Government proposals to raise motorway speed limits would please a vocal minority of just one in five voters, according to Dr Jillian Anable (pictured), senior transport research expert at the University of Aberdeen.
Speaking to policy makers at the annual Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) Westminster Lecture in London, Dr Anable warned that the Government ignores the vast majority, at its peril, when aiming to change travel behaviour.
She outlined some key traits that distinguish the wide range of types of drivers, and non-drivers, and explained that attempting to ‘nudge’ the population into driving responsibly or using other forms of transport will fail with many types.
Dr Anable said: “The vocal minority who seek a higher speed limit on motorways are the Die-Hards: passionate and knowledgeable about cars in general, and with a strong emotional and physical attachment to their own car. These drivers – predominantly but not exclusively male – believe they are superior drivers, and that their car reflects their status, intelligence and wealth.
“Any restrictions on their driving – such as car parking regulations and charges, pedestrian and cyclist priorities, or speed limits – are seen as infringements of their freedom.
“Such drivers believe that climate change is not their responsibility and are not willing to use any alternative forms of transport.
“The macho attitude of the Die-Hards is heavily ingrained in our culture, through advertising, film, sport and music, so appears disproportionately represented. In fact, more than half of all drivers travel at speeds of around 70mph or lower on motorways, and if the speed limit were to be raised, many would feel pressurised into driving faster.
“Speed differentials would also increase if the speed limit was set at 80 mph. Lorries and buses would travel at much lower speeds, causing bunching and sudden braking and increasing the risk of collisions. This would lead to slower journeys overall.
“What gets overlooked is that one in four households does not use a car, and while they may not have a strong view on speed limits, they are paying for any investment in the road network, for the cost of crashes, and paying the environmental cost.”
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