to overtake the line of cars we had caught up to.

    When it comes to ‘making progress’ its in the now widely adopted police training manual, by most training organisations. It actually means that when urgency is required in the event of an accident or incident then get there as fast and as safe as you can even though you may exceed the speed limit. [but it cant be seen to be an endorsement for speeding in the manual…… can it]

    So much for that assessment. Needless to say I did not go on to take the full course as a result.

    I will not sacrifice my principals at the word of others.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
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    The most effective solution is highly trained roads policing officers in cars and on motorcycles using two operational strategies in parallel. High visibility patrols using marked vehicles and covert patrols using unmarked vehicles. These officers, being free to use their professional judgement, would then decide if counselling, ‘hearts and minds talk’ was appropriate or if prosecution was more applicable.

    Some would say that this is good old fashioned policing at its best. In modern parliance it could be termed – maximised utilisation and deployment of a highly effective and flexible resources using targeted communication strategies. Lets just call it commonsense!

    Mark, Wiltshire
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    Another survey released by Brake and their friends at Direct Line. And it’s all there as usual. The observations that are old-hat. The sanctimony. The pontification. The self-righteousness. I am told by colleagues that Brake are well-intended. I would not challenge that but there must be more constructive ways of spending their supporters money than doing surveys that tell us what we have known for years. (since the 1950s in my case) In the words of Les Dennis (Family Fortunes), “our survey said” that 47% of drivers exceeded 60mph on rural roads at least once in the past 12 months in order to overtake. Well; what does that tell us? And it’s misleading I am afraid. Your survey said, 47% of the drivers YOU ASKED admitted to this driving behaviour. That’s not the same. If you selected your sample outside the Pig and Ferret pub used by the local rugby club, you would get answer A. If you selected your sample outside the Literary & Philosophical Society in Middle Wallop, you would get answer B. Neither answer would tell you anything about the 40 million drivers in the UK and their driving style. The remark that a third of fatal accidents in rural roads were factored by speed in either form must be analysed in context with other factors and not treated in isolation. Please may I ask Direct Line to put their spare cash into road safety initiatives that will improve road safety and reduce casualties.

    Roy Buchanan, Sutton
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