Raising motorway speed limits

Source: Intelligent Instructor


Raising motorway speed limits

New PM hints at possible derestriction of motorways

The prospect of derestricted motorways in the UK is raised by the new PM.

Lizz Truss, during her final election hustings appearance, says she will consider scrapping both motorway speed limits and smart motorways.

Freedom of choice

A party member asked Truss whether she would remove the mandatory 70mph motorway speed limit and let drivers decide a safe speed for themselves.

“On speed limits, we need to be prepared to look at that. I can’t give you a precise answer,” said Truss, without elaborating further.

Any such move to abolish mandatory motorway speed limits would make the UK an outlier among the countries of the world. Only a small number of places such as Afghanistan, North Korea, the Isle of Man and Germany still having any derestricted roads. However, it has not stopped the issue of motorway speed limits regularly being raised by politicians.



Moving on from Europe

Only Germany is comparable on a like-for-like basis with the UK because of its extensive and well-engineered motorway network. Even then, Germany’s situation isn’t as simple as just a full network of derestricted motorways.

Not all of Germany’s motorways are derestricted. What’s more, limit-less roads aren’t as popular as they once were due to environmental and noise-pollution issues. Add to this the significant road safety concerns.

Only 70% of Germany’s motorway network is derestricted. Even then, those sections carry an advisory speed limit of 130km/h (81mph). There are also a number of severe penalties for causing a crash by exceeding that limit.

While the country is famous for its high-speed autobahnen, they may not last forever. ADAC — Germany’s equivalent of the AA — annually reviews the country’s speed limits. Last year, for the first time, a poll of its members revealed that the majority was now in favour of capping motorway speed limits at a mandatory 130km/h.

Leaving some fuming

The federal government in Germany has calculated that scrapping derestricted roads would save around two million tons of CO2 output every year.

Opposition to derestricted roads comes primarily from an environmental and noise-reduction standpoint rather than one of safety concerns. However, road safety has to be an important consideration in any change in the UK. Our road network is more crowded overall, increasing the potential for crashes.

In the UK, there is currently one fatality for every billion motorway kilometres driven. That compares with Germany’s 0.95 fatalities per billion kilometres covered on motorways with speed limits. On derestricted motorways, that jumps to 1.67 deaths. Higher speeds increase the seriousness of injuries in any crash.

Statistics also show more of Germany’s road deaths (around 12%) occur on motorways compared to the UK (5%).



No smoke without…

The truth is that Truss’s remarks came in an election hustings. It is likely that the remard was made to appeal to liberal minded motorists. The chance of it coming anywhere near the policy table when in government is very slim.

However, in the past, Truss has signalled support for higher speed limits. The idea of upping the speed limit to 80mph has previously been touted by others within her party . However, a plan by the Conservatives to increase the motorway speed limit to 80mph in 2011 fell through due to fears about increasing emissions. But it does shown that there is a clear seam of support for raising speeds and increasing individual freedoms.

2022-09-12T10:29:03+00:0012 September 2022|
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