The National Speed Limit of 70 mph was introduced on 22nd December 1965 for unrestricted roads and motorways. It was only supposed to be a temporary measure - in response to the high number of deaths on unrestricted roads - however it was made permanent by 1967 after research showed casualties had been cut by 20 per cent. Then in 1977, that same limit was introduced for cars and motorcycles on dual carriageways.
Today, that same 70 mph National Speed Limit remains. But since the National Speed Limit was introduced some 51 years ago, a lot has changed. Notably, cars have become a lot safer and driving standards across the United Kingdom have evolved considerably.
Indeed, other countries in Europe have faster motorways. France and Denmark allow motorists to travel at 80 mph on motorways and Germany has no speed limit on sections of its autobahn. And guess what? The autobahn is one of the safest roads in the world. Which begs the question, is it now time for the National Speed Limit to be increased?
We would certainly say so. In fact, the Government has a positive stance on it too. In 2011, then Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced his intention to consult on raising the National Speed Limit on motorways from 70 mph to 80 mph. On this, he said: “I want to make sure that our motorway speed limit reflects the reality of modern vehicles and driving conditions, not those of 50 years ago.”
Sadly, Hammond’s plans never made it into serious debate. Although, his idea remains. The RAC states that “with modern car’s brakes and tyres, 80 mph is in theory a safely attainable legal speed” however they also say that it would “increase the risk of collision”.
And herein lies the problem; those who have power to lobby for an increased speed limit are not entirely sold on the safety aspect of it. Which is fair game. At 80 mph, a driver’s thinking time would be dramatically decreased making evasive action all the trickier. And when you factor in the increased traffic levels of our roads – and in particular the increase in the number of articulated lorries – you can see why 80 mph might be 10 mph too far.
Whatever your stance on the matter, we certainly need to debate this topic more. Vehicles have come a long way since 1965 as too have driving standards. It is now also easier than ever for fleet managers to assess drivers and check their licence. So without question, now is as good a time as any for the Government to take action and look into the matter further.