Independent report sees no benefits in increasing speed limits

11.57 | 6 January 2012 | | 7 comments

An article in the Independent suggests that proposals to increase the speed limit on motorways and dual carriageways will ‘cost lives, harm the environment and produce few of the economic benefits claimed by the Government’.

The Independent article cites work by two public health experts who are “amazed” by the idea, which they insist contradicts international road safety evidence: they point out that the introduction of comparable speed increases in the US in 1995 led to a 16.6% rise in road deaths.

Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, believes that “if the limit moves to 80, most people will drive at 90”. He also says there is little evidence to support claims of economic benefits as heavy goods vehicles would still be capped at 60mph.

Professor McKee and his colleague Jamie Lopez Bernal suggest that the proposal is nothing more than a ‘populist gimmick’, adding: “It is difficult to see how any benefits of an 80mph speed limit would outweigh the costs. Past evidence shows that speed limit increases lead to substantial rises in road deaths, as well as other potential negative health and economic impacts.”

They also challenge the Government to provide solid evidence to justify its hopes of pleasing the motoring lobby by raising the limit.

Mike Penning, road safety minister, said: “[We are] carrying out detailed work to assess the potential impacts of increasing the speed limit and will consult fully on our proposals.”

Click here to read the full Independent report.


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    Hi Bob, I think HGV drivers are doing what most drivers habitually feel the need to do, that is to get in front of the vehicle they are travelling behind.

    I’m sure these HGV guys know that to overtake another HGV travelling one mile an hour less than them will take an age to pass. However, I’m not sure the majority do it to upset other drivers but many motorists appear to have this innate over whelming urge to get in front at all costs. This is not only true of aggressive drivers, I wonder if there has been any research into this area of human driver instinct for we see it every day both on motorways and rural roads.

    Maybe someone far more qualified than I can enlighten me to this phenomenon which of course can and does cause accidents.

    Charles Dunn
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    Sorry Charles. perhaps I was being uncharitable about HGV drivers. Yes they are not all the same and whilst I agree with u that they have a job to do, the difference a few miles an hour makes on a 100 mile journey can be counted in seconds but the delay and frustration some of them cause is, or could be, injurous or damaging to others.

    We can’t counter by argument what potentially could be a dangerous situation with a defence that it’s in the public’s interest that goods arrive at their destination on time. Any accident on the motorway is going to cause a blockage and delay and that includes numerous HGVs wanting to deliver goods also.

    Yes I was somewhat flippant in my remarks and if I offend any HGV driver I apologise but it makes us all wonder why do they do it as it does appear there is no advantage to any HGV overtaking at all.

    Bob Craven
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    We already have an unwritten speed limit of 80mph on our motorways, in other words if you drive in safe conditions and in a safe manner at 80mph it is unlikely you will get a speeding ticket from the traffic police (I accept speed cameras are an exception as they have no discretion). I believe if we were to raise the speed limit to 80mph, many drivers would feel it proper to drive at 90mph which I believe would adversely impact on road safety.

    I agree with Bob Craven, to compare our highly congested motorways with European motorways is not a fair comparison. Our M25 at 2am in the morning would have similar traffic flows to the French A26/E15 motorway for Reims at 8am. Where I disagree with Bob is I think we are being unfair to the vast majority of professional HGV drivers who do a great job safely circumnavigating our overcrowded motorway network. I understand that it is hugely frustrating sometimes to be stuck behind these vehicles particularly if one tries to overtake the other going up a hill, but we must remember our economy relies on these freight vehicles, for without these vehicles, shop shelves would be empty as we saw last year in the snow.

    It is also worth pointing out that HGV drivers are among the most monitored and highly trained drivers on our road network.

    Charles Dunn RoadDriver
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    You’re both wrong…… there is a great difference between our motorways and those abroad.

    First, those motorways generally are free flowing with few slows, stops and starts.

    The reason for this is that freight elsewhere goes by train as its the most economical way of transporting goods. However in this country our motorway inside lanes are clogged up with HGVs doing a paltry 56 mph and with coaches and caravans at peak holiday period from spring to autumn. Not only that but many HGVs play tandem which means that the whole of a two lane motorway is blocked for several miles whilst the HGV drivers exchange personal details and laugh at the queue of cars behind. Same with a three lane when only the outside lane can be used. and then it’s someone who doesn’t realise that the outside lane is the faster one and refuses to increase their speed from 60 mph to accomodate faster moving traffic.

    All the above slows traffic down and it becomes a tailgate nightmare causing traffic drivers to become frustrated and or annoyed. And thats when accidents happen.

    None of this would happen if HGVs were limited to the inside lane only as is done on some roads in Scotland. After all, what advantage is there in two vehicles, regulated to 56 mph, trying to get ahead of each other, it’s just stupid and totally inconsiderate.

    That will never happen abroad, as I have said, freight goes by rail… mainly.

    So if we want to make our motorways safer and allow free passage then limit HGVs to inside lane.

    Bob Craven
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    Peter Roffey:

    What is there to stop British drivers convoy driving at 80 MPH if the limit is raised? Surely a 70 MPH convoy is a safer bet than an 80 MPH convoy?

    As for motorway driving on the Continent being more relaxed, I’d tend to agree with you, but I suspect that traffic densities are lower.

    David, Suffolk
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    I think the 70 MPH limit contributes to convoy driving and frustration. Our continental neighbours seem to cope with higher speeds on their motorways and driving there is (for me) more relaxed and enjoyable. But, of course, the continentals exhibit superior lane discipline! Might that be the key to this issue of safer driving in the UK?

    Peter Roffey Leicestershire
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    It’s nice to know that Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has an opinion on the speed of traffic.

    T. Heywood Stockport
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