The DfT is considering increasing the speed limit to 80mph on some dual carriageways, as well as motorways.
A formal consultation on allowing motorists to drive at 80mph on motorways is due to be launched early in 2012, but the DfT’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’ reveals that ministers are considering extending the proposed increase to a wider range of roads than initially thought.
The DfT says: “We have announced our intention to consult about changing the national speed limit on motorways from 70mph to 80mph. We are also examining whether an 80mph should be extended on a case by case basis to some other dual carriageways.”
Supporters believe that raising the limit would aid the economy and reflect advances in car safety technology. But the plans are understood to have divided ministers, with Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, believing it would lead to an increase in carbon emissions.
A report in the Telegraph says that road safety groups have voiced concerns, in particular with existing police guidelines which allow motorists a measure of leeway under the “10% plus 2mph” formula.
If this guideline was applied to an 80mph limit, drivers would be unlikely to face prosecution at speeds less than 90mph, says the Telegraph.
Edmund King, the AA’s president, says: “80mph on a five star motorway, in a five star car, with a five star driver in good weather, is probably a safe speed.
“However, 80mph on some lower standard stretches of motorway and dual carriageway is probably not a safe speed. We need to ensure that adequate enforcement and highway safety standards are in place before contemplating increasing speed limits.”
His concerns were shared by Robert Gifford, executive director of PACTS, who said: “While I accept that there is a perfectly legitimate case for reviewing the speed limit on motorways, I would be very concerned about extending it to dual-carriageways.
“These have often been designed for lower speeds and are used by a variety of traffic, often for local journeys. The Government should think very carefully before extending such a proposal to completely inappropriate routes.”