National speed limit could rise to 80mph

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Kristian Dando
A lot has changed since 1965, but one thing which has remained constant is the 70mph national speed limit on dual carriageways and motorways in the UK. But now, plans are afoot in Parliament to raise this to 80mph, to the delight of petrolheads and the chagrin of road safety and environmental campaigners across Britain. The Department for Transport reckons that 49 per cent of drivers already flout the 70mph limit, and that vast leaps in technology have made cars much safer than they were when the 70mph limit was brought in. It would also bring Britain broadly into line with the rest of Europe. Transport secretary Phillip Hammond said: "Now it is time to put Britain back in the fast lane of global economies and look again at the motorway speed limit which is nearly 50 years old, and out of date thanks to huge advances in safety and motoring technology.” He continued: "Increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph would generate economic benefits of hundreds of millions of pounds through shorter journey times. So we will consult later this year on raising the limit to get Britain moving." Motorists groups such as the RAC and the AA have tentatively welcomed the proposals. AA president Edmund King said: "Eighty miles per hour is already accepted by most as the de facto limit so it is better to legalise this limit and enforce it. The best speed limits are limits that drivers understand and respect. If people think they can speed on motorways and get away with it, they are more likely to speed on urban roads." However, critics have said that an increase in the speed limit will increase carbon emissions, cause more deaths and accidents. Greenpeace senior transport campaigner Emma Gibson said: "At a time when North Sea oil production is going down and we are ever more reliant upon unstable regimes and fragile environments to fuel our cars, the transport secretary's decision will raise oil consumption and carbon emissions when we need to cut both." Meanwhile, a spokesperson for road safety campaign group Brake said: "We don't think it's right to put forward a policy where there's a sound evidence base that suggests that, as a result, more people will die. It's really important to reiterate the point that behind these kinds of statistics there are families whose lives have been absolutely torn apart." Brake reckons that the average stopping distance for a car at 70mph is 315ft. At 80mph that figure rises to 400ft. At 90mph, which it's argued that lots of drivers will take this as a cue to cruise at, the figure rises further to 495ft.