No vroom allowed!

David Bullard | Apr 07, 2019
Will southern European countries 'brexit' when cars are not allowed to travel at more than 70kph?

I read recently that European legislators (that’s a nice word for politicians apparently) are soon to be passing a law that will make it compulsory for any new car sold to have a speed limiter fitted. This piece of killjoy technology will ensure that the car never travels faster than a speed of 70 kilometres per hour or whatever maximum speed the powers that be decree is safe from time to time. This, we are told, will save up to 25,000 lives a year, which is the number of people the boffins claim die every year as a result of speeding vehicles. Considering the planet’s population is approaching the 8 billion mark this does seem to be something of an over-reaction on the part of the legislators.

Except that it’s not the potential saving of 25,000 lives that’s the real issue here. It’s the fact that a politician with nothing better to do decides what is best for the rest of us. Not content with already imposing absurdly low speed limits and putting up daft road signs with the words “Speed Kills” they now want to remove any temptation on our part to hit the gas pedal with a bit of gusto on the odd occasion.

Of course, politicians interfering in all the things that make life bearable are nothing new. I fondly remember the days when one could walk into an English pub and not be able to see the bar through the haze of cigarette smoke. Although I wasn’t a cigarette smoker it never bothered me that other pub goers were free to light up in a confined space. If I have suffered from their passive smoking 40 years later then I have still to suffer the effects. The same fate looms for booze advertising, sugary drinks, junk food and who knows what else? In a truly free society we would all be at liberty to kill ourselves in whatever we choose without any interference from the nanny state. 

Like many people, I happen to enjoy driving fast when conditions allow and surely that should be the deciding factor. In fact, urban traffic has already made it the deciding factor. Anybody commuting into and out of either Johannesburg or Cape Town during rush hour regards it as a positive that the traffic is even moving. I drove out of Cape Town early one morning a while ago and the tail back into the CBD stretched all the way back along the N2 to the airport exit road. No need for a speed limiter there then. I suspect most European cities have the same problem. 

I doubt whether the motor manufacturers have received the news of impending speed limiter legislation with great enthusiasm. After all, the major selling point for most models coming out of Germany is their superior performance over the competition. If BMW brings out a model that accelerates from 0-100km in 4 seconds it won’t be very long before Mercedes or Audi feel the pressure to go one better. Most performance cars can effortlessly accelerate to well over 250km/h….or they would be able to if there wasn’t a speed limiter already fitted. In fact, even a Hyundai i10 can reach 150km/h with a fair wind and that’s hardly a performance car. Forcing manufacturers of performance cars such as Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar to fit speed limiters will kill off the industry, make petrol heads miserable and lead to massive job losses. Who on earth is going to buy a Porsche 911 with a top limited speed of 70km/h?

I’m hoping that this speed limiter nonsense will remain a uniquely European problem and won’t affect us down here on the southern tip. For example, I can’t imagine VIP blue light convoys moving at a sedate 70km/h. The whole point of all those black BMW X5’s with their darkened windows and police escorts is to remind the riff raff that their democratically elected representatives are important people and need to get to wherever it is they are going in the shortest possible time. If that means running a few law abiding citizens off the road at high speed then so be it. 

Then there’s the economic argument to consider. How on earth would municipalities survive without speeding fines? And what on earth will all those traffic cops do if they can’t sit under the shade of a tree in summer with a litre of Coke and a speed trap? They’d be forced to direct traffic or check taxis for roadworthiness. 

Maybe there’s a tourism possibility here. If the denizens of Europe are forced to travel at a maximum speed of 70km/h surely it would make good sense for them to holiday in sunny South Africa where they could travel at whatever speed they choose on our less congested roads. 

And if they do happen to get stopped by the traffic cops they will have the comfort of knowing that a small bribe in a weak currency will send them on their way with a clean record.


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