'Zombie' driver warning over call for introduction of car speed-limiting devices
By Lucy Ballinger
Last updated at 8:37 PM on 30th December 2008
Cars should be fitted with speed-limiters to help prevent accidents, claim government advisers
Cars should be fitted with speed-limiters to help prevent accidents and cut carbon emissions, claim government advisers.
Ministers are planning to help councils draw up digital maps with details of the legal speed on every road.
The device then uses satellite positioning to check if a vehicle is breaking the speed limit and will automatically slow a car down and apply the brakes if necessary.
The speed-limiting technology could prevent up to 29 per cent of road accidents which cause injuries.
But campaigners believe the devices are dangerous because they lull drivers into a 'zombie mode'.
The Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) and the Motorists' Forum published a report yesterday which called for the voluntary introduction of the devices - called intelligent speed adaption (ISA).
The study also looked at how the devices would help fuel consumption, emissions, noise and ease traffic on the roads.
It found that on 70mph roads, keeping to the speed limit could lead to savings of up to 6 per cent in CO2 emissions.
But Claire Armstrong, from the road safety charity Safe Speed, said that the devices could be dangerous.
She said truck drivers using speed-limiting devices had been shown to 'go into fatigue mode or zombie mode' and stopped paying attention to the road.
Mrs Armstrong added: 'That makes it highly dangerous in those scenarios. So you've taken the responsibility away from the driver and that is not good for road safety.'
Derek Charters, from the Motor Industry Research Association, said using devices to automatically limit speed could cause accidents.
He said: 'The last thing you need is one car to be overtaking and then pull back in, in front of the cars in front, because that braking event will then cause everybody to start to slow down, which will then compress the traffic, which then causes an incident.'
Although neither CfIT nor the Motorists' Forum is recommending the compulsory fitting or usage of ISA they both want the Department for Transport to make the technology available and encourage drivers to use it.
John Lewis, from the Motorists' Forum, said he believed the devices would help drivers obey limits and therefore hold onto their licences.
He told the BBC: 'We believe that the system should be a voluntary system, that the drivers decide if they have fitted to their car or not, and that they decide if they want to over-ride the speed limit - that should be their choice.'
British Gas has already introduced the technology for its vans - limiting them to 70mph. Jon York, fleet manager for the company said the system had reduced road accidents by company drivers.
He said: 'It does aid road safety, it does reduce incidents, but it is part of a wide-ranging number of initiatives within British Gas and one of those is driver training because you have to change people's behaviour.'
CfIT vice-chairman David Leeder said: 'This important report shows the very real benefits to motorists from the introduction and use of an ISA system - not just in road safety but also in terms of fuel and money saved.'