Would you fit a speed limiter to your car?

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Motorists are willing to embrace technology to improve road safety, according to a recent report by Brake, the road safety charity. That includes fitting a speed limiter (sometimes known as a ‘governor’) to impose a maximum MPH on their vehicle. Brake found that almost two-thirds (63%) of drivers would be willing to let intelligent speed adaptation (ISA) automatically restrict their speed. The charity is therefore urging the government to take steps towards introducing the ground-breaking technology on UK roads. ISA uses global positioning system (GPS) technology combined with a digital map of speed limits to make sure that vehicles stick to the speed limit.

Driving revolution

If every vehicle came equipped with ISA technology, it would truly transform Britain’s roads. There would be no need for speed control measures, such as cameras, road bumps or police checks, because all drivers would comply with speed limits at all times. The technology could also prevent thousands of needless deaths and injuries. And there would be major implications for the cost of car insurance, given the expected reduction in claims.

Bespoke fitting

The Brake survey asked motorists whether they would be willing to have mandatory, voluntary or advisory ISA fitted to their vehicles. Almost a third of drivers (32%) would be happy to have ‘mandatory ISA’ if it was free. Mandatory ISA automatically decreases acceleration if the driver exceeds the speed limit, and cannot be overridden. About the same percentage (31%) would prefer ‘voluntary ISA’. Again, it automatically decreases acceleration if the driver exceeds the speed limit, but it can be overridden so the driver retains control. A quarter (23%) of drivers were more hesitant, expressing a willingness only to have ‘advisory ISA’ fitted. Here, the system simply alerts the driver when they are over the speed limit, but does not automatically reduce speed.

Possible problems

There are concerns that using ISAs could make overtaking difficult, and that congestion could worsen with everyone travelling at the same speed. But only 14% of drivers said they would not wish to make use of the technology in any form.

Speed kills

Excessive speed (breaking the limit or travelling too fast for conditions) is a contributory factor in more than one in four (28%) fatal crashes in the UK, according to the Department for Transport. Controlled trials of ISA technology have predicted that voluntary ISA could reduce road deaths by 21%, and mandatory ISA could cut fatalities by 46%. Advisory ISA is far less effective, but could still reduce fatal crashes by 5%, saving 85 lives a year.

‘Game-changer’

Gary Rae, director of communications and campaigns at Brake, said: “ISA represents a game-changer for road safety, with the potential to make all other speed enforcement unnecessary and prevent nearly half the devastating deaths on our roads. “As speed is at least an aggravating factor in almost all road crashes, this technology could make our roads much safer for everyone, and prevent thousands of senseless casualties every year if rolled out systematically.”

Call to action

The government has not yet demonstrated the appetite to introduce ISA. However, the results suggest that drivers are hungry to put the technology to good use. Brake is therefore calling on the government to take full advantage of ISA by:

  • producing a digital speed limit road map of the country
  • requiring vehicle manufacturers to equip all vehicles with ISA technology
  • making ISA use mandatory, with an effective marketing campaign to explain its purpose.

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