Rural speed limits putting road users at risk

12.48 | 15 May 2019 | | 16 comments

Brake is calling for a review of speed limits on rural roads, saying the current limit gives a false impression that 60mph is a safe speed.

The road safety charity has today (15 May) published the findings of a survey which suggests 60% of drivers feel unsafe travelling at the 60mph limit on rural single-carriageway roads.

Fewer than a quarter of respondents (23%) stated that 60mph is a safe speed for a vehicle on a road where there may be people on foot, bicycles and horses.  

The majority of drivers (81%) either wanted, or were ambivalent, about a reduction to the default 60mph limit on rural roads, with 19% objecting to a reduction.

Most rural roads in the UK have a 60mph speed limit, which is the national default for single carriageway roads.

However, Brake says many of these roads are ‘unsuited to high speeds’ as they are often narrow, with blind bends, brows and no pavements or cycle paths.

Statistics show that approximately 40% of all deaths on Britain’s roads occur on rural single-carriageway roads. On average, 17 people are killed or seriously injured on these roads every day.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “Drivers have made their views clear – travelling at 60mph on rural roads doesn’t feel safe to them, and the majority would support or not object to the limit being reduced.

“The current default limit gives a false impression that 60mph is a safe speed and this is putting everyone who uses our rural roads at risk. With 17 people killed or seriously injured on these roads every day, the Government must review the default speed limit with a view to its reduction.

“Looking ahead to the publication of the Government’s new road safety action plan, we urge a focus on speed reduction, both in our towns and cities but also on the country’s many winding and narrow single-carriageway rural roads that are often overlooked but where so many of our road deaths and serious injuries occur.

“Simply put, slowing down vehicles save lives.”



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Order by Latest first | Oldest first | Highest rated | Lowest rated

    Surely the issue is not whether drivers feel safe or not, but whether pedestrians, who have to walk on the same lane as the cars, feel safe.

    Mr Simon Avarne, Liphook
    Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

    A lot of the comments here seem to say, “If you find driving at high speeds uncomfortable, don’t do it!”

    Well, that’s obvious. I typically don’t drive at higher than 40 on such roads. What I find much more uncomfortable is that a more reckless driver could legally be driving at 60mph in the opposite direction on a very narrow stretch of road.

    Since there will always be a few (perhaps well-intentioned) people who are a few cards short of a deck, how about we don’t have signs which make them feel that it’s justified to drive at higher speeds?

    And what I really can’t understand is why people are opposing this so vehemently. If you don’t drive at these roads at 60, being a smart driver, why would you be opposed to a reduction of the speed limit? It wouldn’t affect you!

    Agree (15) | Disagree (1)

    High Street Green is a small hamlet of. Sible Hedingham. The 30 MPH limits ends near the church and goes into 60 mph national limit . The very start of this section is very narrow and does not allow for two cars to pass, its barely 4 metres wide. You have to either reverse if it’s a lorry or drive into gaps, at your own risk. Following this section there ie a 700 metre straight about 4.5 metres wide where cars , lorries , bin lorries all seem to see if they can achieve the speed. My property is half way along this straight and my boundary is just 1.5 metres from the edge of the highway.
    My house with others are just some 7 metres from the highway … I could be cutting my grass with traffic going past at 60 and beyond., quite frightening..My concern is that there will be deaths along this stretch and there are No. pavements and some parents walking there children about a 1500 metres to school. Plus the are people walking there dogs . When you live in the country and with more and more people buying online means a lot more delivery vehicles .probably 10 fold or more since limits were introduced
    Lower limits should extended where there are narrow country lanes . Some major roads close by have 30 limits that run for 2 to 3 miles when there are pavements and houses are set well back. When these limits were imposed many many years ago .when Morris Minors and Austin A35 were around perhaps the limits were ok . But, No Not Know.

    Please let something be done

    Tony, High Street Green
    Agree (17) | Disagree (2)

    Keep at it, Brake. You will get back to the red-flag days yet.

    Nigel ALBRIGHT
    Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

    Pat – “40mph speed limit on roads (other than motorways)” was modified with “without cycle tracks” so only slightly provocative. Bavaria seems to have cycle/slow vehicle tracks alongside most high speed roads so it isn’t totally unrealistic.

    Duncan – I couldn’t possibly comment except to point out that road casualties still occur. ( OK Not producing MAJOR change does not equal totally ineffective).

    Paul Luton, Teddington
    Agree (0) | Disagree (1)

    I would think the “40mph speed limit on roads (other than motorways)” comment from Paul is the reason for most of the disagrees [was that comment tongue in cheek Paul?].

    It is not for want of information or education that people still speed and do silly things on the road. Most people do know better but don’t do better and have little fear of getting caught. Widespread success in changing attitudes and behaviours has to crack that nut to get anywhere. The resources currently being given to do that probably need to be upped x100 or more and be spent every year for a generation – then some progress on changing attitudes and behaviours might be seen.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (2) | Disagree (3)

    Perhaps Paul might like to explain a little further his comment that “As a retired teacher I find the idea of education being sufficient to produce major behaviour change amusing.”

    Considering that ‘behaviour change’ through educational initiatives is the very foundation of the road safety industry’s efforts, is Paul suggesting that the industry is wasting its time and taxpayers money?

    Duncan MacKillop, Lower Quinton
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    Paul is right – if it were possible to change poor driver behaviour purely through education, we could solve a lot of society’s ills at the same time – if only it were that simple. Rules and regulations are there to try and protect us from the weakest links on our roads, but even that it is an imperfect method.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (6) | Disagree (3)

    So many comments along the lines that intelligent drivers would be better. All very true but genetic engineering has not yet reached that stage. As a retired teacher I find the idea of education being sufficient to produce major behaviour change amusing.

    A limit of 40mph on roads (other than motorways) without cycle tracks would get cycle tracks built at an amazing speed.

    Paul Luton, Teddington
    Agree (1) | Disagree (8)

    The problem today which exists in many different industries is that we are becoming a society where people no longer think for themselves and use common sense so they are no longer able to make sensible decisions. Rules and regulations are important but they can also inhibit people using their brains, such as if a speed limit is 60mph then does not mean you are obliged to drive at the speed limit, you have to take in to account the road, the conditions and learn to anticipate potential hazards. People need to learn to be responsible and so think about circumstances and even if they drive within the speed limit they must drive in a manner that is safe for the road, if they don’t then penalties should be enforceable. Make people think and learn to take responsibility. It’s not the rural speed limits that is putting road users at risk it’s the drivers.

    Robin Tyler, Halifax
    Agree (30) | Disagree (1)

    Not mentioned in the article above but contained in the link to the survey is “….with 9 in 10 saying they generally aim to drive at around the limit on roads of any kind.” ‘Aiming’ to drive at around the limit is not a good idea. We may find ourselves driving around the limit if that is what is a reasonable speed, but again and repeating what others have said, it should not be an ‘aim’ or a target. The word LIMIT should be emphasised more and in a lot of cases it’s academic anyway, if the actual preferred speeds by those using the road are significantly lower, due to the principle of default national speed limits.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (10) | Disagree (3)

    Don’t know who was asked in this survey but I know I wasn’t!
    Speed limits are not putting anyone at risk. Drivers who can’t adjust their speed to the conditions are putting people at risk.
    Leave the limits alone. Educate drivers instead.

    Duncan, Atherstone
    Agree (33) | Disagree (10)

    “…suggests 60% of drivers feel unsafe travelling at the 60mph limit on rural single-carriageway roads.”

    Did that pathetic 60% of drivers not read the Highway Code prior to passing their test?
    Rule 125 in particular.

    Seems Brake would turn us into a nanny state, given half a chance.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (24) | Disagree (11)

    Stating the obvious perhaps, but if drivers don’t feel safe travelling at 60mph on a rural road well.. don’t..instead drive at speed that does make you feel safe. The limit is just that – a limit and not target or a recommendation or – perish the thought – a guideline.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (20) | Disagree (2)

    Unfortunately the systematic posting of speed limits nationwide has led to the belief by many the limit is a safe target rather than a limit, and over-rides the obvious hazards that tended to regulate speed choices before.

    Prior to the Police adopting Speed Awareness courses, research suggested around 10% of vehicles exceeded the national speed limit, so curious to know what problem this solved.

    oOn the contrary, a road with a bend and warning sign which most people would adjust their speed for might now be accompanied by a speed limit sign for the road which in some cases might actually encourage someone to go faster than they would have otherwise.

    Reducing a speed limit on a national speed limit road is often lazy and cheap, rather than tackling the national problem of less capable, careful and considerate drivers.

    Ben Graham, Reading
    Agree (21) | Disagree (4)

    > The road safety charity has today (15 May) published the findings of a survey which suggests 60% of drivers feel unsafe travelling at the 60mph limit on rural single-carriageway roads.

    Well, I’d hope so too, there are deviations and crests (amongst other hazards) which need to be taken into consideration – which I guess is sadly reflected in their tragic case study.

    Articles like this, notwithstanding the fact that this particular article will only be read by about 17 people, enforces the absolutely illogical idea that speed limits are targets.

    They should be guidelines.

    David Weston, Corby
    Agree (13) | Disagree (2)

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