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80mph motorway speed limit: For or against

A motorway at rush hour A rethink on government proposals to raise the motorway speed limit to 80mph has been called for following the M5 crash earlier this month.

The proposals were first announced in September and our article on an 80mph speed limit prompted a good debate among our readers.

We asked two road safety organisations whether they were for or against the proposals. Here's what they had to say.


Road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) supports the raising of driving and riding standards and campaigns for increased on-road skills.

It supports and represents motorists, motorcyclists and is developing programmes for cyclists too.

IAM's chief executive Simon Best says:

"Thankfully, events like the M5 tragedy are very rare - nothing as bad has happened in almost 20 years.

"All the evidence shows that motorways are our safest roads. There were 132 deaths on Britain’s motorways in 2009, in the same year there were 792 deaths on rural roads.

"The IAM is not calling for universal adoption of an 80 mph speed limit. We want to see it trialled on the M42 and M25 variable speed limit motorways, which have a battery of cameras monitoring vehicle speeds. 

"Compliance with the speed limit on the M42 and M25 is good - 94 per cent of drivers are sticking to the limits at 50mph, 60mph, and 70mph.

"We argue that the maximum speed limit in free flowing traffic conditions should be up to 80 mph, with very little tolerance of speeding. 

"For example, the limit could be enforced automatically at 82 mph.

"Current guidelines allow speed limits to be exceeded by ten per cent, plus two miles an hour. With an 80mph limit, current guidelines would allow for speeds of up to 90mph.

"If 94 per cent compliance could be achieved for an 80mph limit, it would actually bring the 90 mph plus speeders down to 80 mph.

"A higher limit strictly enforced at 80mph could also reduce carbon emissions. 

"At the moment drivers doing 80 come up behind drivers sticking to the limit at 70, then have to slow down and accelerate again.

"This uses more fuel and releases more carbon. If everyone is doing a steady 80, emissions will be lower. Again, this is only true if 80mph actually means 80mph.

"When conditions and visibility are poor, even the legal limit may well be too fast.

"Drivers need to drive to be able to stop within the distance they can see to be clear in front of them, whether the limit is 30, 70 or 80."


Road safety charity Brake wants to bring an end to road deaths and injuries. 

It campaigns for road safety legislation and enforcement and helps support the victims of road traffic incidents. 

Julie Townsend, campaigns director at Brake says:

"Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world and you are less likely to crash on motorways than other roads.

"But if you do crash on a motorway, it’s more likely to be catastrophic, and involve multiple casualties, because of the high speeds.

"Crashes on the scale of the recent M5 crash are mercifully rare but sadly, suffering resulting from motorway crashes is not unusual.

"Eighteen deaths and serious injuries happen every week on Britain’s motorways, each one devastating families.

"The government is currently considering raising our motorway speed limit to 80mph, which Brake is campaigning against.

"Studies indicate it would cause a 5 to 10 per cent rise in motorway casualties, meaning more families experiencing horrendous pain and trauma each week.

"There is a lot of evidence showing the link between speed, crashes and casualties: if average speeds go up, so do crashes and their severity.

"It’s down to the laws of physics. The faster you go, the greater your stopping distance, so the less time you have to react to hazards, and the harder you hit if you crash.

"The difference between 70mph and 80mph may not feel significant, but it’s huge.

"At 80mph, your stopping distance is about 25 per cent - six car lengths - more.

"That’s why it’s crucial for drivers to stay well within the existing limit, and slow right down in bad conditions.

"Brake disputes any benefits would be gained from raising the limit. Studies suggest it could even make journey times worse on our congested roads due to creating uneven traffic flow.

"And if we see more crashes and casualties, it will mean more hold-ups and an increased burden for health and emergency services, which costs the taxpayer.

"During Road Safety Week Brake is urging the government to ditch these inhumane proposals and do more to reduce needless suffering, and the huge economic cost, that results from road crashes."

What are your thoughts on the matter? We'd love to hear from you. You can use the comments board below to share your views.


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Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick covers all things consumer for She started out on a weekly newspaper, via a national news agency and a stint in the fun but ‘not as glamorous as it appears on screen’ world of TV at the BBC researching consumer films for The One Show.

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