As a learner driver fresh from a move to the chaotic Kent highways, following months of Devon rural roads, I was shaking in my seat even before the news of possible 80mph speed limits emerged on Friday. Thankfully I’m yet to be granted the privilege of driving down motorways, but that doesn’t mean the thought doesn’t want to make me scream with terror.
Yet whilst I may still be petrified of roundabouts and pushing sixty, following a couple of day’s reflection notably out of the front seat, it’s perhaps fair to say we’re probably making a massive fuss about nothing.
Take Germany for example; the limitless Autobahns simultaneously boast the highest speed limit in the world, but also one of the lowest fatalities rates. Even our French and Italian counterparts demand that their residents stick to a comparatively modest 81mph.
Figures from the Department for Transport also show that as many as 49% of drivers already flout the 70mph limit and it’s commonly acknowledged that police will frequently turn a blind eye to those driving up to 10 miles over the limit.
The current speed limit was introduced all the way back in the distant land of 1965, and since then with increase in safety and awareness, road related deaths have fallen by 75%. In an ever changing world of increased safety and awareness surely our speed limits should reflect this? There are of course those who will object, claiming an increase of road-related deaths amid fears that the “unofficial” 80mph limit now, is soon to become 90.
It seems all too easy to simply compare one seemly similar situation with another, but in doing so, we’re ignoring the real reasons behind our current “unofficial” speed limit and undermining the judgement of the majority of Britain’s drivers. The reason that nearly half of Britain’s motorists choose to speed off at 80mph, and why the police ignore them, is that we’ve all instinctively realised it’s both viable and safe. We also all know that 90mph is not.
Police already focus harshly on those who choose the break the “unofficial” 80mph limit, a practice which is sure to continue even in the face of speed increases. The proposed new speed limit isn’t really anything new or clever; it’s just a simple acknowledgement of what works on Britain’s motorways. Either which way, I had better get practising on my three point turns and those roundabouts.