Shock at max speed reduction

Spain is in shock after the government, without bothering to consult anyone, announced that as from the 7th of March the max speed limit will be just 110 kph, down from 120 kph.

Why? I don’t know. The media -united in decrying the measure as unnecessary and ridiculous- doesn’t know. The opposition parties don’t know. The official reason is that by making people slow down by 10kph the country will save 15% in fuel. Zapatero won’t tell us, as he seems too scared to appear in public and is sending out his successor, Rubalcaba, to tell us of these half witted decisions. A report for Antena3 today says that almost 75% of PSOE supporters say ZP should quit before the 2012 general elections.

The plan is linked to attempts to make people use public transportation by dropping prices – fine in the big cities, but out here in the sticks, where there are no buses, no trains and we’re an hour away from anything interesting, it’s nothing more than a revenue generating effort via traffic fines.

It comes on the same day as the 2011 staff budget is approved. The government of Spain will be hiring just 2781 people this year: 1527 go to central administration, police and army, and 1254 to Justice. That means, in effective, that for every 10 government workers who retire / quit this year, just one will be hired. However, the workload remains the same.

Talking about the “temporary measure” of dropping the speed limit, the speed limit itself is a “temporary measure” in Spain – the country had no speed limits until 1973 when the fuel crisis prompted the introduction of limits, which were introduced as a “temporary measure” – which is still very much with us.

Rubalcaba has promised that by the 7th of March every 120 sign in the country will be covered with a sticker reading 110. The government says that the cost of putting a sticker over every 120 sign in the country is just 250,000€. Do you believe that? I don’t.

The idea of dropping the speed limit is nothing new – we are constantly reminded on the TV that “the USA did this in the 70’s”. Well, the USA also stopped black people from sitting at the front of the bus in the 70’s, but I hope we’re not following that example as well.

The 1973 speed limit, to which I referred to above, the first time Spain had a maximum speed limit, was introduced in the press under the slogan “even if you can afford it, Spain can’t”. The measures were supposed to be temporary, but instead it quietly slipped into national law.

What actually surprises me about this measure is the half witted way in which it has been introduced. With no attempt to smooth its introduction, no attempt to explain why it is necessary, no attempt to make people consider the reasons behind the decision. We just switched on the TV and were told “To stop Spain running out of fuel we’re dropping the speed limit next week”. When the PP criticised the decision, the minister of development, Pepe Blanco, rounded on them, in an abusive and arrogant manner, calling them “freakies” (possibly, a translation would be nerds) “who display the characteristics of people who want to argue, not people who want to govern”.

So, no discussion is permitted.Any attempt at discussion by any of the opposition parties has been shouted down by the PSOE who refuse point blank to discuss the measure, have also dropped the intra-city speed limit to 30 and announced more “energy saving measures” for next week.

Opinion polls are running at around 95% against the measures, and the general feeling is that it’s a purely revenue generating measure aimed at raking in the traffic fines. Even the association of driving instructors, and the RACE automobile club have agreed that on face value, it appears that revenue from fines will increase.

The good news? It seems that for the first few weeks, if you do speed, points will be assigned at the old 120 kph limit, although fines are levied at the new 110kph limit.

Automobile associations, gas companies, and traffic experts have all come out against the move, arguing that the amount of fuel saved is minimum, and that if the government wants to save fuel it should implement a programme of education of drivers and checking of vehicles to weed out the older and less efficient ones, or ones that aren’t being maintained properly. Far from the 15% savings claimed by the government, RACE say that an average modern car in motorway cruising control will save just 3% or 4% by dropping 10 kph on the motorway.

The President of the association of driving instructors, one Francisco Paz, says that by training drivers to drive better, savings of up to 40% can be achieved, simply by educating the driver about the amount of fuel consumed in fast acceleration or braking maneuvers.However, he added in an interview with Levante Valencia, that this is a slow and costly measure for the government, and doesn’t involve the immediate increase in traffic fines. Something that the head of economics of Valencia Uni seems to agree with.

So yes. It’s all pointing to the fact that we’re bankrupt, run out of petrol, taxes are going up, fines will increase, the administration will become ever worse with more work, but fewer workers to do this work, the government is slipping ever more towards an authoritative state and to top it all off, we can’t even flee the country in a fast manner.

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