03 December 2007
The M25 then and now - or the possibly positive effects of speed cameras
Patrick Crozier

I mentioned this in a comment over at Samizdata so I may as well mention it here.

It’s been ages (years even) since I’ve regularly driven on Britain’s or anyone else’s roads.  But my mother recently had a hip replacement operation (no cancellations, no infections - you’d hardly believe it was the NHS) and she can’t drive.  So, I’m borrowing her car.

As I said, it’s been years since I have regularly driven, so I’m a rather good witness to any changes that may have taken place.  And there is one big one:

Everybody sticks to the speed limit.

In days gone by you could be pootling along at 70mph in the slow lane with people zooming past you at 130.  Now, it would appear, that just doesn’t happen.

And you know what?

I rather like it.

Well, on the M25 at least.  Everybody driving at 70, or whatever the variable limit says, means a much less stressful atmosphere - less tailgating, less having to change lane - and you seem to get where you’re getting that much faster.  There is also that wonderful schadenfreude at the thought of all those thousands of boy (and girl) racers getting their comeuppance courtesy of Mr Gatso.

The widening to five lanes in some places may also have something to do with it.

Of course, what we may be seeing here is a statist solution to a problem the state created in the first place.  If the M25 existed in the free market it might well be the case that price was used to regulate the number of vehicles on the road and so there would be no need to regulate traffic flow.  It might also be the case that there were no speed limits at all.  But equally private road owners might come up - in the more efficient and sensible manner that the private sector usually does - with more or less the same solution we see here.  We just don’t know and I would look forward to finding out.

Having praised the value of speed cameras on the M25 I should point out that they are a total pain everywhere else.  I find that I am constantly having to direct my glance at the speedo rather than the road where it should be.

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