Jeremy Clarkson’s worst nightmare

Great news. It’s now possible to an fit an automatic speed limiter to your car so that you simply can’t exceed the speed limit. In fact there’s a trial fleet of cars fitted with these helpful devices cruising around Leeds right now (I think I drove home behind one the other day). It’s connected to your Sat Nav system so it’ll always be up-to-date and, presumably, if you snap the GPS antenna off or wrap it in tin foil or something your car will cleverly pootle around at the default 20mph until you fix it.

Some of you (all right, about half of you), will resent this. You will regard it as inimical to the British way, as incompatible with liberty, as an affront to your maturity and autonomy. The rest of you will think this is a perfectly acceptable constraint on liberty, acceptable precisely because it will cut annual road deaths in half – a bit like seat belts or the mobile phone ban. The question is, how could you introduce such a gizmo without provoking a revolution amongst the motoring classes? Well, I reckon it would be quite easy actually.

The trick would be to make it voluntary and to allow the market to take care of the roll-out. To begin with, the gadgets could be distributed free of charge, paid for by the Government out of expected health service savings and by the insurance industry out of their savings on accident pay-outs. So a speed limiter would be a free option on a new car and could be fitted at your annual service for everyone else. The incentive to get one would be straightforward: your car insurance would be cheaper. Over time, more and more people would adopt the devices and, sooner or later, the handful of hot-shoes left without would begin to stand out like crack smokers in a creche. Speeding would become uncool and confined to race tracks and drag strips. Speed limited drivers would wear a window sticker with pride. Ferrari owners would whinge. Jeremy Clarkson would almost certainly emigrate.

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