Raising the speed limit: a logical step for the UK

July 16, 2012 | By | In Statistics

We recently posted on our Facebook page about Damon Hill’s thoughts on the proposal to raise the speed limit from 70mph to 80mph. It’s an important issue that will affect everyone who drives, so we thought we would have a look at both sides of the argument here on Motors.co.uk. Today, we’re looking at the argument for increasing the speed limit.

The current speed limit of 70mph was set in 1965, and was originally meant as a temporary measure. Several decades later, we are still using the same speed limit, despite a huge number of contemporary cars having a much higher maximum speed. So does this 70mph limit represent a logical and useful speed limit for motorways and other major roads?

For a start, the 70mph limit was enforced partly due to the number of accidents and road fatalities that occurred due to – apparently – speeding drivers. Safety measures in cars have improved since then, and it is the use of seatbelts and airbags, as well as enhanced safety considerations in the manufacture of cars, that we can partly thank for the decreased number of injuries and fatalities since 1965. In the same year, it became compulsory for cars built in Europe to be fitted with seat belts in the front, but it wasn’t until 1983 (nearly 20 years later) that wearing a seat belt was compulsory. And it took until the late 80s and early 90s for rear seat belts to be made compulsory, as well as adults (and children) wearing them when sitting in the back. With these increased safety measures in just one area of the car – not to mention the rest of the vehicle which has been similarly enhanced – it would seem illogical to retain the speed limit at 70mph: a limit which was partly introduced in an effort to prevent accidents and save lives.

Compared to other countries, the UK has a relatively low speed limit. In France, motorway speed limits are around 80mph in normal conditions and 68mph in wet weather. On the autobahns in Germany, there is a variable speed limit when necessary and often no top speed limit at all. So how have these higher speed limits affected the number of accidents and fatalities in these countries? Using data from 2009 and 2010, it seems as though France and Germany do suffer from slightly higher fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year: 6.9 and 4.5 respectively, compared to the UK’s 3.59. However, Germany’s strict policing of the autobahns suggests that higher speed limits do not have to mean decreased safety: there is an argument that higher speed limits would increase driver concentration, as currently over 50% of drivers exceed the 70mph speed limit as a matter of course – a higher speed limit would necessarily mean more concentration. Increasing the speed limit would also mean that journeys were made shorter. Current speed limits often results in problems with traffic flow and jams on the motorway, as slower and faster motorists compete for the same space.

Increasing the speed limit, and policing this speed limit strictly, would ensure that everyone knows at what speed to drive and would shorten journeys thanks to reduced flow and stoppage problems. It would also be the ideal impetus for government bodies to invest in further improvements on the road system in the UK, making journeys more efficient and simultaneously increasing the safety of driving in the UK thanks to better roads.

What do you think about increasing the speed limit – logical, efficient idea or are there too many negative points?

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