`Sorry, officer,' says Britain, `I had no idea why I was speeding'

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The Independent Online
NEARLY ALL drivers admit to breaking the speed limit regularly but can give no good reason except "everyone does it".

Of drivers interviewed in an AA survey, 85 per cent said that they found themselves speeding on occasion. But it proved difficult for drivers to articulate clearly quite why they speed, said the AA. The main justification given was "because it feels right". Many drivers said they can understand why they do it but not why other people speed. Those who do speed believe they have better-than-average driving skills. Many believe they are justified because modern cars can stop more quickly.

Drivers appear to set an internal speed limit which in their judgement is the appropriate speed for them at the time and depending upon road conditions. The internal speed limit is often, but not always, above the posted limit.

Surprisingly, perhaps, most of those answering the survey were content with the current 30mph and 70mph limits. A clear majority felt they were "about right". Those aged 17 to 20 were more likely to want the 30mph limit in urban areas raised, although a substantial minority wanted lower limits for town centres.

The AA survey did reveal that many people did not know that there was a 60mph limit on single carriageway roads.

The AA report, What Limits Speed, is published today by the AA Foundation for Road Safety Research. John Dawson, the AA's policy director, said: "The government is to set targets for accident reduction. If we are to tackle the problem, it is vital that we get to the heart of why people do it in the first place."

One problem is that drivers cannot see why limits are set on certain roads, the AA said.

"Signs should be accompanied by an extra statement if necessary, such as `school', `severe bends' of even `dangerous road'," said Mr Dawson.