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16 September, 2008

Culture crash

I was slightly startled to belatedly discover Roland Barthes'* writings on cultural mythologising extensively cited in a Guardian criticism of car-fetishists' TV show 'Top Gear'.

Even the least critical admirers of 'Top Gear' tend to dismiss it as escapist TV, "just a bit of fun", but as Moran (and, indirectly, Barthes) say, its creation of a fantasy world where "speeding motorists [are able to] innocently enjoy the aesthetics of speed away from the prying eyes of government busybodies" is dangerously insidious. It's hard to deny that the actions of comedic TV presenters in controlled circumstances inform opinions about behaviour on public roads, with anyone who cares about road safety dismissed as 'joyless'.

I won't rebut the usual arguments against speed cameras (that drivers should be able to decide sensible speeds for themselves, and that speed cameras aren't the panacea for all road safety issues) yet again but as always: think about your sources of information; recognise propaganda as propaganda.

*: Who, incidentally, was killed in a road accident.


hmm. again, the research flies in the face of the meme.
ALL the research, in EVERY country (ie, not culture-related), shows deathrates strongly negatively correlated with average speed. the Rsquared is so high that primitive statistics misuse would demand that speed limits be removed and that slow driving be an offence.

yes, in any particular accident, speed exacerbates most negative outcomes.

nevertheless, looking at the genuine macro rather than the hysterical drama, the argument is uncontradictedly for speed being matched to conditions/environment, rather than to arbitrary absolutes.

and yes: this expressly does NOT imply unlimited speed in whatever circumstances. residential areas and school zones are clearly wildly different circumstances from physically isolated and differentiated freeways. note the german roaddeathrate is very high on local roads and near 0 on autobahns, despite the appalling driving on autobahns.

horses for courses; match limits to circumstances.

Posted by Saltation at September 18, 2008 01:02 AM

yes, in any particular accident, speed exacerbates most negative outcomes.

Good enough for me. As I said in this and the linked earlier posting, speed restriction isn't the one thing which will eliminate all road accidents a whole suite of measures is needed but limited speed does limit the negative impact of other factors.

horses for courses; match limits to circumstances.

Absolutely, but that can't be left to the individual driver. If the limit in a particular location is inappropriate, it's entirely valid to campaign to have it amended, but one would still need to obey it until it's reviewed (and if it doesn't get changed, obey it anyway).

Posted by NRT at September 18, 2008 08:28 AM

i agree with bits of what you say in isolation. however in practice and in the wider perspective, humans like to seize on any simplistic metric and the puritanism syndrome means it just gets wound-down, regardless of reality.

and take 5 seconds to fully think thru the implications of: a NEGATIVE correlation b/w deathrates and average speed. bizarre but true! and consistent, globally. you would lose your licence for at least 18mths if you did normal UK motorway speeds on NSW, Aust. roads, but your deathrate is much much lower.

>Absolutely, but that can't be left to the individual driver.
interestingly, a place with one of the lowest road fatality rates on the planet had until fairly recently exactly that approach. Australia's Northern Territory had no speed limits, but if hauled by the police, you had to demonstrate that the speed you were doing was safe.
mate of a mate (no, really) at uni was pulled over once doing ~150mph. asked for his licence he handed over an odd laminated card.
"what the hell's this?"
"that's my rally licence. and THAT'S my rally car."
a brief pause.
"well off you go then, mate"

Posted by Saltation at September 23, 2008 08:25 PM
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