Stephen Hammond, Road Safety Minister, announced that trials of 80mph motorway speed limits could begin in 2014 and stressed that they remain on the Government’s agenda despite criticism that an increase will lead to ‘more deaths, crashes and serious injuries’ from road safety charity, Brake.
The plans are said to not come into force before Summer 2014, as Hammond expressed his commitment to have ‘the right speed on the right road’.
The debate continues, with supporters reminding people that motorways are the safest of all roads, and the government clearly considering the ‘hundreds of millions of pounds for the economy’ that will be generated by reducing journey times.
Whenever the question of speed and safety is raised, comparisons with the German autobahns are not far away. The autobahns, while stretches have no speed limit, does have an advisory limit of 81mph, so very close to the 80mph planned speed limit increase here.
Studies have shown that of the 645 road deaths in Germany in 2006, 67% occurred on motorway sections without speed limits, and 33% occurred on stretches with limits. But then, 67% of German motorways do not have a permanent limit, so do the figures simply show a higher rate of deaths on the larger area of road?
Peter Walker discusses the ‘power model’ devised by Rune Elvik from Norway’s Institute of Transport Economics, and explains:
“An increase in average traffic speeds of just 3mph – a typical change for a 10mph rise – would be expected to cause more than 25 extra deaths a year on motorways and more than 100 serious injuries.”
It is hard not to take these numbers seriously, and there are further concerns that the danger is increased immediately after a speed limit increase.
The 2007-2009 averages show that the UK’s road deaths were split 40% on urban roads, 54% on rural roads and just 6% on motorways.
Spain and Belgium, however, had the highest motorway road death rates at 16%, with motorway speed limits of 75mph.
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