Should the motorway speed limit be raised to 80mph?
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Yes – Howard Cox Founder, FairFuelUK Campaign
It’s high time the speed limits on motorways and dual carriageways are increased to match those in all EU states. At 80mph, where it’s safe to do so, the positive benefits to the economy, travel times, congestion and driver stress will be substantial. With modern technology, cars’ stopping distances are so much less than 20 years ago and, paradoxically, the majority of drivers drive at this speed without being prosecuted. In a FairFuelUK survey of 26,000 drivers, 4 out of 5 respondents thought an 80mph limit is now acceptable and should be introduced. But, if the speed limit is to be changed to 80mph officially, there is of course a risk that the new default breaking of the limit becomes even higher. But that could be countered by having severe punishments for anyone driving over 80mph and more police patrols. And I mean severe punishment. Our motorways are currently the safest roads on the entire network and, combined with the high safety quality of modern vehicles, I believe it justifies increasing the legal limit. With the epidemic of smart motorways and their information gantries, variable mandatory speed control could be enacted to suit conditions such as bad weather and congestion, so ensuring safety is the paramount consideration.
No – Nicholas Lyes Head of Roads Policy, RAC
Fundamentally, the question of an 80mph limit is one of safety. Would increasing the speed limit to 80mph make motorways less safe? Evidence gathered in 2012 from our friends at the RAC Foundation found that increasing the limit on motorways could result in an extra 18 fatalities per year and a rise in overall collisions, though of course, journey times would be marginally quicker.
There would also be concerns about default speeds. At present, the RAC’s research suggests that just over half of drivers admit to breaking the current motorway speed limit, and the average highest speed drivers admit to doing is closer to 80mph. How would we then guarantee that increasing the limit to 80mph would not lead to those drivers already admitting to breaking the current limit, driving at 90mph instead? Finally, smart motorways, where the hard shoulder has been converted into a permanent running lane, are becoming ever more prevalent as a way to increase capacity. While the prospect of breaking down in a live lane with no hard shoulder is already frightening, it would be even more so with vehicles potentially travelling at 80mph towards stationary vehicles.