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80mph speed limit criticised

  • 80mph limit to be trialled on UK motorways
  • Safety campaigner fear more casualties
  • Result of trial to be published in summer

An 80mph speed limit to be trialled on up to seven sections of the UK’s motorway network this spring has been criticised by safety campaigners.

The trial will take place on parts of the M25, M1, M6, M42 and M20 using overhead variable speed limit signs and speed cameras will enforce the new trial speed.

Under current rules police generally allow a 10%+2mph  margin, which means that drivers travelling at 79mph on 70mph zones could avoid a speeding ticket but the trial will penalise motorists travelling at 90mph. Department for Transport figures show that almost half of UK’s motorists break the national 70mph speed limit.

Road Minister Mike Penning issued the warning: “I hope the public are listening to me, because average speed cameras, especially on managed motorways, are ridiculously accurate. The argument, which will be in the public consultation, is what we enforce over 80mph. The answer will be that 80mph will be the speed limit, and not, as we interpret it today, perhaps 90mph.”

It is likely that only motorways with three or more lanes will receive the variable 80mph limit and a study on the potential for the introduction of an 80mph limit, including details of the proposed pilot scheme, will be published in early summer.

Safety campaigners fear that a rise in the speed limits will lead to more injuries and death on the UK’s road network and are calling on the Government to abandon the trials.

Independent research has suggested that an 80mph national speed limit would cause 25 more deaths and more than 100 more serious injuries annually. The Government's Transport Select Committee estimated it would result in a 10% rise in casualties on motorways

Other studies also conclude that an 80mph limit would lead to increased fuel consumption and carbon emissions. At 80mph, a petrol car emits 14% more CO2 per kilometre than driving at 70mph, while diesel cars emit 25% more. It's been predicted the change would mean an additional 2.2million tonnes of carbon being pumped into the air each year.

Julie Townsend, from Brake, said: “It is hard to see the logic behind this trial when the potential benefits of 80mph limits are so questionable. On our congested motorways they are unlikely to significantly shorten journey times, and could lengthen them by creating an uneven flow and increasing speed differentials between cars and speed-limited trucks. Driving at 80mph also means higher fuel consumption and increased carbon emissions.

“The Government should instead look at how it can reduce costly and devastating crashes, and reduce congestion, through more variable speed limits and other measures, without negating the safety benefits by increasing the upper limit.

"This is a gamble with people’s lives. There has been no research into the safety of this trial, but there is a mountain of evidence that higher speeds result in more needless and violent crashes and casualties”