Average Speed Limits : Life Journies

I was driving down the M62’s seemingly never ending roadworks the other day.

They’re the ones that impose a 50mph average speed limit while the motorway is converted to “smart” status, presumably so that it can tell me to still only drive at 50mph when the workmen that I’ve never seen on it doing said conversion are long gone.

There are few things that vex me about average speed limits.  I actually think they’re a really good idea for managing traffic flow through speed restricted areas because they should prevent large speed differences that can be seen when cameras only check speed at a specific point.

However, the number of times I see cars now seemingly not realising that they are average speed limits and do bomb it along past everyone else before slamming on when they see the camera is amazing.

The other frustrating thing is lorries / other professional drivers who don’t see the 50 as the absolute limit.  As my taxi driver explained it to me once, they (not him, apparently) will set their cruise control to the speed limit +10% +2mph, because apparently that’s what you can get away with.

So in a 50mph limit, they’ll be doing just shy of 57mph.  That’s enough to mean that anyone sticking to the 50 can easily find themselves boxed in by lorries overtaking when the temporary speed limit is removed.

And that brings me to my point.  I was giving someone a lift the other day.  We were overtaken by the lorries and the people that didn’t care and then we hit the national speed limit again as the roadworks ended.  I sped up and overtook all the lorries that had just overtaken me as they hit their legal speed limiters.

“Look where it got them,” said my passenger.

I smiled and nodded, because my other reply would have made me look like an arsehole.  Here it is…

It actually depends on how you view the journey.  As a comparison to other people’s journeys, such as in a race, the answer to “where it got them” is, “not very far.”  They were behind, and they are behind again, and getting further behind, so the effort is wasted.  They may as well have stayed where they were.

But, obviously in fact, you can also work out how far the manoeuvre got them.  If we call it a 6mph speed difference over 5 minutes (to keep my maths easy), it will have got a lorry another 0.5 mile (plus the length of my car and stopping distance of, let’s say 200 feet, keeping the units imperial) further down the road than they would have been had they not have overtaken.

To some people, that’s a big deal.  It’s 5 minutes and it’s half a mile and that could make a big difference.

Got me thinking that that could be how people view their life journeys – going too fast when they shouldn’t and it gets them where they need to be in the shorter term but, overall, they end up a bit further behind.

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