M-way madness? Govt moots 80mph limit

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The speed limit on motorways could be bumped up to 80mph if trials planned for next year are successful. Plans to increase the motorway speed limit by 10mph have been kicking around since Labour was last in government, but were thought to have been scrapped earlier in the year. This week, however, Stephen Hammond, transport minister, told motoring magazine Auto Express the plans are not dead, and that there could be trials in two or three areas next year, but not before summer. He said: “Our philosophy is that we should have the right speed on the right road.”

Mixed reaction

There’s been mixed reaction to the plans. Edmund King, AA President, supports the proposed 80mph limit: “Our view is that 80mph in a modern car, in good weather, driven at a safe distance from the car in front is a safe speed. Whereas 50mph in bad weather, tailgating the car in front is a very dangerous speed.” Road safety charity Brake, on the other hand, has not welcomed the plans. Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: "This is a gamble with people's lives. There has been no research into the safety of this trial, but there is a mountain of evidence that higher speeds result in more needless and violent crashes and casualties. Brake cites research from speed expert Professor Rune Elvic, who claims that increasing the speed limit would cause 25 more deaths and 100 more serious injuries each year. The charity has started a campaign against the changes, which you can read more about here. Similarly, the Road Safety Foundation (RSF) said: “England's motorway network is not safe enough to have the speed limit raised to 80mph” due to “poorly-maintained and inadequate roadside protection and the rapidly rising risk of shunt crashes from the sheer volume of traffic using England's motorways.”

Know your limits

As anyone who’s ever driven on a motorway will know, people already drive at 80mph and sometimes even faster, notwithstanding the 70mph limit. So would an 80mph limit push the speed tolerance zone up to 90mph and beyond? The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) issues speed enforcement policy guidance which says enforcement will normally occur when a driver exceeds the speed limit by a particular margin – which you may know as the ‘10% plus 2 rule’. This, according to ACPO guidance, is normally 10% over the speed limit plus 2mph. So, in theory, you would be charged for exceeding 79mph on a motorway. Strictly speaking, however, the speed limit should be taken as read. Supporters of higher speed limits talk about how other countries’ roads work and often refer to Germany’s autobahns, which have no general speed limits - only advisory limits of 130km/h (81mph). You can actually drive as fast as you dare like on an autobahn. That said; an ill-received proposal to impose an actual autobahn speed limit of 120km/h (75mph) was put forward in April. The chairman of the Social Democratic party even said: “the rest of the world has been doing it for a long time.” Many European countries allow their drivers to go faster on motorways than us. The maximum motorway speed in Belgium, Spain, Sweden and Turkey is 75mph. In Austria, France and Italy it’s 81mph and in Poland it’s a knuckle-whitening 87mph. What do you think about the plans to increase the limit to 80mph? Is 70mph fast enough? Would 80mph see drivers creeping up to 90 or 100mph? Tell us what you think in the comments below! [text-blocks id=cta-banner]

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