There was news this week that retired Formula 1 racing driver Damon Hill has called upon the government to re-think its plans to increase the motorway speed limit to 80mph in 2013. Hill claims that, if any change is to occur, road safety would be improved drastically by reducing the limit to 55mph.
The proposed increase was announced at last year’s Tory party conference by then Transport Secretary Philip Hammond. The reasons behind the change were many but primarily, with the current motorway speed limit having been set nearly 50 years ago (in 1965), it is claimed that it is out of date and out of kilter with modern car technology and safety – there has been a drop of 75% in road deaths since the current limit was set. Furthermore, shorter journey times could be seen as providing economic benefits. And with around half of all motorists currently regularly breaking the 70mph motorway limit, the negative effects on road safety are more theoretical than practical.
Motorists in other European countries already enjoy more relaxed speed limits on motorways. In France and Italy the limit is 81mph; in Portugal, Ireland and Spain it’s 75mph; whilst on some German motorways there is no speed restriction in place.
Seems like a no-brainer? Well not if drivers think about fuel consumption and its related financial and ecological implications. Driving at 80mph rather than 70mph requires about 20% more fuel and produces 20% more CO2 emissions. And whilst there’s no likely direct impact on motor insurance costs, any increase, however marginal, in road traffic accident rates will eventually work its way back into higher prices for car insurance quotes
So it’s like most things in life – some good aspects and some not so good. Do we change the law (and thereby bring many drivers back within it) and recognise that 2012 cars and roads are very different to their mid-1960s counterparts? And by so doing accept the negative environmental effects and fuel costs that it will bring?
And just to show you that we don’t just spend all our waking hours thinking about car insurance comparison
and nothing else we’ve been debating this issue in the office today. Our view is that with more than half of drivers already flouting the 70mph limit and with a high proportion of drivers unlikely to increase their motorway speeds (Damon Hill is one driver who would fit this category), then the real
effect on the environment, road safety and on motorists’ pockets will be significantly less than might be feared. So let’s move with the times and raise the motorway speed limit to 80mph.
We’d love to hear your views on this.