Fernando Alonso to the rescue over Spanish speed limits

5 Mar

It makes you wonder whether Zapatero saw this coming. As Prime Minister it mustn’t be fun when any of your proposals are met with widespread rejection by the public, but when one of Spain’s national heroes, in the form of Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, comes forward to join the dissenting throng, you must know you’ve got something wrong.

National treasure: F1 driver Fernando Alonso

In the wake of unrest in the Middle East causing oil prices to soar, Zapatero’s PSOE announced last week that they will lower the speed limit on Spain’s motorways to help save energy. From Monday 7 March the limit on Spanish motorways will no longer stand at 74.5mph, or 120kph, but 68mph, or 110kph. A recent survey by the AA revealed that 59% of UK drivers asked would slow down to save fuel. Amusingly, the AA advised that driving at 80mph uses a quarter more fuel than driving at 70mph, as well as being illegal.

But unlike those British drivers who answered the survey, the Spanish are having none of the reduced speed limit; and they’ve got Alonso to back them up. The Ferrari racer, who reaches speeds faster than 200mph when on the track, said that it would be “even difficult to stay awake” at the proposed limit. He should see what it’s like on our British motorways, especially when there’s a temporary 50mph limit on. He added: “I don’t support the measure. There are other much more effective measures to reduce fuel consumption than this one.” The 29-year-old from Oviedo in Asturias won the Formula One title in 2005 and 2006 when he was driving for Renault.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

Defending the idea, Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba has said that petrol-run cars will use 15 per cent less fuel at the new speed limit, saving an estimated £1.25 billion in oil imports. But driving associations have warned the temporary 68mph limit may see an increase in accidents, as it did when it was last adopted during the 1976 oil crisis. Let’s hope the Spanish don’t interpret Alonso’s complaint as a rallying call; the accident rate would rocket with drivers across the country falling asleep at the wheel in protest.

The conservative Partido Popular have taken the opportunity to label the scheme as ‘Soviet’; it’s good to see the old right and left pendulum game of Spanish politics is still alive and well. The PP also claim that altering road signs across the country will be costly and time consuming.

It seems that in this case they have a point, perdona Zapatero. How long will the PSOE keep this new speed limit in place before oil prices slightly fall and the old one is reintroduced? Would it not be wiser to just advise drivers, as the AA has done, that driving more slowly will save fuel? People complain of the nanny state in the UK, but this episode implies that similar nanny tactics are at play in Zapatero’s Spain.

Image 1: FreeWallpaperStock.Blogspot

Image 2: ThinkABetterFuture

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