Without a doubt, the most discussed subject on Pistonheads is that of speed. The subject is even included in the website title with the cleverly worded "speed matters", which has an interesting double-meaning.
There are discussions about how fast cars accelerate, what their top speeds are, how fast people have travelled on track and on the public road, and then there's the dreaded speed enforcement threads. How much do we hate speed cameras? What is it with safety camera partnerships? How long till I get an NIP? Have the Police nothing better to do? Etc, etc.
It's a wide-ranging subject which has been discussed at length in countless other forums, but I'm going to add my thruppence on the subject of speed when applied to advanced driving.
The first thing I'll state, before I go any further, is that the views expressed in this post are my own personal views only, and not the views of my employer. I know it's a generally accepted principle on here, but with a subject as contentious as speed, I think it's important to press the point.
So, now that's out of the way, it's confession time...
There - I feel better now I've got that off my chest.
It's true - I speed. I'm a speeder. I have been since I passed my test twentysomething years ago and I probably always will be. Speeding is as integral a part of my driving habits as putting my seatbelt on and regular mirror checks.
Does this make me a bad person? I don't think so. Does it make me a child killer? Not so far, no. Does it make me more likely to have an accident? No. Should I be taken out at dawn and shot like a dog? I'd prefer not, thanks. Have I ever had any points on my licence? *touches wood* No.
The reality is that I always, always stick to posted speed limits, i.e. those speed limits which are "red ringed" (20, 30, 40, 50 and occasionally 60 mph speed limits), and I limit my excursions above the speed limit to national speed limit roads.
Why's that then Reg? Why do you choose to break one speed limit, but adhere to another? Surely, if you're a speeder by nature, you'll break every speed limit? After all, the penalty is similar if you get caught, irrespective of the actual limit, isn't it?
My reasoning is this - if everyone drove correctly, according to the road and traffic conditions, and according to what actual and potential hazards existed, then there wouldn't actually be any need for speed limits at all. People would appreciate what problems existed on a particular road, and would drive at a correct speed in relation to them. With that in mind, I generally find that most posted limits are generally correct. 30mph in a busy, built-up area with all it's associated hazards, is just about the right speed. 40mph on a main road lined with residential properties is, again, just about the right speed. 20mph on a council housing estate, where Chezney and Tyrone's parents don't take proper care of them is also the right speed.
Posted limit areas are also the areas where you're most likely to be caught and prosecuted for exceeding the speed limit. The vast majority of fixed camera sites in my force area are in posted limit areas, and I can only think of 2 or 3 locations on national speed limit roads where mobile enforcement cameras are used, and even then, only infrequently. This is still the case in a lot of other force areas too, but not all.
Now, let's bust a myth before we go any further. It's not absolutely necessary to break speed limits in order to enjoy driving. Of course, this site is full of enthusiastic drivers, many of whom drive high performance cars and the concept of actually not breaking speed limits will be quite alien to those people, but bear with me a minute.
A couple of weeks or so ago, The new Mrs Local and I went to North Wales for a few days on honeymoon. We drove down in the M3, but I was paranoid about Mr Brunstrom and his traffic Taliban, so I decided to stick to the national speed limits as well as the posted ones. The roads are lovely in North Wales and, believe me, I could have gone a lot faster, but rolling along at 60ish, combined with accelerating hard out of slower sections, planning and executing overtakes and cornering briskly, without approaching the cars limits made for a quite enjoyable journey. Not exciting, of course, not adrenaline pumping or tyre-screeching, or eye-widening, but enjoyable nonetheless.
On the way home, however, I took a different route, along very lightly trafficked roads, and I pressed on a bit more than I did on the way down. Well, a lot more if I'm being honest, and the drive was also very enjoyable, but in a different way. my concentration levels were much higher, as was my state of awareness. Driving at speed gives me a feeling of connection between myself, the car and the road, and it's a difficult feeling to describe to non-enthusiasts.
So what is the correct speed to drive at on NSL roads than, Reg?
Sorry - you're not going to catch me out with a question as simplistic as that I'm afraid. The answer to that question is based on so many variables that I couldn't even begin to list them all. I'll just stick to the absolute basics for now.
Firstly, it depends on you. You should have a realistic assessment of your own driving ability. Be honest with yourself - how good are you? Really? If you drive on the road at a speed where you're approaching the limits of the car, then you're driving too fast. If you don't know when you're approaching the limits of the car, then you really need to take stock. If you have an unexpected moment, again, you should be taking stock and re-considering what your actual ability level is. It's not necessarily something you need to feel embarrassed about, but if people, in general, stopped thinking that they were Gods gift to driving and accepted that there's always more to learn, then the roads would be a safer (and less law enforced) place.
The next major thing to think about is why you're travelling at speed. If the answer is because you're late, or because you've got a time constraint, then back off and consider what I wrote here about time constraints...
Time constraints add additional stress to a journey and if you combine that stress with driving at excessive speed, then you're introducing an unnecessary element of risk into the equation.
If, however, the answer to why you're speeding is "because I enjoy it", then you shouldn't be stressed by outside influences. Keep the enjoyment element in the forefront of your mind, and remember that you're driving at speed for the enjoyment of the sensations it brings. You're not trying to set a lap time or reduce a stage time by a few seconds - you're out to enjoy yourself, and there should be no risk involved in what you're doing. Remember that, to the majority of road-users, the roads aren't there for enjoyment, but are merely a transport option, so your enjoyment isn't high on their list of priorities. Don't start feeling that other drivers are ruining your day, but instead, use your planning and anticipation skills to look for a nice, safe overtake.
One last note on the subject.
If you get caught, take it on the chin.
I know full well that I'm risking prosecution every time I go over a speed limit (unless I'm at work, of course), and I'm well aware of the consequences of being caught. I try to pick the right time and place, and drive safely, without upsetting anyone else, but there's always the possibility that I'll be caught at some point.
If (or when) I do, I'll take it on the chin, pay the fine, take the points, an I won't whinge about it.
If you choose to break a speed limit, and the worst happens, I suggest you do the same.