Opinion: Hammond is misguided if he wants to raise the speed limit

So it seems that the media have cottoned on to the fact that the Government is considering increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph, up from the current 70mph.

If they had been paying attention, they would have realised that this isn’t exactly breaking news. Back in June this year, Mike Penning, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, said that the Department for Transport were looking at the impacts of increasing the speed limit. In response to an Oral Question from Stephen Mosley, he said that:

“The existing limit has been in place since the ’60s. We will weigh up safety and environmental aspects against enforcement—although we all know that 70 mph is not being enforced—and how increasing the speed limit to 80 mph would help the country to grow in infrastructure. We will look at the balance in those areas.”

This was confirmed in written answers to Caroline Lucas and Julian Huppert in July.

According to reports in the Guardian, Philip Hammond is very keen on making the speed limit 80mph. He is quoted as saying:

“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.”

It would seem that Hammond has already decided what the answer of the consultation will be. I’m hoping that the Lib Dems in Parliament will really push him to change his mind.

From a safety point of view, it is true that motorways are the safest roads – A-roads have about five times as many crashes per vehicle kilometre travelled. But this is not an argument for increasing the speed limit. Does the Government really want to argue that extra deaths are a price worth paying for people getting to their destinations faster?

There is also evidence that changes to one type of speed limit affects driver behaviour on other roads. So if people are allowed to drive faster on motorways, it is possible that this behaviour will be translated to other, less safe roads.

From an environmental standpoint, it is indisputable that an increase in the speed limit will increase carbon emissions. The Government has admitted as much. Lib Dem peer Lord Shutt of Greetland said just last month, in response to a written question, that:

“Under relatively steady speed driving conditions carbon dioxide emissions increase by around 14 per cent between 70 and 80 mph.”

So much for the greenest Government ever.

Hammond’s argument in favour appears to be that by increasing the speed limit, people the economy will boom. Yet the major problem for our roads is surely congestion. According to the DfTs own figures, traffic on motorways has grown faster over the last ten years than on any other road type.

So the sensible option would be to reduce road traffic. Not only would this have environmental benefits but it would reduce congestion. The DfT says that current congestion levels could cost the economy an extra £22 billion by 2025. Increasing the speed limit won’t reduce congestion as in traffic jams people aren’t travelling at the speed limit anyway.

If the Government really wants to get the country moving to get the economy moving, then let’s concentrate on public transport – making it more reliable and more affordable.

This would be beneficial both environmentally and would also reduce congestion. Plus, it was included in the Liberal Democrat Manifesto for the last election – page 78 if you’re really interested.

Let’s hope that this is something the Lib Dems in Parliament fight for.

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44 Comments

  • My worry on the safety side of things is the speed differential between lanes rather than the speed itself. Some cars and most lorries are always going to be trundling along at 60 in the inside lane. If far fewer people have qualms about pegging it along at 90, then the differential between the slow lane and the fast lane grows to maybe 30mph rather than 20mph, thus giving the faster cars much shorter times in which to react should cars make misjudged overtaking manoeuvres. There are also weather conditions for which 80 or 90mph are never going be appropriate. Raising the speed limit might encourage irresponsible driving at those times.

    I’m not keen.

  • Tony Greaves 1st Oct '11 - 1:37pm

    If I remember right, the 70 limit was brought in in the 1970s as a fuel saving measure, nothing to do with safety. Before then, there was no limit at all.

    As for congestion, there is an optimum speed to keep traffic flowing (as opposed to start/stop concertina-ing) for a given amount of heavy traffic . It is below 70, often at 40 or 50 or even less.his is the logic behind variable limits.

    It is nevertheless true that when it is possible the “going rate” for cars on motorways is around 80 not 70. Perhaps they ought to tackle that problem before thinking of raising the limit whcih will encourage many people to go at 90.

    None of which is good for reducing fuel consumption.

    Tony Greaves

  • I’m happy the limit is being raised to 80. I would be very dissapointed if the Lib Dems try and stop this. In fact, I would be a bit embarrassed. (I’m a member/activist).

    Am less happy about the Govt trying to get councils to go back to weekly collections though.

  • Being French, 80 is normal for me, even slow (85-90 is perfectly comfortable most of the time on a French motorway).
    That said, the few times I’ve driven on English motorways, you can’t get to that speed anyway because of congestion (and the fact most drivers don’t seem to understand the concept that outside lanes are for overtaking, not cruising in at 60!)

  • Stuart Mitchell 1st Oct '11 - 2:34pm

    Tony Greaves: “If I remember right, the 70 limit was brought in in the 1970s as a fuel saving measure, nothing to do with safety. Before then, there was no limit at all.”

    None of that is correct. The limit dates back to 1965. In the 70s the limit was reduced to 55 in response to the oil crisis. Casualty rates fell, but that didn’t stop the government putting the limit back up to 70 once the oil started flowing again.

    People drive much too fast on motorways as it is – and those who do so tend to drive dangerously in other respects too. As an experiment, go on to any motorway in England and move in to the outside lane while doing 70mph. Give it about five seconds then look in your rear view mirror – you will be treated to a close-up view right up the nostrils of the driver behind. It would be madness to tell these people they can drive 10mph faster than they do already.

    Rilly, road safety is one of the few disciplines in which Britain still truly leads the world. We have had the safest roads of any major industrialised country for many decades. Yet the way Hammond is going on, WE should be seeking to emulate road-carnage-blighted countries like Germany and France, when of course any sensible person knows that it ought to be THEM trying to emulate US.

  • Stuart Mitchell 1st Oct '11 - 2:39pm

    Tom: extra road deaths and fuel consumption = good. More landfill = bad. How do you arrive at this order of priorities?

  • I agree absolutely with Philip Hammond when he said, “Britain’s roads should be the arteries of a healthy economy and cars are a vital lifeline for many.” he blamed Labour’s “shortsighted and misguided war on the motorist” for penalising drivers. (Reported in Guardian).

    But if Hammond is worth his salt, he would know that Britain’s arteries are clogged not on the motorways, but in the cities. Britain’s cities are the most congested in Europe, as a recent survey showed. And, compared to North America, they are centuries behind. Local governments want to punish drivers by making driving as painful as possible. Roads are narrow, clogged with parked cars, loading/unloading trucks, and round-abouts with traffic queues stretching for miles. Local governments take glee at prohibiting the building of parking spaces, while giving planning permission to build apartment blocks that stretch all the way till the edge of the roads. If Hammond genuinely cares about Britain’s arteries, he would do something about the problems that matter.

  • “……. carbon dioxide emissions increase by around 14 per cent between 70 and 80 mph. It’s simple then, the Green credentials of the LibDems are there for all to see, therefore we can confidently expect ALL their MPs to vote against raising the speed limit. Or can we?

  • Matt Downey 1st Oct '11 - 4:53pm

    A lot of the assumption that it will increase emissions is based on the idea that people don’t already do 80. How many people keep exactly to 70 because it is the law? Not very many, to be honest.

  • I have no problem with a speed limit of 80mph. It’s pretty much to unofficial speed limit here already and brings us in line with the rest of Western Europe. Even Germany, with no official speed limit, recommends 130km/h, or 80 mph, and their accident rate (on motorways / per-miles driven) is basically the same as ours (slightly higher, but within the margins of error)

    Causes of accidents, while they do increase with speed, are caused not by the speed, but because someone did something stupid & dangerous that couldn’t be predicted.

    Bring up the speed limit to 80mph, and then solve all of the following dangerous driving behaviours and our fatality rate will be lower than it is now:

    * Being in the wrong lane. (i.e. cruising in lane 2 when not over taking), and consequently obstructing traffic because all the faster drivers are funnelled into a single lane.
    * Not indicating before changing lane
    * Crossing solid lines, or hashed areas; mostly queue jumping at junctions. (stick a concealed police unit at the M4/M25 junction with a camera and the fines you’d collect would probably eliminate the deficit).
    * Accelerating past someone to pull across in front of them to the exit (will the 10 seconds you save by not dropping in behind them really make a difference?)

    I have to drive ~80 miles a day, almost all of it motorways and I see all of those behaviours every day, multiple times. They cause congestion, they cause accidents, more surely than doing 80mph does.

    It’s a perverse irony that there’s a stretch of motorway where the presence of a police car actually increases the accident risk; as everyone slows down when they spot it and cause tail-backs. Whenever I see congestion on that road I know there’s a police car up front. A rather sad state of affairs.

    I’d much rather we have variable speed limits everywhere. Some fully variable (such as the M25) some adjusted to the road. Some motorways and dual-carriage ways would be perfectly safe at 100mph, whereas others would not be safe even at 70mph. I’m of the belief that an inappropriate speed limit (too high or too low) is worse than no speed limit at all.

    A speed limit of 80mph could save me 15 minutes a day, (which works out at over 5 full work-days a year) . Eliminating those behaviours above would actually allow me to drive at 80mph.

  • Stuart Mitchell 1st Oct '11 - 5:37pm

    Jock: So Driver A is doing a perfectly legitimate 56 mph in the inside lane.

    Driver B is perfectly legitimately overtaking at 63 mph in lane 2.

    Driver C is perfectly legitimately overtaking at about 70 mph in lane 2 and has a huge gap behind him when he pulls out.

    Driver D then comes shooting along at 100 mph and starts tailgating driver C aggressively.

    You believe that Driver C is the biggest danger of the four? Really?

    Read and learn :-

    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_069862

  • 80 mph is the de facto speed limit anyway based on driver behaviour and police enforcement. So why not legalise 80 mph but at the same time make it clear there will be tougher policing of drivers going at 90+ and otherwise abusing the rules (such as overtaking on the inside, driving dangerously fast in adverse weather, exceeding speed limits around roadworks, etc).

  • Stuart Mitchell 1st Oct '11 - 5:41pm

    Matt: Of course people do around 80 now. Everybody knows that. The problem is that when the limit is 80, more people will do 90. A properly enforced limit of 70 would be better (or, if we’re going to stick with this nonsense of “unofficial” limits, an official limit of 60).

  • I also believe that the Advanced Driving Test should be mandatory for all professional drivers, taxi, lorry, delivery etc. Mandatory re-test every 5 years and a condition of employment.

    The government should also encourage massive incentives to encourage non-professional drivers to take it. E.g. massively reduced insurance, or tax incentives.

  • Stuart Mitchell 1st Oct '11 - 5:56pm

    Martin: “[An 80 mph limit] brings us in line with the rest of Western Europe.”

    Yes, our limit is one of the lowest in Europe. But what do you know, our death rate is BY FAR the lowest in Europe. That isn’t a coincidence, and we ought not be rushing to “get in line”, as if we’re somehow jealous of all those extra dead people they have on their roads compared to us.

    “Even Germany, with no official speed limit, recommends 130km/h, or 80 mph, and their accident rate (on motorways / per-miles driven) is basically the same as ours”

    Source? According to the ABD the German motorway death rate per miles driven is MORE THAN TWICE that of the UK :-

    http://www.abd.org.uk/safest_roads.htm

    Since when is a 125% difference “basically the same”?? The ABD are a bunch of autobahn-loving speed freaks so I have no reason to think they’ve distorted these figures to make them look worse than they actually are.

    “Causes of accidents, while they do increase with speed, are caused not by the speed, but because someone did something stupid & dangerous that couldn’t be predicted.”

    Largely true, but speed aggravates, and that’s the point.

  • Stuart Mitchell 1st Oct '11 - 6:25pm

    Chris: “Couple that with the extra fuel used which is significant, then to me it’s a no brainer to leave the limits as set.”

    Quite. If the Lib Dems endorse this, it’s very difficult to see how anybody could take them seriously on carbon emissions in the future.

  • Ewan>My worry on the safety side of things is the speed differential between lanes rather than the speed itself.

    Hear, hear.

    Jock>If you have to swing out into the outside lane at seventy…

    …then the inside lane is probably filled with nose-to-tail HGVs doing max 60mph (less on hills) (eg M6, Midlands up till you get past the turn-off for Liverpool). Or caravans (M5 south of Bristol).
    One of which pulls out suddenly in front of you, either because it’s going 2mph faster than whatever it’s overtaking, or because there’s an on-slip road ahead and vehicles are heading down it at speed to join the motorway.

    The outside lane is supposed to be for overtaking only. But is usually filled with cars breaking the existing speed limit. THEY are the bad drivers.

    >Self appointed pompous pretend police

    Nice description for people who are obeying the law.

  • For starters, I don’t really buy into the idea that increasing the limit will increase the amount of deaths. It’s the slower roads that I am far more worried about when considering death rates. I am very much behind many more 20 mph zones.

    If the change really does make a significant impact (emissions clearly on the increase), then I guess I can be persuaded that the 70 limit should stand. But 70 feels so slow!!! ha

    As for the bin collections. I hated it being fortnightly and thought it was ridiculous, but lo and behold, 3 yrs later I am used to it and think it works well. I live in a house with 5 other housemates and we manage. I struggle to see why others can’t. But, either way, my issue is more about the Government telling councils what to do. I guess I’m a localist. 🙂

  • jenny barnes 2nd Oct '11 - 9:03am

    Lord shutt of Greetland? really? anyway he should keep quiet about things he doesn’t understand.
    The power needed to overcome air resistance goes with the Cube of the velocity; distance travelled with the velocity, so fuel consumed goes with the square of the velocity. (8/7) **2 is near enough 30% (64/49) Not 14, that’s just 8/7.
    And it’s not 20% either, as I’ve seen and heard widely quoted.
    A 30% increase on average fuel consumption on motorways? And already the impatient tailgaters overtake you on the inside at 90 when you’re doing 70 in the middle lane.

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Oct '11 - 10:07am

    Jedibeeftrix: “What right does the government have to get inmy way in the conduct of my private life when we live in the year 2011…”

    Most of us believe in “do what you will but harm none”. That’s why we have road traffic laws. That’s why you need a license to drive on public roads in the first place – nobody has a right to drive, it’s a privilege that has to be earnt. Your usual resort to simplistic libertarianism isn’t relevant here.

    The only “private” driving is that done on privately owned roads – in which case the government quite rightly makes no attempt to stop you driving as fast as you please.

  • @Stuart Mitchell

    My source, is the same as that of the ADB. The ADB’s quoted data is deliberately distorted, chosen specifically to create the view that the UK has the safest roads as a justification for their campaign to raise speed limits.

    The data on the page you link to is over a decade old. If you go to the source (EuroRAP) you’ll see the up-to-date data. Our road infrastructure has been so heavily neglected in the past decade that even despite our lower speed limit our road safety is actually becoming lower than that of other European countries; almost all of which drive at faster speeds than we do.

    The EuroRAP data actually suggests the risk of death on UK motorways is considerably higher than that on German motorways. If you want a quick visual confirmation of that just open the risk maps for the UK and Germany side-by-side. The UK roads are mostly yellow and red (medium and high risk), with some green, whereas the German motorways are mostly green and yellow. There is full data on the site for how data was collected, and their methodologies for the analysis.

    I notice the follow:

    1) Even if you assume our unofficial speed limit bring us in line with Germany’s 130kmh recommendation, our fatal accident risk is still higher.
    2) Since risk per-km-driven is taken into account it’s not that we may drive more on motorways

    So what conclusions should one draw as to the reasons why despite having a lower speed limit we still have a higher risk of fatal accidents on our motorways?

    1) Our roads infrastructure is in very poor condition, hence the high risk
    2) Our drivers are uneducated or just simply too dangerous and hence the high risk
    3) Our congestion level is so high that traffic density is raising the risk. (If there are cars bumper to bumper all around you, there’s no place to evade to).

    It could be all three. or there maybe other conclusions I’ve not spotted yet.

    If anything the data makes a compelling reason to keep the existing speed limit because the UK roads are actually thoroughly unsafe. Our low speed limit has actually been hiding the fact that our roads are much more dangerous than Europe’s.

  • coldcomfort 2nd Oct '11 - 12:07pm

    There is no way you can get rational debate into this. If everybody concentrated on driving their own vehicle with due consideration to its condition, awareness of ones own skill & experience, & with due consideration for & attention to other road users, instead of driving everybody else’s vehicle, then accidents would plummet & we wouldn’t need any speed limits. Dream on. All that matters is that you don’t exceed some totally arbitrary speed limit (usually completely unrelated to what is actually a ‘safe’ speed which might be higher or lower) by some small amount on the rare occasions when a policeman or camera is looking & through lack of due care & attention you haven’t spotted.

  • @jenny barnes

    Your approximation is too simplistic, and does not take into account engine performance, which has a significantly higher effect on C02 emissions than simple drag.

    Experimental data (Wuppertal Institute, 1992, for a typical mid-size car) shows CO2 emissions (in kg) for a speed increase from 112km/h to 130 km/h to be ~22% per 100 km driven, or ~32% per hour driven.

    So both 20% figures, and 30% quotes figures are correct (for data 20 years old). Given improvements to engine efficieny in the last 2 decades (about 4 MPG, source: US Energy Information Administration) this decreases that percentage significantly. Given this data I’m much more inclined to trust the figure from Lord Shutt and other sources than yours.

    Also, fuel economy and hence increase in CO2 emmisions are highly dependent on the car you drive. For example if you’re driving a BMW there will be negligable difference in MPG between 70 and 80 and even 90mph. Yet if you are driving a Vauxhaul Astra the difference in MPG between 70 and 80 might well be a 4-5 MPG (or ~

    Something else to take into account is that the official measure of a car’s MPG (the figures you see quoted in brochures) comed from test cycle ECE-15, introduced by the EEC Directive 90/C81/01 in 1999. It measures fuel economy up to speeds of 120km/h (75mph), and so already assumes you’ll be going faster than the UK allows.

    As an aside, you being overtaken on the left while in the middle lane suggests you are in the wrong lane and breaking the highway code (paragraph 264) yourself, therefore obstructing traffic and requiring faster drivers to pass you on the inside. Speeding might be dangerous, yet I’d argue you sitting the middle lane when lane 1 is clear (it has to be since people can overtake you there) is much more dangerous than someone doing 80mph.

    Lane discipline is a legal requirement: MT(E&W)R regs 5, 9 & 16(1)(a), MT(S)R regs 4, 8 & 14(1)(a), and RTA 1988, sects 35 & 186, as amended by TMA 2004 sect 6. Not overtaking on the left (paragraph 268) is not covered by any laws.

    This means you can be presecuted for driving in the middle lane, but the speeder could not be prosecuted for overtaking you on the left. If a hypothetical driver where doing say 75 (i.e. within the 10%) or you had for some reason, e.g. an incline, slowed below 70 and he remained at 70, and an accident ensused because he overtook you on the left, then on the face of it I’d suggest it more likely you would be prosecuted than he would.

    (Source: Highway Code, direct.gov.uk)

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Oct '11 - 12:18pm

    Martin:

    “The EuroRAP data actually suggests the risk of death on UK motorways is considerably higher than that on German motorways.”

    Overlooking the fact that you earlier claimed that Germany’s motorway death rate was actually HIGHER than the UK’s, you really need to provide a source for this statement because it totally contradicts what EuroRap say elsewhere.

    For example, on page 14 of their European Road Safety Atlas (http://atlas.eurorap.org), they state that :-

    “Great Britain has the safest motorways and dual carriageways.” (in terms of risk mapping)

    This atlas was published just four months ago.

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Oct '11 - 12:29pm

    Jedibeeftrix: “@ stuart – if you selectively quote people who read those isolated words in pretty much any way you choose.”

    That sentence is so incomprehensible it’s worthy of Pedro Carolino. It’s actually impossible to tell what point you’re trying to make.

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Oct '11 - 1:29pm

    Martin: “Your approximation is too simplistic, and does not take into account engine performance, which has a significantly higher effect on C02 emissions than simple drag.”

    Around 60% of the power required to move a car at motorway speeds is used to overcome drag, and wind resistance increases exponentially with velocity. You are correct that some cars will see a smaller increase in fuel consumption than others when driven at 80 rather than 70, but the increase is still considerable – especially when nultipled by the billions of miles driven each year.

    There’s no getting away from the fact that more speed = more fuel consumption. Anybody who believes otherwise probably spends their spare time in the shed trying to make a perpetual motion machine. So there’s a value judgement to be made here (setting aside the other considerations): should we make an exception for road transport from the goal to reduce CO2 emissions, on the grounds that it’s more important to spread happiness among those who want to drive at 80mph?

  • @Stuart,

    I agree the increase is considerable, and I concede your point on drag; that sentence was left over from a much longer argument about different vehicle types; at which point, given the minor differences in drag coefficients, air resistance becomes a constant and the only variable is engine efficiency. It got cut, because my main point was that Lord Shutt’s figures were a closer reflection to reality than those telling him to “keep quiet about things he doesn’t understand”.

    As to the EuroRAP data, I’m using the same source.
    Headline quotes are never useful; and your quote does not apply to my argument: Look at the maps: Germany pp. 36-39, UK pp. 44-47

    You’ll see that Germany is mostly green, with maybe 1/3 yellow; I think I may have spotted 1 small orange stretch in the South. The UK is mostly yellow with a lot of orange, red, some black, and some green. Restricting the UK just to the motorways you’ll see the UK is about 50/50 green/yellow risk, with some orange and red.

    Germany does not have dual carriage ways shown; hence I was talking about motorways. You therefore need to compare like with like and only take UK motorways into account. In which case, Germany seems to fare much better than the UK. I’m trying to find the actual raw data for a definitive answer, but it doesn’t appear available; unless you are able to provide it, my point still stands.

    Raising the speed limit to 80 costs the treasury nothing, and much as I’d like to drive at 80mph and save myself some time, given a choice, I’d much rather be using public transport; but there’s no way the treasury will pay for decent public transport.

    As to changing my view. I’m not a politician brainlessly following an ideology. If new evidence comes along then I’m happy to be convinced otherwise and adjust my views.

    As it happens, I have no real personal stake in this debate. I’ll have left the country, sold my car, and be commuting by public transport full-time again before any change comes into effect (coincidentally to the country EuroRAP considers the safest, which also has higher speed limits than the UK). I’d be using public transport now, if it didn’t take over 3 hours to do a journey I can do in my car in 50 minutes, and cost 5 times as much (despite petrol prices).

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Oct '11 - 5:16pm

    “Making some emotional appeal to “safety” in the context of a call for an increase in motorway speeds to eighty mph, in the year 2011, is foolish in the extreme and should be recognised as such.”

    Research from around the world has consistently shown that raising motorway speed limits leads to significantly more fatalities, while lowering them has the opposite effect. Of course not everybody is concerned about the safety of others, that’s just people for you.

    The motorway speed limit was NOT set in the 1970s because it was believed that cars of the time would fall apart if driven any faster.

    For a start, you haven’t even got the right decade. And limits are set according to a wide variety of factors, of which driver capability and the design of the roads are two very obvious ones that you have overlooked (there are many others).

    (Incidentally, I’m embarrassed to recall that in my reckless youth I once drove my first car, a 10-year old Allegro, at over 100mph on the M67. Amazingly, it did not disintegrate and I’m still here to tell the tale.)

  • Jonathan Price 2nd Oct '11 - 6:05pm

    Of course we need to invest in public transport. anyone who has travelled in mainland Europe knows how bad ours is in comparison, with our trains being rated “as good as East Germany” in the not so distant past. We also need to run public transport properly and keep it clean (British Rail’s old cleaning policy, enthusiastically adopted by the TOCs is, when it gets too dirty, paint over it). But we also need a good private transport system suitable for the 21st century. Raising the speed limit to 130 KM/h is one small step in the right direction.

  • Andrew Wimble 3rd Oct '11 - 11:18am

    `My starting point is that peoples actions should only be restricted if there is a verygood reason. Given the fact that Motorway safety has improved a great deal since the 70 limit was imposed, and the fact that the vast majority of traffic related fatalities do no occur on the Motorways, I think it is about time that the limit was reviewed. Of course faster limits increae the danger, but do they really increase the danger enough to justify not raising the limit to 80 ? After all safty always had to be a ballance. If we want total safety then we need to go back to having someone walking in front of cars waving a red flag.

    From a road safety point of view, I feel that speeds in built up areas where there are more distractions and a lot more vulnerable people such as pedestrians and cyclists is far more important than controling motorway speeds. To my mind the government approach of easing speed limits on the motorways while increasing the use of 20mph zones where they are justified to protect pedestrians and cyclists is a sensible and ballenced approach.

    As for investing in public transport, I am all in favour but I do not see that it has anything to do with motorway speed limits. There is no either/or here. being in favour of public transport does not mean you have to be against easing spead limits.

  • Stuart Mitchell 3rd Oct '11 - 6:58pm

    Martin:

    “As to the EuroRAP data, I’m using the same source. Headline quotes are never useful; and your quote does not apply to my argument: Look at the maps: Germany pp. 36-39, UK pp. 44-47.”

    It’s ridiculous trying to compare those two risk maps. The German map shows motorways only whereas the UK map shows roads of all types (hence it looks like a plate of spaghetti). No wonder you’re confused. There is nothing on those maps to cause us to doubt the statement on page 14 that Britain has the safest motorways in Europe.

    The most recent hard stats I can find are those published by the OECD’s Internation Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group (IRTAD) in November 2009. They show that in 2007 there were 1.8 deaths per billion vehicle km on UK motorways. The German figure was 2.7. German motorways were therefore 50% more fatal than ours. There’s nothing we ought to emulate there. dmittedly, the German figure has improved a great deal over the past 10 years- but this is due in no small part to the imposition of speed limits on some of the more dangerous previously unlimited strecthes of autobahn.

    “As it happens, I have no real personal stake in this debate. I’ll have left the country, sold my car, and be commuting by public transport full-time again before any change comes into effect (coincidentally to the country EuroRAP considers the safest, which also has higher speed limits than the UK).”

    You’re not referring to the Netherlands are you?? If you are then you really need to mug up on their speed limits before you start driving there!!

    Andrew Wimble: “Of course faster limits increae the danger, but do they really increase the danger enough to justify not raising the limit to 80 ?”

    You tell me. Exactly how much of an increase in danger would you find acceptable?

    Personally I think 70mph is plenty fast enough on a small island such as ours. If you want to get there sooner – set off earlier. Yes, the trade-off between safety and traffic laws is an unbelievable moral minefield, but in this case, I really don’t see that the “benefits” of an 80mph limit would be worth a single extra death. The *environmental* case for leaving the limit as it is is of course cast iron.

  • @Stuart.

    Yes the maps do take different roads into account, hence I said only to compare motorways. If you’d read what I’d written you’d see that both times I explicitly stated that, perhaps if you took a bit more time to read what I write?

    I agree with the 2007 figures, but they are half a decade old, and until the new figures are out I’ll have to rely on informed speculation (by others) about improved safety on German roads and the EuroRAP maps you dismiss because they don’t flatter your argument.

    Yes, I am referring to the Netherlands, and seeing as I’m moving there, I’ve already informed myself. Just to help you out though, seeing as you’re expecting them to be lower than the UK given your exuberant use of punctuation, here they are:

    (source: Dutch government, PDF, page 14, http://bit.ly/r3Q9wd)
    In town 50 km/h (31 mph) (~ same as UK)
    Outside: 80 km/h (49.7 mph)
    Main Roads: 100 km/h ( 62 mph) (these two don’t really equate to the UK, and are basically B roads vs A roads, ~same as UK national speed limit with local restrictions)
    Motorways: 120 km/h (75 mph) (faster than UK)
    Trial Stretch (32km, “Afsluitdijk”) 130 km/h ( 80 mph) (faster than UK) (source: http://bit.ly/huKF9Y)

    So the EuroRAP safest country in Europe has equivalent or faster speed limits than the UK, and is already running 80mph trials with a move to expanding the increased speed limit to more roads. So safer and faster.

  • Stuart Mitchell 4th Oct '11 - 6:42pm

    Martin: I don’t dismiss the EuroRap maps, I dismiss your interpretation of them. How have you removed non-motorways from the UK map? In the absence of raw numbers, how have you aggregated up the UK and German data?? You don’t have the tools to do that, but EuroRap do – and their conclusion, as already quoted, is that Britain has the safest motorways in Europe.

    As for Holland, I’m surprised you didn’t mention those Dutch roads which have lower speed limits than in Britain. The highest limit for any non-motorway road is just 62mph (compared with our 70), and even that only applies to “autowegen” – highways with motorway-like restrictions which have no direct equivalents in the UK. On a standard non-urban road the limit is just 50mph – far lower than our 60. Some non-built-up roads have limits of just 37mph – one of the lowest limits in the world.

    Motorways are the only Dutch roads with significantly higher limits than ours – but their motorways also have a higher death rate than ours, non-coincidentally enough.

    To describe their roads as “faster and safer” than ours is therefore a joke. They may have some faster roads than us, they may have some safer roads than us, but what they DON’T have is roads that are faster and safer AT THE SAME TIME, which is kind of important!! Where their limits are lower than ours, their death rates are lower too; where their limits are higher, their death rates are higher.

    It’s also a bit mischievous of you to try to link the new Dutch 130kph trials with the impressive Dutch safety record of the past. There is no connection. What’s happening in Holland now is identical to what’s happening in the UK. A newish right-wing/liberal coalition government (propped up by the likes of Geert Wilders) is more interested in giving populist concessions to the motoring lobby than listening to any woolly-minded concerns about the environment or safety.

    I hope you like it there.

  • @stuart

    As for Holland, I’m surprised you didn’t mention those Dutch roads which have lower speed limits than in Britain. The highest limit for any non-motorway road is just 62mph (compared with our 70), and even that only applies to “autowegen” – highways with motorway-like restrictions which have no direct equivalents in the UK. On a standard non-urban road the limit is just 50mph – far lower than our 60. Some non-built-up roads have limits of just 37mph – one of the lowest limits in the world.

    You’d not be suprised if you’d read what I linked to. I did mention them. I mentioned every single road type mentioned in the Dutch Highway code. The Autowegen are what the Dutch authorities translate to English as “Main Roads”. The speed limit is not 50mph as you claim, but 62 mph; same as the UK; see my post above.

    The only instance where Dutch roads are slower than the UK is where the “Main Roads” are also dual carriage ways (they can be both single and dual-carriageways). I can only think of 1 dual-carriage way that isn’t speed restricted to below 60mph in my area here in the UK (most are 50mph) and for that stretch where it’s 70mph it’s a motorway in all but name. (i.e. proper slip roads, feeders etc, road quality). There is some indication that some Autowegen might be locally speed limited to above 100 km/h (as in the UK), but I’ve not been able to substantiate that.

    So yes.. Dutch speed limits really are the same or faster than the UK. Maybe it’s the Dutch road quality that’s better?

  • @Stuart…

    slightly addressed the wrong issue there.

    While technically extra-urban roads in the UK can be 60mph. There are very few that are, certainly where I drive. All the ones I know are locally limited to 40mph or 50mph.

    It’s sort of the same situation as on German motorways. While officially there’s no speed limit, effectively most are limited to 120km/h locally.

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