Speedy Changes | Should The Speed Limit Be Changed?

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A new 80mph speed limit is in the pipeline, but who will the new announcements (along with the increased amount of urban areas reduced to 20mph limits) benefit? That is, if indeed they benefit anyone at all!

The main supporting argument is well illustrated by Edmund King, president of the AA, who stated “You will rarely, if ever, get stopped by a police officer if you’re driving at 80mph.” Thus suggesting that really an 80mph increase would make little difference, and indeed RAC have said “We think 80mph is reasonably safe.” However, there is a large underlying concern, and rightly so, that the trend is likely to continue with the new limit; should motorways be increased to 80mph, in turn motorist will increase their speeds to 90mph.

Herein the first dilemma lies; how can the motorways be better enforced with the increase than they are at the current speed limit? Motorists seem to follow an unspoken rule that up to 10mph over the speed limit makes little difference, but it would seem even the Association of Police Officers follow this rule. Despite it being down to individual police forces to enforce the law on the motorway, the most common current formula according to the ACPO is “10% plus 2mph”. This means that generally, depending on the police force, the ACPO agree that motorists travelling up to 79 mph are unlikely to be stopped.

One large argument, both against the current law and hence in favour of the new increased limit (providing increased enforcement comes with it), is that people allow themselves the same leeway on slower, urban roads as they do with the current speed limit. If we had a speed limit of 80mph, which most people seem to be adhering to at the minute anyway, but ensured better policing of the law, then it is suggested people are likely to replicate this law abiding nature on the slower roads.

Of course this itself seems self-conflicting; increasing the limit, meaning people have to slow down even more when in urban areas (especially with the suggested increase in 20mph areas), would likely lead to frustration, and as such, people finding it harder to follow the slower limits. There is a strong argument that the current 70mph limit should simply be better enforced, especially from environmental groups, such as Friends of the Earth, who would see the limit reduced to 60mph, “if instead you cut the speed limit to 60mph you could save as much as 7 megatonnes of carbon a year. Even enforcing the speed limit would save up to a megatonne.”

The point that motorists seem to be driving slower now due to the need to save fuel is also a very appropriate one to raise. With the UK being not long out of a recession that hit us hard, and with a world economical crisis on the horizon, there couldn’t be a worse time to ask money-concious motorists to spend more on fuel.

In the end, as with any change in law, there are bound to be a multitude of points of view, both for and against the changes. The head of media at Greenpeace UK, Ben Stewart, certainly has an opinion on the matter, tweeting “We are governed by nincompoops on crack.” I’m not sure everyone is quite so irate (although it’s an interesting way to put across a potent message), but how do you feel on the whole affair? What are your views on the points raised and how, if indeed it does, do you think it will affect you?

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