Will Speed Limit Reform Affect Road Deaths in the UK?

speed-limit-road-deaths-road-trafficAfter years of discussion, the UK are to trial an 80mph speed limit on motorways through the start of 2015. This has been a topic discussed at length, with the increased speed limit hoped to reduce road deaths across the nation. As it stands, UK motorways are statistically the safest in Europe, with 2.0 deaths per one billion km travelled [i]. This compared with France and Germany, where there are 5.4 and 4.5 deaths per one billion km respectively. But, the increase to the existing speed limits aims to reduce the current UK figure even further and improve road safety.

Likewise, single track roads have also been discussed with the heavy goods vehicle speed limit proposed to raise from the current 40mph up to 50mph. The theory behind this being that this will reduce tailbacks and dangerous manoeuvres when overtaking.[ii]

With UK roads already topping European standards, why is there discussion to change the limit and risk this accolade?

Previously, an increase in speed limit has seen positive repercussions. In 1965 when the current of 70mph limit was introduced, deaths have fallen by 75%.[iii] Although we can attribute some of this decrease to advancements in vehicle technology, the increase in speed limit seems to have alleviated some of the dangers and traffic problems that had previously been recorded.

However, with an increase in speed limit comes an increase in emissions. The 10mph will see vehicles using 10-20% more fuel than those at 70mph. Annually, this means over 2.2 tonnes of carbon emissions will be spread into the atmosphere.[iv] With pressures already on climate change, this would add a significant tread in the carbon footprint for both the UK and Europe.

Further to this, despite the limits in place to stick to, 60% of UK drivers admit to driving at 10mph or more over the speed limit.[v] And the need for UK motoring solicitors has also had a high increase due to the heavy number of traffic collisions caused by speeding. So why would this change with an increased legal limit? Meaning cars could be travelling at 90-100mph on national motorways.

As with the majority of road safety amends, trialling them is the only way to get definitive results. With an 80mph limit on the UK’s motorways, if previous speed increases are to go by, we could be looking at even further improved road safety and improvement to our road travel.

[i] http://www.rac.co.uk/community/blog/rac-blog/march-2012/what-will-an-80mph-motorway-speed-limit-do-to-safe

[ii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/11182960/Lorry-speed-limit-change-will-cause-more-deaths-but-benefit-industry-Government-assessment-shows.html

[iii] http://www.rac.co.uk/community/blog/rac-blog/march-2012/what-will-an-80mph-motorway-speed-limit-do-to-safe

[iv] http://www.brake.org.uk/component/content/article/15-facts-a-resources/facts/794-motorwayspeeds – Third Progress Report to Parliament, Committee on Climate Change, 2011

[v] http://www.brake.org.uk/assets/docs/dl_reports/DLreport-Speed-section3-motorways-2014.pdf

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