Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Not so nanny state

A recent article in The Times reported on research showing that over the last ten years the number of older drivers fined for speeding had increased several-fold, while young drivers have only become marginally more likely to be brought to book. Transport Research Laboratory figures show men aged 60 or over increasing the number of penalty points received for speeding by 540 per cent over the period, while for drivers under 25 the equivalent measure increased by only 18 per cent.

A subsequent letter attempted to explain this phenomenon thus:
Younger drivers have been brought up in the “nanny state” and are used to the Government dictating every area of their lives. Older drivers remember what it’s like to be treated as an adult and resent constantly being told what to do.
Granted, the TRL's findings seem counter to popular perception, but perhaps the flaw in the letter writer's argument lies in the fact that the statistics relate to offences prosecuted rather than actual instances of exceeding the speed limit, with the former only representing a miniscule proportion of the latter.

Thus perhaps the explanation is that while younger drivers are more likely to speed, they are also more speed camera savvy - and thus less likely to be 'caught out' - thanks to things like prominently marked speed cameras and GPS mapping systems. To that extent older drivers could perhaps be brought to book for speeding 'innocently', while younger drivers can knowingly speed with greater impunity.

And, on a wider note, perhaps one of the paradoxes of the 'nanny state' argument is that the rules imposed by a supposedly dictatorial government are often more honoured in the breach than the observance - as noted above, the vast majority of speeding offences go undetected and unpunished.

The image of young people meekly accepting rules and regulations - while older citizens are rebelling - seems as exaggerated as the idea of the state controlling our every move. It may try to, but the reality is often very different.

No comments: