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The government’s newly-announced plan to raise the motorway speed limit to 80mph has raised the hackles of road safety campaigners.
Last Monday (3rd October) 2011, a statement from the Department of Transport confirmed the intention to consult on raising the limit to 80mph on all English and Welsh roads (in Scotland and Northern Ireland the decision is devolved to the national assemblies of these countries).
This consultation could lead to new speed limit signs appearing on motorways as early as 2013.
No win no fee solicitors can help people who have suffered a road accident through no fault of their own make a personal injury claim to receive the compensation they need and deserve. Many of the people who seek compensation have been injured in an accident caused by a motorist travelling at a dangerous speed.
Yet Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond believes that “safety cannot be the only consideration when setting speed limits”.
He points out that there has been a fall of 75 per cent in the number of people killed on British roads since the 70mph limit was set 36 years ago.
According to the Department of Transport, 49 per cent of “otherwise law-abiding” motorists currently break the 70mph speed limit.
Phillip Hammond said: “We must also consider the huge economic benefits that can be created by shortening journey times. Increasing the speed limit on motorways could provide hundreds of millions of pounds of benefits for the economy.”
Opposition to a higher speed limit
David Williams, chief executive officer of road safety association GEM Motoring Assist, thinks that Mr Hammond might have ulterior motives for wishing to increase the speed limit.
Mr Williams, who was awarded an MBE in 1998 for services to road safety, said: “To say an increase in the speed limit will improve the economy is frankly ridiculous – unless of course they are looking at the duty they will receive in revenue from the increased use of fuel.”
He added: “I simply cannot understand the move to raise the speed limit. From a road safety perspective it would be a disaster.”
Other safety organisations share Mr Williams’s view that raising the speed limit will also have a negative environmental aspect. The Green Party’s chief scientist has warned that driving at 80mph requires 20 per cent more fuel consumption than driving at 70mph.
Steven Joseph of the Campaign for Better Transport thinks that raising the speed limit could have a negative psychological effect on many drivers. He was quoted by the BBC as saying: “In practice if you increase the limit to 80 then most people will drive at 90.”
If the motorway speed limit is raised then England and Wales would have a higher speed limit than European countries like Ireland and Spain, which both have a 75mph speed limit.
Many German motorways have no speed limit – although an 81mph speed limit is “advised”.
Could the UK soon follow Germany’s example? Safety organisations remain keen to put a ‘road block’ on any such plan.
By James Christie
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