The national speed limit on England’s motorway network and dual carriageways has been 70 mph for a long time now. However our cars’ engines and tyres can easily achieve much higher speeds than 70 mph while still remaining safe. Last year the Government mentioned that it was considering raising the speed limit on the motorway, but is our motorway network up to the challenge?
When driving at motorway speeds more protection is needed than the car itself can provide; it must work in symbiosis with the protection systems on the motorways in order that enough energy is absorbed by metal rather than a human body.
Motorways feature a variety of safety systems including safety fencing to absorb energy from a high speed car crash. Many of these features are part of the road design, although a few sections feature electronic safety controls such as hazard warnings and variable speed limits.
One argument in favour of raising the speed limit is that there is little respect for the current 70 mph limit, but according to the Road Safety Foundation drivers who want to be able to travel at 80 mph already do, so the economic benefits that the government believe will occur if people can get to their destinations quicker will only happen if those drivers then speed up to 90 mph after the speed limit is raised. Instead of increasing the speed limit the Road Safety Foundation recommend systematically repairing all the motorways. This would result in large economic benefits and 80mph speed limits could then be trialled on limited sections of the motorways that already feature variable speed limits.