Is raising the speed limit to 80mph on the motorway an expensive distraction

October 3, 2011
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I’ve just been reading about the transport secretary’s plans to raise the speed limit to 80mph on the motorway. This appears to be a headline grabbing red-herring to distract from the proposals which will see an increase in the number of roads in residential areas with a 20mph limit.

The 20mph speed limit is expected to be unpopular as it will be seen as a continuation of the so-called “war on motorists”. What is more, since the proposals are spawned from the EU’s recent resolution on road safety (which I blogged about recently) some may feel that the changes smack of the EU meddling in British affairs.

I find it difficult to see the point of increasing the limit on motorways when most motorists are said to be driving at 80mph without penalty. Presumably, the effects of increasing the speed limit on motorways will be:

some drivers will be able to legitimately make slightly quicker journeys;

petrol consumption will increase, and there will be a negative impact on the environment (it is suggested that 20% more fuel is consumed by increasing in speed from 70mph to 80mph);

the number of accidents will rise, resulting in an increase in the burden on the NHS and emergency services. Accidents which would have occurred anyway may also result in more severe injuries;

car usage will rise;

the country will have to pay for implementing the changes.

I don’t think people need to be enraged about the proposed changes, as the effects are relatively insignificant. In fact, on the whole, the roads will be safer for cyclists as there will be more 20mph zones. However, it is sad, and a little irresponsible, that the Government has to appease the nation’s motorists by engaging in a costly exercise which may well increase the number of accidents and have an adverse effect on the environment with no real gain.

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