UK Motorway limit to be 80mph


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Profile Chris S
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Message 1157408 - Posted: 30 Sep 2011, 11:13:00 UTC

The UK government has announced that it intends to raise the Motorway speed limit from the current 70mph set in 1965, to 80mph by 2013.

They say that 49% of drivers do 80mph anyway, and the UK has the lowest road death rate in Europe. Others say that in over 45 years, vehicle braking, steering, & suspension systems have improved dramatically. They quote France and Italy at 81mph, Ireland, Spain and Portugal at 75mph, and in Germany there is no limit on some stretches of motorway. It is also stated the the police will more rigidly enforce the new limit than they do the current one.

Vehicle construction standards may have risen over the decades, but IMHO driver ability has not kept pace with it, and has in my view fallen. With a new limit of 80mph most will be doing 90mph, and I don't think the average driver is safe at 90mph. Nor do I think that a 10year old family car is either. Perhaps top of the range Audis, BMW's, Mercedes, Jaguar etc can cruise all day at 90mph, they are designed for it, Ford Fiestas aren't.

All this move will do is to increase the number of high speed pile ups with a corresponding rise in the death rate. Quite apart from the fact that fuel consumption can rise by up to 20% at the higher speeds. I am dead against it, pun intended.

What is the motorway speed limit in your country, and how would you view an increase?


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Message 1157439 - Posted: 30 Sep 2011, 13:20:03 UTC

I am not sure whether I am being pedantic, but I think the Government intend to consult about raising the Motorway speed to 80 mph. After the consultation, and parallel research in to potential effects - like increased Co2 emissions - and journey time impacts. The Government will then decide on implementing the speed limit increase (or not).
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Message 1157451 - Posted: 30 Sep 2011, 14:18:37 UTC - in response to Message 1157408.

The speed limit on most major freeways here in the US is about 65mph, with most drivers doing about 80mph, and the limit seems to be selectively enforced by state police.

Our Federal Government can only set speed limits on federally-funded highways, all other limits are set at the state level.


Personally, I think they should raise the speed limit to 90mph on federal highways. Most multi-lane highways have signs that say "Slower traffic keep right" meaning those old Ford Fiestas can stay to the right and out of the way. Traffic on the right isn't expected to go over 45-55mph.

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Message 1157506 - Posted: 30 Sep 2011, 17:20:34 UTC

The Federal Government can not set speed limits in the USA. What it can do is refuse to send money to State Governments that don't follow its suggestions.

Many states have 65 in urban areas and 70-75 in rural areas.

Before you wish for 90 and slow traffic keep right, please study California as they have a law putting big rigs in the right two lanes and limiting them to 55. See if you want that kind of problem before you ask for 90. Or drive I-15 between Barstow and Stateline, where 100 isn't uncommon.

I hear in Texas there is selection based on the license plate. Out of state gets pulled over for 1 over and in state gets a pass.

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Message 1157517 - Posted: 30 Sep 2011, 17:53:33 UTC - in response to Message 1157506.

I stand corrected re: federal highways/funding.

I haven't seen too many speed limit signs here in Illinois that are above 65mph.

Each state would obviously have to review their existing laws, and I encourage them to do so to increase the rate of travel. Perhaps removing the right lane restriction from big rigs and/or simply keeping them in the slower lane.

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Message 1157542 - Posted: 30 Sep 2011, 19:34:52 UTC

In the UK, following the recommendations of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the police apply the "+10%+2" rule. This stems from the Vehicle Construction Regulations which state, that every vehicle used upon public roads must be equipped with a device to record the road speed to an accuracy of + or - 10%.

This of course was in the days of cable driven speedos from the gearbox, but it still applies. The +2 is the allowance made for a visual misread of the speedometer. This means that you could be genuinely observing 70mph on your dashboard, but actually be doing 79mph. In practice, the police don't usually prosecute you if you don't exceed 80mph and are driving sensibly.

Applying that rule to the proposed 80mph limit, gives 88+2=90. So are we to assume that only those doing over 90mph will get apprehended? Or will they just apply the +2 rule and nab you at over 82mph?

John is correct in that it is a proposal which is up for consultation, but it's most unlikely not to become law. I think it is a big mistake and I will fight against it.



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Message 1157809 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 8:45:49 UTC

There is quite a lot of media comment, and views against, in the UK ATM.

From a practical point of view, bearing in mind the cost of fuel is £1.38 per litre (= to £6.28 per UK gallon and £5.22 per US gallon = $8.40 per US gallon). I have noticed the number of cars that are driving fast seems to have fallen.

When driving on dual carriage ways and motor ways I see the cars running at between 70mph and 75mph. Clearly there is the odd faster car, but these are more noticeable by their faster speed and much much fewer than, say, last year.

Personally, I think that if the limit is raised to 80mph, that the number of people driving at 90mph will be very few ... primarily down to the cost of fuel.

Just a thought?
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Message 1157859 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 13:09:41 UTC

To be fair John, you do live in a fairly rural part of the country. I live in South London and virtually all my driving is done on the M3, A3(M), M4 and the M25, and I can assure you that most are doing 80mph already. It is also not unusual to see a Porsche go whizzing by at a Ton+.

If you can afford to buy those sort of cars, fuel costs are irrelevant. People don't fill their tanks to the brim these days, neither do they buy X gallons or Y litres. People buy set amounts of fuel each week in multiples of £5, whatever they can afford. When the price of fuel goes up, they get less petrol for their money, so they drive less miles, but it won't affect the speed they drive at.

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Message 1157873 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 13:47:43 UTC - in response to Message 1157451.
Last modified: 1 Oct 2011, 13:50:55 UTC

The speed limit on most major freeways here in the US is about 65mph, with most drivers doing about 80mph, and the limit seems to be selectively enforced by state police.

Our Federal Government can only set speed limits on federally-funded highways, all other limits are set at the state level.


Personally, I think they should raise the speed limit to 90mph on federal highways. Most multi-lane highways have signs that say "Slower traffic keep right" meaning those old Ford Fiestas can stay to the right and out of the way. Traffic on the right isn't expected to go over 45-55mph.

Clearly you haven't driven through Texas. Many Texans consider the "passing" lane as their personal driving lane and refuse to leave it even when a car is on their bumper flashing lights and honking a horn. the only way to make them get out of the lane is to pass them get back in the passing lane and slow down so that they will want to get around you in the regular lane. Then you get to speed up. If they go back to the passing lane, repeat procedure.

BTW for decades Texans didn't need to take driving instructions. THey need only pass a written test and a simple driving test. Which may explain the poor skills on the road. also unfortunately we have a Highway maximum speed of 70 mph which makes driving all the more fun.
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Message 1157905 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 15:19:08 UTC - in response to Message 1157873.

The speed limit on most major freeways here in the US is about 65mph, with most drivers doing about 80mph, and the limit seems to be selectively enforced by state police.

Our Federal Government can only set speed limits on federally-funded highways, all other limits are set at the state level.


Personally, I think they should raise the speed limit to 90mph on federal highways. Most multi-lane highways have signs that say "Slower traffic keep right" meaning those old Ford Fiestas can stay to the right and out of the way. Traffic on the right isn't expected to go over 45-55mph.

Clearly you haven't driven through Texas. Many Texans consider the "passing" lane as their personal driving lane and refuse to leave it even when a car is on their bumper flashing lights and honking a horn. the only way to make them get out of the lane is to pass them get back in the passing lane and slow down so that they will want to get around you in the regular lane. Then you get to speed up. If they go back to the passing lane, repeat procedure.

BTW for decades Texans didn't need to take driving instructions. THey need only pass a written test and a simple driving test. Which may explain the poor skills on the road. also unfortunately we have a Highway maximum speed of 70 mph which makes driving all the more fun.



Nope, I have never been to Texas, but my experience is oddly quite similar. On a 6-lane highway (3 lanes in one direction), its not uncommon to drive in the "fast" lane on the left and be passed in the middle lane. Meh, I've done it plenty of times.

The driving test here in IL is just as simple too. I drove around a block to get my license... literally.

But just like using flight sims to teach pilots, I think driving sims have helped the overall driving skills of many video game players. Another reason why I think it's OK to drive 80mph and the limit should be raised.


@Chris S
I actually drive my car all the way down to fumes, then I refill and top off at an even number.

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Message 1157912 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 15:43:46 UTC

Come to LA LA Land and drive around a bit. Experience I-405 around SR-118 where it is 14 lanes south and 12 lanes north. Try I-210 in Pasadena 5+1 lanes each way where the left lane is the slow lane. (+1 is carpools only) Have a go on I-710 also known as the truck route from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (busiest in the USA) They are presently closing it on weekends to replace the potholes. Take the I405 over the Sepulveda Pass. Get some local flavor and take I-10 from downtown to Santa Monica in the morning. Go over to the East LA interchange on I-5. Then to round out your tour take a drive on the Historic Arroyo Seco Parkway. Enjoy a stop sign at the end of your onramp!

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Message 1157922 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 15:59:23 UTC

Clearly, the drivers around my patch and I behave differently to those around London. Also, when driving on the rural lanes one can clearly identify townie drivers by their impatience.

I saw one try and pass a combine the other day. This beast was completely filling the lane and the townie still tried to overtake (unsuccessfully after he fell in the ditch, and spent half a day rescuing his bent car).

When I refuel my car, I wait until the low fuel warning sign comes on (leaving me 2.5 gallons)and then fill until the pump stops. I then top to the nearest 50 pence.

Did that today and took 67.7 litres (14.9 UK gallons). That cost me £92.00 ($150). But I had covered over 500 miles (800 km) since I last fueled, giving today's average of 33.6 mpg (from a 3.0 litre turbo engine).
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Message 1157928 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 16:16:39 UTC - in response to Message 1157859.

To be fair John, you do live in a fairly rural part of the country. I live in South London and virtually all my driving is done on the M3, A3(M), M4 and the M25, and I can assure you that most are doing 80mph already. It is also not unusual to see a Porsche go whizzing by at a Ton+.

If you can afford to buy those sort of cars, fuel costs are irrelevant. People don't fill their tanks to the brim these days, neither do they buy X gallons or Y litres. People buy set amounts of fuel each week in multiples of £5, whatever they can afford. When the price of fuel goes up, they get less petrol for their money, so they drive less miles, but it won't affect the speed they drive at.


I'm not so sure. IIRC the majority of miles traveled are for business purposes, these miles are likely to be traveled regardless of the price of fuel. Those business travelers that are money conscious will decrease their speed to increase fuel economy. Also, we should be wary of using anecdotes in place of evidence, my own experience tends to show the opposite of the rural vs urban traveler, when I lived in Berks I traveled many more miles (both for business and for pleasure) than when I lived in East London.

The evidence tells us that in the UK road accident fatalities are a quarter what they were in 1965, despite the increase in road usage over the same period. No doubt there are many factors that have contributed to this decrease, not least amongst them more widespread awareness of the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol. No doubt car construction has also contributed, though I imagine that seat belt wearing is also a significant change in road user behavior over the past 46 years. Another component could be a change in climatic conditions, with less severe winters there may be fewer occasions where road conditions are treacherous.

It is not hard to imagine that increases in the difficulty of the driver's license test could also be a contributing factor, again, while being careful to note this is an anecdote, my grandfather informed me that his test was to drive a motor cycle around a town square, prior to being licensed to drive any car or motor cycle. The test today includes a theory component that was introduced in July 1996. I believe the data supports the notion that risk awareness increases with age, thus the view that driver ability is decreasing may be, in part, a result of an increase in the viewer's driver ability (due to increased risk awareness) over the same period.

It might be interesting to compare the data from Germany and the UK, where many of these factors are likely to have had similar effects. The data shows that road fatalities in that country are down by a similar amount (1/5 as many road deaths in 2008 compared to 1970). Of note is the recent ban on alcohol for new drivers in Germany. This data leads me to believe that, while speed limits may play a part in road safety, other factors could well be more significant.
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Message 1157934 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 16:40:01 UTC

A gallon of petrol weighs about 10 lbs, therefore 15 gallons is about 150lbs or roughly equivalent to 1 1/2 sacks of cement in your boot. That all takes energy and power to shift around. I run down to the low level light which is 1 1/2 gallons left, and then fill up to 1/2 full which is 5 1/2 gallons, about £25 using 99 Octane.

Therefore the average weight of petrol I carry around is about 3 1/2 gallons or 35 lbs, or a 1/4 sack of cement. Not going over 80mph I can average 38mpg from a 1.9 petrol engine. Doesn't seem much but I do tend to gun it away from roundabouts up through the gears, changing at 4500 rpm at the peak of the power curve. Not much point in having one of them unless you do.

And apart from anything else, if it's never got on average more than a couple of gallons in it, there is less risk of an explosion in a crash, and less risk of it ending up in Scotland if it gets nicked.

Your Honour, if the court pleases, I rest my case for the defence.

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Message 1157938 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 16:47:14 UTC

@ Bobby - I'm gonna do you the courtesy of reading through your post properly before making a considered response. After a quick skim I don't think I'm going to be agreeing with you, but we will see :-)

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Message 1157959 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 17:47:24 UTC - in response to Message 1157934.
Last modified: 1 Oct 2011, 17:48:45 UTC

And apart from anything else, if it's never got on average more than a couple of gallons in it, there is less risk of an explosion in a crash

The more air in the tank the greater the risk damage from the explosion as the liquid doesn't explode.
[edit]Race cars use rubber bladders as the tank so they are always 100% full to reduce risk of explosion.
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Message 1157989 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 19:31:03 UTC
Last modified: 1 Oct 2011, 19:33:35 UTC

I have another answer to fuel-air explosions, my fuel is derv which will only ignite above 300C (compression ignition).

Derv does not brew up to the sensitive extent that petrol does. A lesson all parties learnt in WW2 during tank battles. The diesel powered tanks were less likely to burn than petrol power, helped with HE and armour piercing rounds.

As I understand, now most military only use derv or JP8 (jet fuel). The troop carriers, motor cycles, tanks, etc, are all powered using JP8 - 1 fuel for all transport, including ships and jet/propeller powered aircraft.
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Message 1158002 - Posted: 1 Oct 2011, 20:15:42 UTC - in response to Message 1157938.

@ Bobby - I'm gonna do you the courtesy of reading through your post properly before making a considered response. After a quick skim I don't think I'm going to be agreeing with you, but we will see :-)


Sure thing. For clarification I should add that my comments (including "while speed limits may play a part in road safety, other factors could well be more significant") are in the context of motorway speed limits, and not speed limits for urban traffic. When pedestrians and bicycles can be a factor, the evidence is clear, higher speeds lead to fatalities.
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Message 1158125 - Posted: 2 Oct 2011, 3:11:34 UTC - in response to Message 1158002.

lets not forget that traction control, stability control, better designed tires, antilock brakes, and a multitude of (liberal induced) safety features make driving safer. I do think that people also drive less carefully knowing that these safety features will help protect them from their own idiocy
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Message 1158202 - Posted: 2 Oct 2011, 11:23:06 UTC

OK, one considered response coming up, and I'll present my credentials before hand. I have been regularly driving since 1963, covering nearly 1/2 million miles to date. Some years ago I was a part time Driving Instructor with my local Driving School, evenings and weekends. If you've not had to "dual" a learner about to jump a red light, you haven't lived! :-)

I'm not so sure. IIRC the majority of miles traveled are for business purposes, these miles are likely to be traveled regardless of the price of fuel. Those business travelers that are money conscious will decrease their speed to increase fuel economy.


I think there are 4 main classes of mileage. Public/Commercial transport & goods lorries, business mileage, commuting, Social domestic & pleasure.

Heavy goods vehicles are limited to different lower speeds by law anyway, 55 or 60mph. But yes a road haulage company just has to do the miles and pay the cost, and get it back by raising their prices. Business travellers are almost all not money conscious, because their firm is paying for the fuel, or if self employed its claimed back through tax allowances.

People late for work will drive faster, probably only the private SD&P motorist will slow down to save money. Most of the ones that tailgate you at 80mph flashing their lights are liveried vans or reps wanting to get home.

Another component could be a change in climatic conditions, with less severe winters there may be fewer occasions where road conditions are treacherous.


Judging by the last few winters here I don't think the AA would agree with you! Last year most of Kent was cut off with snow.

The evidence tells us that in the UK road accident fatalities are a quarter what they were in 1965, despite the increase in road usage over the same period.


Seat belts, drinking, and vehicle construction all play a part, but so too does more stringent MOT tests. You just don't see old bangers falling apart like you did in the 1960's, I know I drove one! As impoverished apprentices we patched up exhausts with baked bean cans & gungum because we couldn't afford a new one.

There are less deaths simply because of medical advances in emergency treatment and resuscitation. We now have paramedics in high speed vehicles, getting to motorway accidents far quicker than the following ambulances. We also have Air Ambulances that can fly a patient to a trauma unit in minutes. None of that was around in the 1960's so of course the death rate has fallen.

What I would like to see is the figures for seriously injured people compared over the years. With the higher speed crashes we are seeing I bet they haven't gone down, and may well increase if this law goes ahead. Less people may die but how many more will end up in wheel chairs?

my grandfather informed me that his test was to drive a motor cycle around a town square, prior to being licensed to drive any car or motor cycle.


My dad aged 98 has never had a test as he got his first licence in 1932, and they were not introduced until 1935. AND he is still driving, although he agrees with me that perhaps it is time to stop now. He can still get insurance but he doesn't feel safe himself, which is the key point. Shame others aren't as responsible.History

The test today includes a theory component that was introduced in July 1996. I believe the data supports the notion that risk awareness increases with age, thus the view that driver ability is decreasing may be, in part, a result of an increase in the viewer's driver ability (due to increased risk awareness) over the same period.


Two things here. It is widely believed but never admitted, that the theory component was introduced simply to weed out the many thousands of foreign immigrants that couldn't read English road signs, and saving money by not testing them if they failes the preliminary assessment. The problem that remains is anyone with an International driving licence can drive here, even if you can't speak or read a word of English. That is not safe to me.

Secondly, risk awareness does not increase with age across the board, I regularly see silly old farts in their 70's and 80's who simply shouldn't be on the road. Their eyesight clearly isn't all it could be (pun intended) and their spatial awareness seems to be zero. I would like to see re-testing every 5 years for everyone over 70, but it would cost too much.

This data leads me to believe that, while speed limits may play a part in road safety, other factors could well be more significant.


I think that sheer speed is the main result of most major accidents. As stated before, I simply don't believe that the average driver has the ability to control and drive a vehicle safely at 90mph. You can argue with me until the cows come home, but you won't shake that conviction.

I would counter propose that they can raise the speed limit to 80mph on motorways, but that speed shall be restricted to those that have passed the Advanced Driving Test and display the appropriate windscreen sticker. Unfortunately, although a good idea, it would be impractical to enforce it.

I would also propose that new drivers having passed their test, should be required to display the green P Probationer plates for 3 years, and be restricted to the current 70mph limit. Again a good idea but unlikely to be taken up.

I just despair at times. UK roads are full of incompetent and lunatic drivers,and all they are going to do is to make it worse for everyone.

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