The new Highway Code is an example of the consequences of the Britain’s measurement system muddle. Its mixture of units from the imperial and metric systems brings confusion, when clarity should be a foremost requirement. The UK Metric Association (UKMA) has looked forward to the completion of the metric changeover, and produced a simplified, metric version of the Highway Code to illustrate the clarity that one system makes possible. (Press release issued on 27 September 2007.)
HMSO will publish a new version of the Highway Code on 28 September. The updated version of this best seller has to steer a path through the UK measurement muddle. It must meet the needs of an older generation who have been taught only in imperial measurements, and perhaps now rarely need to refer to the Highway Code. But it must also be relevant those who are more familiar with metres than with yards, feet and inches, in particular younger road users and those who grew up abroad. Members of these groups, preparing for their driving tests, are among the Highway Code’s keenest readers.
UKMA welcomes the new Highway Code, but considers that some parts feel outdated as a result of the need to target two very different audiences. This problem arises from failure of the UK to complete the transition to the metric system, begun over 40 years ago. In that time, many UK industries have made the changeover, including construction, manufacture, engineering and pharmaceuticals, and metric has been taught as the primary system of measurement in schools and universities since the 1970’s. However, the changeover of traffic signs, planned for 1973, has been repeatedly postponed.
UKMA has looked towards the completion of the UK metric changeover, and produced a modern version of the Highway Code, using only metric measurements, to illustrate the clarity that one system makes possible.
The full text of UKMA’s metric edition of the Highway Code can be found at http://www.stefenfreund.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/metric_highway_code.pdf
A glance at the comparison of the tables of speed limits and stopping distances, before and after, illustrates what can be achieved. We have also looked at examples of traffic signs in the new Highway Code to show how these might change.
Said UKMA Chairman Robin Paice:”Every country needs a system of weights and measures that everybody understands and uses for all purposes. Nobody needs two systems. The Irish Government showed in 2005 that the UK could easily put the muddle on the roads behind us, yet we continue to fall further behind. Completing metrication is in the national interest, as difficulties with the Highway Code demonstrate, and it is time that the UK Government acknowledges this and shows some leadership.”