I was standing on the road near my house with a high-speed gun – and this is what happened

Hitting people’s pockets has always been an effective way to change public behavior, so higher fines and more speed cameras should deter dangerous drivers while they think they might be caught.

It’s easy to change the speed limit, it’s harder to change behavior – and I can safely say that many drivers drive too fast when they feel like they’re not being watched.

I know this for a fact because drivers are rushing back and forth on my road, and my speedometer confirms that most of them are driving faster than the residential limit of 30 km/h.

In May 2020, we bought this gun online (it’s a Bushnell radar gun, $129 from the US) because even in self-isolation on desert roads, we were overwhelmed by the speed at which people were driving.

As part of our home schooling (and probably something to keep us busy!) we parked the kids outside for a geography project. The plan was to note how many drivers went over the limit, and we found that most drivers did.

We later augmented this process with a green speaker (we got it from Flying Tiger) so we could yell out how fast the cars were going. Then they slowed down.

These speeding cars bother me because I want my kids to walk around without worry. I want them to ride their own bike.

Yesterday I jumped out with my gun to see if the news that speeding tickets would double (soon you’ll be fined 160 euros or 120 euros if you get caught using your phone) made a difference.


Mary McCarthy with her speed gun and green speaker

My findings were depressing. Of the six cars, only two drivers made it to the limit – and one of them, moving at a speed of 45 km / h in the 30 zone, was glued to his phone.

The roads were empty during the lockdown, but we had the same number of road deaths in 2020 as we did in 2019, which speaks to the need to curb the love of speeding. This year, 94 people died on our roads. This is 28 more than in the same period last year.

In recent decades, the number of deaths on the roads has dropped dramatically due to a change in attitudes towards drunk driving.

For example, in 1985, 450 people died on the roads.

We haven’t had more than 200 deaths since 2010; it would be so sad to change this trend.

To further change behaviour, Ireland launched 61 new speed camera zones on Tuesday. Studies show that road death and injury rates in all countries decrease when strict speeding regulations are enforced. People know where these new cameras are located, so it will help make those sections of the road safer.

But increased fines will only matter if people feel like they might be caught.

I get so mad at the drivers who rush down my road, but of course the truth is that when I’m late, I often exceed the limit or accelerate to pass traffic lights. I think I would really be affected by traffic light cameras.

They do it in London. As a result, no one tries to break the light. Friends who have moved from there to Ireland tell me they think Irish drivers are maniacs.


In the coming weeks, fines for speeding, using a mobile phone and not wearing a seat belt will be doubled. Photo: Garda.

We learned earlier this year that the Luas collisions in Dublin were mostly caused by red light flashes, but the cameras in these black spots were inactive or not installed.

I see people breaking red lights everywhere. Cars speed up as they approach the ones near my house.

Can’t Dublin City Council go into the private market tomorrow and say, “Put red light cameras in built-up areas and we’ll give you that much revenue in the next five years.” Won’t companies bite off their own hands to do this?

But at the end of the day, if we want to make roads safer, we need to change attitudes, and I think the key here is to get people to accept that they should just make more time for transport.

If they are not late, they are unlikely to exceed the speed limit. As with the drunk driving ad, we could run a public awareness campaign about it.

And removing the speed advantage could encourage more use of public transport, which would help reduce our emissions. If you need a little more time to go somewhere, you can read a book on the bus.

Yes, and driving is very tiring due to the large number of cars on the roads.


We must change our attitude towards car culture

In 1985 there were less than one million cars. There are more than 2.8 million vehicles on the roads today.

If everyone obeyed speed limits, more people would be happier to ride a bike, further reducing our emissions.

It is surprising that over the past 30 years the number of deaths on the roads has decreased, given that there are so many cars. A big role was played by a change in attitudes towards driving while intoxicated. And now we need another cultural shift where people agree that getting from A to B will take longer.

We could also offer automatic (and free) re-education programs for those who get points for speeding.

My father-in-law, who lives in France, was caught speeding and paid a €35 fine. He also completed a two-day refresher course (paying 90 euros in tuition) and was able to score three magic points. You can do this up to four points. The courses are mandatory if you lose your license by earning 12 credits.

He said the course opened his eyes. He learned that all cars have the same stopping distance. So the “my car is safe” excuse is nonsense.

He learned that the first question doctors in the emergency room ask is “how fast were you driving,” because that’s crucial for internal injuries that you don’t immediately know about.

So, let’s hope that this holiday weekend, people who drive on all our roads, and not just roads with new cameras, remember this.