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80mph limits: Vital or unsafe?

A speedometerDrivers travelling at 80mph on British motorways could soon be on the right side of the law after the transport secretary announced plans to raise the speed limit.

Last week Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said that the current limit was ‘out of date’ and that a consultation would be launched later this year with a view to introducing the new 80mph limit in 2013. If the proposals are successful it will be the first time the limit has changed since it was introduced in 1965.

“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back in the fast lane of global economies and look again at the motorway speed limit which is nearly 50 years old, and out of date thanks to huge advances in safety and motoring technology,” he said.

He went on to say that raising the current limit would ‘get Britain moving’ by cutting journey times and he justified the move saying it would bring the large proportion of drivers who currently exceed 70mph back in line with the law.


The plans however, have been slammed by road safety and climate change groups, with road safety charity Brake calling the proposals ‘shameful’.

Brake chief executive Mary Williams OBE said the ‘actions of law breakers should not be legitimised’ and called on the government to reconsider the plans.

She added: “Higher speeds equal less time to react and avoid a collision in an emergency.”

From an environmental perspective, the Green Party's chief scientist highlighted that there was a 20 per cent increase in fuel consumption and emissions between driving at 70mph and 80mph.

Motorists in favour

Despite this, a poll from insurer Admiral shows that 59 per cent of motorists are in favour of the speed limit being 80mph on the motorway with 14 per cent thinking it should be more than 80mph.

But, 24 per cent of those surveyed think the limit should remain at 70mph with a small minority at 2 per cent thinking it should be 60mph.

When asked if they drive over the speed limit, it seems motorists see them as rules made for breaking with 69 per cent admitting they sometimes do and 12 per cent saying they frequently do. Just 19 per cent said they never drive over the speed limit.

The debate for 20mph

Separately, there have also been calls for a law enforcing 20mph speed limits in urban areas.

Last week, EU politician Dieter-Lebrecht Koch made recommendations to the EU’s Transport Committee to cap speed limits on urban roads at 30kph for Europe, which would be 20mph in Britain. He said by doing so, the 31,000 road deaths each year would be halved.

Although critics have said it’s a step too far for Europe to govern UK road law, road safety charity Brake is also campaigning for 20mph speed limits across Britain.

Why 20mph?

Research shows that at 30mph, it takes twice as long to stop if a child runs out, compared with 20mph.

At the moment, 20mph speed limits are dealt with on a local level and are assessed case by case. But what Brake wants, and what the EU report is proposing, is a blanket rule for all urban areas.

Will you vote in favour of 80mph limits? And should we entertain the idea of 20mph in urban areas? Let us know in the comment box below.

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Lois Avery

Lois Avery

Lois joined in 2010 after working for Dyson and as a local newspaper reporter in Wiltshire. After a year writing financial journalism at, Lois won the 2011 'most promising newcomer' at the BIBA journalist of the year awards.

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