Friday, 30 September 2011

Why the Need for Speed?

Much in the news today (30th September 2011) is the proposal that speed limits on motorways be increased from 70 mph to 80 mph. This seems to be for no better reason than that the present speed limit is broken so regularly and so flagrantly. And it is justified on the grounds that there has been a 75 percent drop in road deaths since the last change in the law – the introduction of the 70 mph limit on motorways in 1965.

            Simply changing the legislation would, of course, be much more straightforward and less costly than attempting to discover why drivers need to travel at such speeds. And it would be much less costly than enforcing the current speed limit, or even enforcing a speed limit that is less than the current one. Yet it is reasonable to surmise that there will be more deaths on the roads if the proposal goes ahead, not least because more drivers may chose to exceed even the new limit and habitually drive at, say, 90 mph. I believe that there is good evidence than many accidents are caused by driving at excessive speed.

            Looking at many of the vehicles on our roads, it would seem that there is more than a little of the element of the macho about them: the “boys’ toy” and the frankly garish and aggressive: spoilers fitted purely for effect, loud exhausts, garish colours and what-have-you. For many, our road are there for much more than getting safely from A to B.

            I passed my driving test in the year that the 70 mph limit was introduced. So I have long experience on the roads. I have been as guilty as anyone of breaking the speed limit, but in recent years I have curbed the tendency. This is largely because I avoid setting off in a hurry – that is, if I have to reach a destination by a certain time, then I allow extra time to accommodate unforeseen delays that certainly happen often enough. Driving to London from Wiltshire it takes me 10 to 15 minutes longer if I keep to 60 mph rather than on the limit. Most of the other traffic overtakes me, so I keep in the slow lane and up my speed from time to time to pass the occasional truck. It is quieter, much less stressful, it saves on fuel and reduces pollution.

            No – the proposed increase will do no more good than did allowing the pubs to stay open all day. The proposal is, in my view, perverse. It verges on the insane.


  1. Thanks for calling by at my blog. I entirely agree with you about the speed limit. I've seen nothing that justifies raising the speed limit. Apart from anything else, it's better for the environment to go slower. Wasn't there a 55 mph limit in the USA once?

  2. Hello Jenny - I'm glad I discovered your blog and you may be sure I'll be keeping up with what you're posting. Yes, I think you're right about the 55mph speed limit in the US.