UK Conservatives defend right to break speed limit

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Conservative MEPs yesterday (2 September) put their foot down on EU attempts to fit cars and vans with hi-tech devices to stop them breaking the speed limit following UK press reports that they were in the pipeline.

The European Commission said there were no concrete plans, however, insisting that the results of a stakeholder consultation into the issue had not yet been finalised.

Intelligent Speed Adaptation works using satellites, which communicate limits to cars automatically, or using cameras to read road signs, to automatically adjust the speed of the vehicle.

“Under the proposals new cars would be fitted with cameras that could read road speed limit signs and automatically apply the brakes when this is exceeded,” reads a report in the Sunday Telegraph from 1 September.

The Mail on Sunday said that UK transport minister Patrick McLoughlin had instructed his officials to block the move because they "violated motorists'" freedom.

Big brother behind the wheel

“Even Big Brother didn't try remote control of people's cars. I don't know whether this is an imminent threat or a gleam in some Commission official's eyes, but if or when it appears before the Transport Committee I can assure you Conservatives will be down on it like a ton of bricks,” said Conservative transport spokesperson Jacqueline Foster, MEP for the UK’s North-West.

"It is also an insult to personal freedom to say that bureaucrats in Brussels are effectively going to have their foot on your brake pedal.  Britain has the best road safety record in Europe and we won't have it compromised by nonsense like this,” Foster concluded.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said that the reports “may be referring to the stakeholders' consultation held in the framework of the study on speed limiters.”

Such automatic speed limiters are currently fitted to heavy goods vehicles and buses. The consultation will assess the effectiveness of the limits and consider extending the devices to cars and vans.

“There is no legislative proposal in preparation concerning Intelligent Speed Adaptation. This will have to wait until the study results are available, which will be some time before the end of the year,” said the Commission spokesperson.

Positions

A spokesman for the UK Automobile Association said that a recent poll by the group showed 43% in favour of mandatory automated speed limiters but 49% against.

“We noticed that there are some downsides; it tends to encourage speeding on roads which are not covered by ISA and can lead to reduced attention, not found in a voluntary system,” the AA spokesman said.

Background

Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) is an in-vehicle system that supports drivers' compliance with the speed limit.

Such systems have been tested in several cities across Sweden and the Netherlands. Research has also been conducted in Britain using simulators.

Timeline

  • By 1 Jan. 2014: European Commission expected to publish results of EU stakeholder consultation into Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) technology

Further Reading

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