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Being thankful for Britain’s driving laws

By raccars Published

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Most of us from time to time become a little frustrated with the huge number of laws governing our driving. We are ordered to wear seat belts, keep to the speed limit, not drive in bus lanes and certainly not to use our phone while driving. Countless speed cameras are ready to catch us if we dare to exceed the speed limit. The number of rules may sometimes feel like government interference but spare a thought for the drivers on the other side of the Atlantic, in the USA. US drivers have far fewer rules to worry about, as personal freedoms are often considered more important than road safety, but the results can be horrific.

An average of 30,000 people are killed on US roads every year. This compares with 2,000 in the UK. When population differences are factored in, it transpires that you are three times more likely to die in a road accident in the US than in the UK. Kara Macek of the Governors Highway Safety Association in the US, said: "I think Americans tend to have a civil liberties view of things. There are states where there are strong feelings against seatbelt and motorcycle helmet laws. There is the whole issue of what is seen as the nanny state. Also there are 50 states, so you tend to have a patchwork of laws."

Of these 50 states, only 12 have laws banning the use of handheld mobiles while driving. This is despite the fact that more than 3,000 American drivers were killed last year as a result of 'distracted driving'. Seven states even allow texting while driving and it was only banned in an eighth, Florida, last year. New Hampshire has no law requiring the wearing of seatbelts, whereas 16 others only fine motorists for not wearing a seatbelt if they are caught committing another offence.

Speeding is also an issue in the US, with a lack of speed cameras to enforce limits. Russ Rader, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, says: "We have been much more lax in enforcing limits than in other industrialised countries. We are also seeing speeds increasing to a level we have never seen before, with one toll road in Texas setting an 85mph limit."

In short, the huge number of regulations that govern our driving may sometimes seem like the interference of a nanny state but the figures do prove that they keep us far safer than our US cousins.

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