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U.K. faces speed limiting: Is U.S. next?

The U.K. could soon see thousands of its buses, taxis and other public vehicles installed with speed limiters.

I know you’re about to go back and check – if you already haven’t – to make absolutely sure you saw a “K” and not an “S” in the previously stated acronym. Either way, let me make it crystal clear that this is the United Kingdom, not the United States that the following article will be discussing in regard to the possibility of limiting the speed of all common motor vehicles.

Feel any better now? Well, maybe you shouldn’t.

The technology behind this is known as Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) and is being tested by Transport for London (the U.K.’s version of the U.S. Department of Transportation) in a trial starting this summer.

In an article written on London’s Times Online, I noticed some careful diction when I read, “Drivers of vehicles with ISA will be able to select an option that prevents them from accelerating over the limit.”

Did you notice it too?

“Drivers…will be able to select…”

Select, huh? Oh really….

The article then describes that this “selectable” feature will also automatically decrease the speed of a vehicle if the driver fails to reduce his or her speed when passing a sign marking a lower limit.

In order to detect local speed limits, the ISA device uses a satellite tracking and digital road map. But wait, there’s more….

In addition to the automatic mode, a driver can also select – again with this diction – a setting that flashes a “smiley face” if the driver is following the speed limit, or a “frown “face” if the driver is exceeding the limit.

So you can either be electronically forced to obey the speed limit signs or you can “choose” to see happy or frowning faces constantly flashing you in the eyes, inches from your odometer.

The Times Online also says ISA technology will likely be available to private motorists as early as next year.

Where do I sign up? Yeah, right.

Supporters of this control on motorists and motor vehicles cite the potential elimination of thousands of speed-related accidents each year.

They also argue that since almost a quarter of all traffic congestion is due to accidents, having speed limiters on vehicles would reduce that congestion as a direct result. So, essentially, fewer accidents would equate to less traffic. Finally, we’re getting to something that makes sense.

It is true, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, that around 11,000 deaths in the U.S. each year are speed-related, with almost a third occurring on rural or non-interstate roads.

Another supporting argument offered for this speed limiting device is that vehicles operating at or below speed limits would consume less fuel and therefore would create less pollution.

I’m not sure of the exact science behind the pollution a car produces between each mile per hour, but if everyone was forced to follow speed limits, I’m sure that number would add up fast, saving quite a lot.

Okay, so there are some benefits this ISA technology could provide. I’ll give it that, but what about the down sides? How about that one word the U.S. is said to fight for above all else?

Freedom anyone?

Again, this is a story about a trial version of speed limiting technology, a trial taking place more than 3,000 miles away. Is it not possible, however, that if this idea takes off in the U.K. it might just take off here in the United States? Looking back in the annals of American history, a lot has taken place first in old mother England before taking root here. Let’s not forget about civil rights and…the Beatles.

Is it not our right to be in control of our vehicles and thereby our speed? The freedom of putting the top down on that old Mustang, slamming it into third gear at 60 miles per hour and flying down an empty stretch of highway, wind blasting through your hair, music cranked up loud….

Maybe it’s just me.

Results of the U.K.’s trial of this technology will be published in spring, reported the Times Online.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see where the road takes us from there.