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The Government’s entirely dishonest speed limit idea

If Ireland has a dominant political ideology aside from progressivism, then that ideology is surely do-somethingism.

Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, it must be done:

Speed limits are set to be cut on a ­significant number of roads as authorities seek to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries.

Limits will be lowered to 80kmh on national secondary roads, 60kmh on local and rural roads, and 30kmh in town centres and housing estates as part of a major Government overhaul.

After a summer of tragedy on Ireland’s roads, Junior Transport Minister Jack Chambers will bring the details of a comprehensive speed-limit review to Cabinet within weeks. It proposes the most significant changes to speed limits on Irish roads in nearly two decades.

Credit to Hugh O’Connell, there, for the scoop.

Make no mistake, though, this is not about road deaths. Or at least, not only about road deaths, and the reason we can say this with some certainty is twofold.

First, road deaths in Ireland have been persistently falling over the past decade, with the current speed limits in place:

Second, the Government’s speed limit review, we are told, was considering safety as only ONE of three factors. You’ll never guess what the other two were:

The speed-limit review has been carried out over the last two years as part of the Government’s Road Safety Strategy by the Department of Transport. This has also included the input of a number of agencies, such as the National Transport Authority, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Road Safety Authority, An Garda Síochána, and local authorities.

The group carried out an assessment of the existing framework of speed limits in Ireland, looked at best practice internationally and carried out a modelling analysis of potential options having regard to safety, emissions and active travel needs.

“Emissions and active travel needs”. Active travel needs, if you’re wondering, is about the Government’s assumption that people only use cars if they can’t get a bus or public transport, and that everyone should be nudged out of their cars.

At this point, it should be noted that there is zero evidence that speed limits (as opposed to speed) had any role to play in any recent deaths on Irish roads. Nor is there any obvious reason why they should have played a role: Most deaths on Irish roads are connected to breaches of the laws around speeding and driving safely, not their observance. There’s a reason why we have all those ad campaigns about not using your phone while driving: It’s because that law gets broken, with often deadly consequences.

Coincidentally, I’m sure, there is evidence that driving more slowly reduces the fuel use and therefore the emissions from your car.

Consider the fact that Ireland has ridiculously unachievable, but legally binding targets for emissions reductions by 2030. Consider also the fact that this is a Government dominated by the Green Party. Consider then that Government likes to find popular excuses for doing unpopular things. And finally consider that the Independent tells us (albeit in paragraph 14) that emissions are part of the calculation, and you might just be able to see a picture emerging of the fuller agenda at play here.

The Government wishes to reduce car use. The Green Party is openly and overtly hostile to motorists as it is. And hey presto, no sooner do a few people lose their lives on Irish roads than suddenly it becomes necessary to do something.

None of this is conspiratorial: It is all in plain sight.

Nevertheless, Government should be taken at their word. If the reason for dramatically reducing speed limits (at a time when cars have never been safer) is to reduce road deaths, then the Government should be asked to produce evidence showing the number of fatal accidents that took place this year when the car or cars involved were travelling more slowly than the applicable speed limit. If the limits are to blame, then this should not be difficult.

But if, in fact, the cars involved in these accidents were exceeding the speed limit at the time of their incidents, then that would suggest that the speed limit itself was not a factor.

The other question that should be asked is why other factors are not being considered: For example, it is internationally documented that a high proportion of road accidents involve male drivers in their 20s. Insurance companies recognise this through their premium policies and pricing. Governments do not recognise it: Why not, for example, introduce a law limiting younger drivers to smaller, less powerful cars? A law saying that until you are thirty, you can drive nothing bigger or more powerful than a Toyota Yaris?

That would probably require some imagination, and it would certainly require some research and debate – but it would at least target a known issue.

In this case, the Government is not targeting a known issue. Instead it is relying entirely on the transient emotion of a section of the population to browbeat them into accepting restrictions on their liberty in the name of compassion and safety, knowing that those two words alone are enough to convince some people without the need for any hard evidence.

Motorists are a powerful voting block in Ireland, and one that gets regularly abused by politicians through taxation, and through being made scapegoats.

For how long more, exactly, are we going to take it?

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