Road Safety Questions

Questions and answers

What is meant by Traffic Management Schemes?

Traffic Management Schemes are such things as physical speed reduction measures, mini-roundabouts, or pedestrian crossings built to reduce traffic speed and improve traffic flow in order to make Cheshire's roads safer for everyone.

Can we have traffic calming?

The term 'traffic calming' refers to the use of traffic engineering and other physical measures, which are designed to control traffic speeds and encourage sensible driving. The key objective is road safety, not only in terms of accidents but also the degree of danger perceived by road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists. Schemes seek to adapt the volume, speed and behaviour of motor vehicles to the primary functions of the street along which they pass, rather than adapt the street to the unbridled demands of these vehicles. Value for money is also an important objective, underlining the importance of effective design and sound assessment when dealing with the high demand for traffic calming schemes. Traffic calming is a very contentious way to bring about compliance with the speed limit and improve road safety, also other management solutions will normally be investigated first.

Can we have a reduced speed limit?

Speed limits make a valuable contribution to road safety but there is a tendency to see them as a panacea. They are most effective when they are seen by drivers to be a reasonable restriction in the particular circumstances. A limit that is not realistically matched to the environment will be ignored. When this occurs the limits are not providing any significant increased protection to either the frontages or other road users.

Speed limits are normally unnecessary where the character of the road itself limits the speeds of most vehicles. They are not used to try to solve problems at isolated hazards, such as a bend or a road junction. It is expected that vehicles should be driven at a speed appropriate to the prevailing conditions, not the speed limit maximum. Driving without due care is an offence and the provision of speed limits has little effect on these inconsiderate drivers.

Further information can be found in Cheshire East Council’s Speed Management Strategy (PDF, 1MB)

Why are some sections of the road coloured?

These are usually areas where a reduced or moderate speed would be wise. It is based on the principle that a large area of red road is a lot harder to ignore than a small speed limit or 'slow down' sign! Cycle and bus lanes are also frequently coloured, usually red or green. These lanes are reserved for the 'vehicles' concerned and other vehicles should keep out!

What are the weight-related speed limits for commercial vehicles?

The average Car-type van falls below the 2.0 tonne maximum gross weight and is, therefore, subject to the same national speed limits as a car (70 mph on dual carriageways & motorways and 60 mph on single carriageways). Any other goods vehicle including larger vans (not car derived) with a gross weight between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes is limited to 70 mph on motorways, 60 mph on dual carriageways and 50 mph on single carriageways. Any vehicle over 7.5 tonnes has 60 mph, 50 mph and 40 mph limits respectively. All goods vehicles with a gross vehicle weight limit exceeding 7.5 tonnes must be fitted with a speed limiter set to 56 mph. All coaches which have a gross weight of more than 7.5 tonnes must have a speed limiter set to 62 mph. From 1996 coaches have not been permitted to use the outside lane of a motorway.

Do speed limits apply to emergency vehicles?

No. The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (Section 87) states that: "No statutory provision imposing a speed limit... shall apply to any vehicle on an occasion when it is being used for fire brigade, ambulance or Police purposes, if the observation of that provision would be likely to hinder the use of the vehicle for the purpose to which it is being put at the time".

Where do I report an animal loose on the highway?

Any escaped domestic animal, especially larger farm animals, are a threat to road safety and you should inform the Police as soon as possible. Don't try to herd or move the animal alone. Many domestic animals have some form of identification but care should be taken when trying to obtain the details of an identification tag or collar on an injured animal. In the first instance contact the Police, the RSPCA on 0870 55 55 999 or the Highways Service. Caution must be used when dealing with injured wild animals as many of them carry potentially harmful diseases and being distressed are likely to bite you. As with domestic animals contact the Police or the RSPCA.

I am disabled, do I have to wear a seat belt?

It is compulsory for everyone to wear a seat belt whether in the front or rear seats of a car, where one is fitted and available. However the Road Traffic Act 1988 (sections 14 and 15, as amended) provides scope for exemption for some disabled people after medical examination by their local doctor. There is no specific list of reasons which would automatically exempt an individual. However, if a GP is satisfied that are medical reasons why a person should not wear a seat belt, he/she can issue a certificate to that effect. It should be noted that seat belt exemptions should be on medical grounds rather than on grounds of comfort or convenience and every effort should be made to find an appropriate seat belt for the disabled person prior to exempting the person from wearing the seat belt all together. A number of companies produce seat belt accessories that can make wearing a seat belt more comfortable. These include

  • Aremco Grove House, Lenham, Kent ME17 2PX, Tel: 01622 858502, Fax: 01622 850532
  • Securon (Amersham) Ltd, Linchmore Hill, Amersham, Buckinghamshire HP7 0NZ, Tel: 01494 434455, Fax: 01494 726499

I have not driven since an accident, is there an assessment I can have for my driving ability now?

Many disabled people benefit from an assessment to establish their ability to drive a car or other type of vehicle. This may, for example, include testing their reaction time and ability to operate a number of switches, levers and knobs which may be required in the vehicle. In the UK there are a number of independent assessment centres. These include:

  • Banstead Mobility Centre, Damson Way, Fountain Drive, Carshalton, Surrey SM5 4NR, Tel: 020 8770 1151, Fax: 020 8770 1211
  • The Mobility Advice and Information Service, Mobility and Inclusion Unit, Department for Transport, 'O' Wing, Macadam Avenue, Old Wokingham Road, Crowthorne, Berkshire RG45 6XD, Tel: 01344 661000, Fax: 01344 661066, e-mail:mavis@dft.gsi.gov.uk

Details of local assessment centres may be available from:

Assessment centres can assess your driving abilities and identify the equipment and adaptations that may be required. It is also possible for the centre to give you an idea of any costs involved (such as in adapting your existing vehicle if needed or buying a new vehicle), plus information on driving courses available for disabled people.

What is the Blue Badge Scheme?

How do speed cameras work?

Your speed is measured using narrow band radar emitted from the front of the camera. It measures your speed using the Doppler effect and then, if you are exceeding a pre-set figure, it takes two photographs of the back of your vehicle. It takes two so that the speed-reading automatically superimposed on the photographs can be manually double-checked by calculating the distance the car has moved between the pictures. The photographs are taken half a second apart and, using the markings on road, the speed can be calculated. There are three types of GATSO (GATSO is not an acronym, but an abbreviation of the surname of the inventor; Maurice Gatsonides.

  1. Red Light GATSO. This is linked up to the traffic light sequence and runs off an inductive loop in the road just after the stop line. When the lights turn red, the loop is powered up, and anything passing over it is photographed. These need only one photo to prove guilt. Recent changes mean that some of these red light cameras (which are in a smaller box) are having radars fitted so that they become speed cameras when the lights are green or amber, and red-light cameras when the lights go red.
  2. Stationary GATSO. This is the big grey box that we all know. It has two holes in the front: the top one is the camera, and the one in the bottom corner is the flash. The radar is inside. These cameras work as outlined above and are generally infallible. They carry an 800-frame roll of film.
  3. Portable GATSO. This device is the size of a small aluminium briefcase, supported on a small tripod about three feet off the ground. It means that the Police can set up a speed camera in a matter of moments. The camera will take the photos and, about half a mile down the road, an officer will stop you. If you contest the issue, the photographs will be developed and you will be prosecuted.

Do 'funny' number plates fool speed cameras?

No! None of the products you see advertised are any use at all against a GATSO camera. With the computer enhancement technology that is available now, the only thing guaranteed to fool it is if you don't have a number plate at all, and the car is anonymous (and illegal!).

How does a hand-held radar meter work?

This works just like any radar-controlled GATSO but displays the speed on the back for the operator to see. It's then up to the operator's discretion whether or not to stop you. You can buy so-called 'radar-scattering number plate covers' which do actually scatter the returning radar so the gun can't get a reading. This does, of course, rely on the Policeman having pointed the gun at your number plate in the first place - generally they don't as any nearly flat surface will do (headlights, bumpers, etc.).

What is a TruVelo system?

So called because it's a TRUe VELOcity measurer! It is a pair of rubber strips that you drive across. They are a known distance apart, and the time between compressions is measured to give the resulting speed of the vehicle. They look like the devices Highway Authorities use to get road-usage statistics (counting the number of vehicles etc.).

What is a VASCAR?

It's a Visual Average Speed Computer And Recorder - a glorified stopwatch! The Police car may follow you, matching your speed for perhaps a minute, and an officer will time how long it takes to travel between two points a known distance apart. Ever wondered what those white squares are for that are painted on the road? The Police don't actually have to be following you. They can sit on a motorway bridge and time a car passing over some marks.