Yes – Neil Worth, Road Safety & Motoring Officer, GEM Motoring Assist

It’s a fact that excessive or inappropriate speed is a factor in about one third of fatal collisions and is an aggravating factor in most others. This is why it’s one of the key areas road safety professionals focus on alongside distraction, drink/drugs and seatbelts. The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) have studied the issue of speed as a factor in fatal collisions alongside compliance with speed limits across Europe. Their findings make interesting reading: On urban roads, where 37% of all road deaths occur, between 35% and 75% of vehicle speed observations were higher than the legal speed; On rural non-motorway roads, where 55% of all road deaths occur, between 9% and 63% of vehicle speed observations were higher than the speed limit; On motorways, where 8% of all road deaths occur, between 23% and 59% of observed vehicle speeds were higher than the speed limit. The introduction of mandatory Intelligent Speed Assistance technology in all new vehicles will help drivers to comply with speed limits. This, ETSC estimates, will eventually lead to a 20% reduction in road deaths across the whole continent. This isn’t about ‘Big Brother’ telling you what to do, or watching your every move, it’s about using technology to the best effect as part of the ‘Safe Systems’ approach to reduce the number of people killed and injured on our roads.

No – Edmund King OBE, President, the AA

At first sight the concept of adapting cars so that they can’t ever break the speed limits looks like a real no-brainer. However, having driven a car with ISA, my experience was somewhat different. Sometimes a little bit of speed differentiation can get you out of trouble. How many times have you been stuck on a motorway or dual carriageway with a convoy of adjacent trucks fighting it out at 59 and 60 mph only for a slight incline to slow one down and extend the race? I encountered a real problem on the outside of a slip lane to the M1, where I tried to accelerate to match the speed of the traffic, but my car found itself not very intelligently restricted to 30mph, while other drivers undertook me. For ISA to work, we also need totally accurate real-time digital speed limit maps. Speed limits change due to road works or congestion on stretches of motorway with variable speeds. Also, when knowing that the speed is limited, there is the temptation to drive up to the limit, rather than adapting your speed to the conditions and environment you’re in. Cars already have optional speed limiters such as cruise control or, more fundamentally, the driver’s right foot. Teaching drivers how to use their right foot safely at all times seems to be the sensible way ahead. Dodgems have mandatory speed limiters, but they still seem to crash.