There is such a thing as driving too slowly
So much of road safety centres around persuading people to slow down. Rightly so; speed does indeed kill. In ordinary circumstances any given human mistake and any given collision will be made much worse by excessive speed.
Nevertheless there can be times when slow driving is what causes the problem. Think about a typical Irish single-carriageway road. We have a lot of these. You will generally get a fairly wide road with hard shoulders marked by yellow lines and the centre divide marked in white.
Over-taking on these roads is inherently dangerous. The data on that is very clear. In terms of how likely you are to crash per kilometre of distance travelled, a modern motorway is six times safer than a good quality single carriageway.
On a poor quality road your chances of a crash are ten times higher than on a motorway. Strange that a lot of motorists tell us that they find motorways to be scary and avoid them.
When a vehicle is moving more slowly than general traffic on a single lane road there can be a build up of frustrated cars behind it. The moment there is half a chance to overtake some of them will go for it and will take an extra risk doing so.
If I push my luck going too fast in order to get past you and I crash my car in the process there is no denying that it is my own fault. But at the same time the behaviour of the slow car made the crash more likely.
No-one should feel pressurised into going too fast because of what the cars behind them are doing. Flashing the lights and blowing the horn do not convey right of way.
Even so, those of us who are more comfortable driving a little more slowly need to think about the effect on other road users. We are all obliged to use the roads sensibly and with sympathy for other traffic.
On the open road keep an eye on your mirrors. If there is traffic behind you, try to move in towards the left and give them a chance to get by. When you come to a more open stretch treat that as an opportunity to let them past rather than speeding up yourself.
Don’t be an amateur Garda. Quite often people tell me that they refuse to let a car past or to move to the left because ‘I’m doing the speed limit and he’s not allowed go any faster than that.’ True or not, that is a lethal attitude.
Far better to think of your sensible driving as a way of keeping everybody safe. We don’t lack for idiots on Irish roads but at the same time we don’t want foolishness to be punishable by death.
There are things that can be done on those roads in terms of engineering. The Swedes, not very surprisingly, seem to do it well. Much of their network is what they call ‘2+1’. Two lanes one way and one lane the other, switching every few kilometres.
That design style is beginning to be more evident here but it is expensive. We have so much road per capita in Ireland (the most in Europe and one of the highest in the world) that we are not going to convert them all to the 2+1 format any time soon.
So if you are a little slower on the road take a little time to consider others. Even if he does not appreciate it, it can be the difference between life and death for the impatient driver behind you.