Mixed views on plans to increase speed limit

30/09/2011

The Department for Transport is to propose an increase in the speed limit on motorways from 70mph to 80mph with the intention that this will reduce journey times, therefore aiding business and boosting the economy.

The transport secretary, Phillip Hammond, believes that the current limit of 70mph, which was introduced in 1965, is outdated due to “huge advances in safety and motoring technology”. The current limit is also not in line with other European countries including France, Germany and Italy (81mph) and Spain and Portugal (75mph).

Statistics released by the Department for Transport show that almost half of all drivers exceed the current 70mph speed limit and also that advances in technology have made road vehicles much safer which has resulted in road fatalities down by over 75% since the 70mph limit was introduced in 1965.

The consultation into the speed increase will begin later this year with the intention of the new speed limit being implemented in 2013.

However, there is significant opposition to the proposal. Environmentalist, Damian Carrington, believes that more people will die and be injured in crashes and that carbon emissions will increase. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC foundation, believes that drivers travelling 10mph quicker might reach their destination sooner but will use about 20% more fuel and emit 20% more carbon dioxide.

Opposition supporters also believe that if police continue to follow existing guidelines then motorists will be travelling at 90mph before any action is taken.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph would not
help the economy and would increase costs for drivers.

“It would also add to pollution and increase road casualties. Responsible motorists know that driving steadily at, or below, 70mph is most fuel-efficient, reduces jams and is safer.”

Opposition also points to the recent reduction in Spain’s speed limit by 7mph which is believed will save the nation £2 billion a year. Also, between 1974 and 1987, following the first oil shock, the US government reduced speed limits to 55mph at the same time as building its superpower economy.

It is unsure whether the legislation will generate enough support required to be approved. There are contrasting opinions within the
government as to the implications involved with increasing the speed limit. The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, is said to be concerned about road safety and the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, is worried about the potential impact of pollution following an increase in the speed limit. These contrasting opinions within the government are likely to damage the chances of its success.