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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Slow down car drivers!

Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell want to travel the world with a difference. We hope to get a taste of many countries without adding to climate change (with needless emissions from aeroplanes) or having to waste hours of holiday time in airport terminals. We hope our adventures inspire you to take a Grand Tour of your neighbourhood. This post is from Nicola (pic is of a solar powered slow down sign for drivers [right] which seem to be positioned around every school in Scotland - the schools are on holiday at the moment so we haven't found any working)

Talking to a new neighbour where we are staying I asked what it was like riding a horse around these Aberdeenshire roads - narrow, straight and begging for a flat accelerator. "Oh, it's very dangerous," said the lady (her grown-up daughter does the riding), "everyone visiting just drives too fast. Country people don't do that."

Well, excuse me. The people I know who drive too fast invariably live - or love - in the country. They whizz down their roads at whatever speed they want and are willing to damn the consequences.

As I explained in my book The Estate We're In: who's driving car culture, speed kills. http://www.amazon.co.uk/s?ie=UTF8&search-type=ss&index=books-uk&field-author=Nicola%20Baird&page=1 Roads aren't dangerous, however many bunches of faded flowers you see tied to trees and lamposts, roads are routes, nothing more. Accidents are misnomers too, an accident is a mistake. Driving too fast is likely to cause a fatal car crash - and if this happens to your friends or family I recommend you speak to the organisation Road Peace, http://www.roadpeace.org/index.shtml

But here in Scotland driving with the speedometer knocking seems to be a national past time. The area we are staying in has the highest number of road deaths per year. Some say that's because the roads are bad and should be upgraded to dual lanes. Some say its because other road users (ie, me) drive so slowly (eg, 40mph) they just have to overtake, all the time - regardless of bends, bad light, weather etc.

Five days ago we set off at around about 5.45pm to go to a gastro pub down the lane and a mile of so down the B979, but had to find another way because oncoming traffic was flashing as there was a clearly a bad accident ahead. The next day we found out it was a 29-year-old man from Aberdeen who was driving a Porsche Boxster who'd overshot a corner, tipped into a field, rolled over and got himself killed. A needless, stupid tragedy which thankfully involved only himself.

As I pootle along, not really sure of the roads, looking out for signs, crossing wildlife, eyeballing the landscape, etc, I know I'm irritating everyone who is used to driving around here. Sometimes I think I should drive faster so they don't have to feel obliged to overtake - but up here overtaking seems to be a national sport, regardless of its all too often fatal consequences.

It is strange that there are so many road deaths in Scotland. After all the roads aren't very crowded, compared to London say, and statistically you are at much more risk here riding bikes, horses, probably even walking thanks to drivers' intolerance for slower speeds than in a busy, traffic-choked city. That's a statistic that stinks - and really, it's up to anyone who drives to take a deep breath and think: "Yes, I love the speed my car offers, but how would I talk to the families of anyone I might kill if I went too fast - and was unlucky?" I still can't forget the blackbird I ran over (aged 17), so who knows what it must feel like to live with the consequences of killing a real-live-human?

When my not-yet-40-year-old friend Mark was knocked off his scooter by an old man, and died, I felt pure rage. Mark had signed up to handing over limbs, lungs, heart etc and so his death saved others, and for this we can only wish sufferers more road deaths.

Or I guess we can generously sign up to the NHS's transplant donor scheme http://www.uktransplant.org.uk/ukt/how_to_become_a_donor/how_to_become_a_donor.jsp and keep on driving just the way we like...

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