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Britain in the fast lane

By Angela Harbutt
September 30th, 2011 at 1:02 am | 6 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

The Government has launched a public consultation with a view to raising the speed limit to 80mph in 2013. Yippee.  As a Porsche-driving-self-confessed-petrol-head, I am delighted.

Environmentalists and road-safety campaigning groups are already out of the traps arguing that this will increase CO2 emissions and cause more accidents.  These people clearly don’t drive down the average motorway very often. You sit in the middle lane doing 70mph and cars go past you  in a steady stream. Ever seen a police rolling road block at 70 mph and noticed how quickly the traffic stacks up? And let’s be right Germany – and increasing numbers of roads in France – are 80mph. So why are we self-enforcing 70mph?  The proposed change is nothing more than Government catching up with common public will.

Concerning the arguments..

Accidents: The 70mph speed limit has been in place for as long as I have been alive (1965 by Barbara Castle!). Since then car safety has been improved beyond Ms Castle’s wildest imagination ( thanks in no small part to marvelous Formula 1). So too have road surfaces, signage etc. Yes, I get that there are more cars on the road – but that is not to say that variable speed limits, electronic warning signs etc cannot cope with these anomalies. And by the way, regular drivers know that the real danger is not those driving at 80mph …it’s those driving at 50mph sticking solidly to the middle lane.  Of course I understand that while cars are safer – humans have not got stronger. But perleease ..the  Government is NOT suggesting 80mph down your average high street -just motorways. And frankly if you are wandering around a motorway at 4am i doubt it matters very much if you are hit by a car doing 69mph or 81mph – the outcome is going to be the same.

Carbon emissions: The idea that cars are not already travelling at 80mph is a fantasy. Err hello -people are already doing it. And I simply don’t buy the – wholly unproven – suggestion that by raising the limit people will simply drive even  faster. Just not true. Yep there are some drivers that drive at 100mph in all weathers – but they will do that whatever the speed limit. For the vast majority you are simply decriminalising something that is already happening and the net effect on carbon emissions will be zip.

Whilst on the subject …there are specific roads where 50mph or 60mph speed limits are clearly mad given the number of lanes, condition of the roads. Some of them I would argue should be 70mph. Others I query how the hell they are only 10mph below current motorway speed limits (try driving down certain notorious roads in Kent at 60mph …that’s brave bordering on reckless..but legal!!). And there are places where 30mph or 40mph is just too fast. I regularly pass a primary school. The hand-made sign saying “twenty’s plenty” is spot on  I am in a permanent state of tension as I drive past – at least in term time. So I am also happy actually to drive slower where the conditions  require it.

(It is with a groan that I hear that the policy was due to be announced at Tory conference but was leaked by Lib Dems claiming another “win”. By  allowing higher motorway limits it is rumoured that we got the acceptance of some lower limits around schools etc. When will we learn?)

Returning to the good news – I brace myself for the deluge of “antis” that will fill the public consultation with reasons why the Government should not raise motorway limits to 80mph – and I wonder where I will go to make my “yes – about bloody time”  feeling known. Someone set up a petition and I will sign.