THE Government has ordered rural councils and highway authorities to begin preparing for a big cut in speed limits on rural roads - scene of 63% of Britain's fatal traffic accidents.
Speed limits to be cut in Dales villages
This news has been well received by campaigners in the Yorkshire Dales, which have the dubious distinction of hosting the most dangerous stretch of highway in England - the A682 between Gisburn and Hellifield - and other notorious stretches on the A65 between Skipton and Kirkby Lonsdale and the A59 between Skipton and Harrogate.
Many of the deaths on the first two are caused by middle-aged motor cyclists out for weekend "burn-ups" as we reported in a week in the country on June 30, whereas the hilly stretch of the A59 from Bolton Abbey east has been the scene of many car crashes involving business travellers or young drivers.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England has been demanding lower rural speed limits for many years. In the Dales, there is no limit at all in villages like Selside, on an incredibly narrow and twisting lane in Upper Ribblesdale, where motor cyclists often roar through at 60 mph-plus.
The moorland road between Hawes and the Ribblehead railway viaduct is also one of the popular runs for ton-up motorcyclists and one of these was recently timed at 167 mph on the Settle bypass of the A65 - 100 mph above the legal 60 mph limit.
The Government yesterday instructed local councils to prepare plans for reducing this limit to 50 mph - or even 40 mph in known danger spots - by 2011.
About time too... But there can't be "no limit in Selside" - if there's no posted limit, then it's 60. And it's not just motorcyclists who are to blame; sadly, it's car drivers - particularly those in wide vehicles, such as over-powered 4x4s - who are more likely to kill people other than themselves, through speed.
And while I welcome a lower speed limit, it's pointless if it's toothless. Obviously more people will break the lower limit than the current one. If that's not going to be ignored, there has to be more policing. That's good. But taxpayers must accept that they will have to stump up.