Driving instructors

West Lothian driving instructors denounce the Spaces for People program

The spaces for people make it “impossible” to teach learner drivers safely and create more dangers on city roads, instructors said.

Large swathes of West Lothian are now covered by a reduced speed limit of 20 mph, put in place as part of emergency measures as part of the response to the covid pandemic last year.

But frustration with low speed pushes drivers to take more risks, which driving instructors say makes it increasingly difficult for drivers to learn safely.

And they also warned that the limit made it harder to teach students about gear changes – and could make environmental pollution worse.

Concerns prompted Bathgate union adviser Harry Cartmill to call for common sense changes to the program.

Councilor Cartmill says that in ten years no subject has generated more complaints. “The driving school instructors are angry. They cannot teach the highway code ”.

Instructor Ronnie Malcolm said: “There have been countless occasions where I have witnessed dangerous overtaking by other drivers while my student was within the 20mph limit.

“Most of these passing will have caused the passing vehicle to go much faster than the original 30mph limit. Most of these 20mph limits actually created more dangerous situations than they prevented. “

Mr Malcolm said his fellow instructors had similar stories and faced similar dangerous situations.

One said, “My student was in zone 20 (a straight road) and about to take the next right turn. The vehicle behind us was a large van, then a long line behind. The car behind the van was obviously fed up with us sticking to the speed limit and decided to overtake us. Obviously, they hadn’t seen that we were signaling to turn right. I had to get behind the wheel to keep my student from turning into the path of this car (which was now on the wrong side of the road passing two vehicles at a crossroads). She really scared her and shook her at the very end of her class.

Instructors also said that maintaining a crawl speed on all types of roads does not allow them to teach learners how to use the gears.

And, as Mr Malcolm pointed out, the 20 mph rules apply to wide sections of road such as the A89 westward from Boghall to Bathgate as well as to the city center, regardless changing conditions. Much of the existing signage, such as flashing lights outside schools, has remained in place and is actively confusing experienced drivers and apprentices.

Another instructor pointed out, “If you drive 20 in 2nd, you are over speeding and creating more unnecessary noxious gases. and the car is malfunctioning. Not really good for the environment.

The problems created by the restricted areas exist throughout the county, not just in Bathgate.

Responding to questions from the work place committee, Sergeant Keith Jack said: “Speed ​​is recognized as one of the contributing factors in traffic accidents and as such police patrols are directed to areas that have been statistically identified as high cost collisions. Locations.

“Enforcing speeding in a given area of ​​West Lothian is only a short-term solution and depends on the availability of resources to conduct speed checks at the marked locations.

“Road policemen are the ‘experts’ in policing, but they are also under heavy pressure to patrol the main arterial road networks in West Lothian and are regularly tasked with carrying out speed checks at hot spots. of identified accidents. “

Councilor Cartmill said: “I just want a common sense approach – keep the 20mph limit in ‘car crowded’ housing estates and outside our schools, but bring our main thoroughfares back through towns and villages. from West Lothian to 30 mph limits under the Highway Traffic Act.

A West Lothian Council spokesperson said: ‘The temporary 20 mph speed limits in West Lothian are in place as part of the Spaces for People program and will be removed in accordance with Scottish Government guidelines Covid-19. “

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