Road Safety News

Charities battle 'senseless' 80mph motorway plans

Thursday 17th May 2012

A coalition of road safety charities and environmental organisations has launched a campaign against Government plans to increase speed limits on motorways to 80mph.

The ‘No to 80’ coalition predicts that the proposals will cost the economy more than £1bn annually, as well as resulting in more motorway crashes and casualties and millions more tonnes of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere.

The coalition is coordinated by Brake and also includes the Campaign for Better Transport, Greenpeace, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Roadpeace, Road Victims Trust and 10:10. They are calling on the Government to ditch its proposal for 80mph limits and instead set out how it will deliver social, environmental and economic benefits associated with improved safety and speed management on motorways.

The coalition is writing to Justine Greening, transport secretary, to request a meeting to review the evidence against 80mph limits.

Members of the public and other organisations are being urged to sign up to the campaign at or on Facebook.

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: “The No to 80 campaign calls on the Government to listen to the overwhelming evidence that raising motorway limits is dangerous, costly and damaging.

“Experts predict it would lead to more lives being cut short and more people suffering injuries. At the same time, the economic argument being used to defend the proposal does not stand up to scrutiny and the average driver will gain little to nothing in journey time savings.

“It is time the Government faced facts and withdrew these senseless plans. We are urging the public to join the campaign and say no to 80mph limits.”

Richard Hebditch, Campaign for Better Transport’s campaigns director, said: “There is no compelling case for increasing motorway speed limits to 80mph. While the Treasury might benefit from more fuel duty revenue as drivers used more petrol, for ordinary motorists it would just make for a more dangerous and more polluting journey. Any change to speed limits must support moves to cut collisions and carbon, not add to them.”

For more information contact Ellen Booth on 01484 550067.


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The evidence from the report I have referenced concludes that, where speed limits were imposed on a number of stretches of autobahn, the rate of fatalities reduced significantly in every case. This is the finding from a sound, published research study undertaken by a team of specialist researchers and open to peer review. And now we are being asked to put that all to one side and in favour of the personal opinion of one engineer. Gentlemen, this is not how objective research and peer review works.
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (3)


Speed is not the issue for Idris and his Canadian chum. The point is that drivers' alertness is affected by the circumstances and conditions. The more congestion, the more we concentrate. Similar to walking on a busy pavement compared to a deserted one (you are more likely to walk into a lamppost or trip on a loose paving stone on a deserted one because you don't need to concentrate). No-one crashes because they are exceeding an arbitrary number on a sign.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (9)

Your Canadian chum is quite right, Idris, congestion is a factor in reducing some types of collisions - because congested traffic is travelling so much slower.
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (1)

Re: "The rate of fatal casualties per billion kilometres driven on German autobahns in 2006 was 50% higher than the rate of fatalities per billion miles driven on British motorways".

I do not doubt that the data is correct, but I am advised by a Canadian traffic engineer with 20 years' international experience of these matters that the higher fatality/distance figures in Germany were some years ago found to be due to higher congestion levels here.

This might seem counter-intuitive but it relates to the biggest single causal factor of all by far - loss of concentration/lack of attention. Greater congestion on our motorways means that most drivers have to concentrate much more of the time than drivers in Germany.

When I was so advised, I remembered how similar this point is to conversations with American drivers visiting here in Hampshire. They were surprised both by our narrow roads and the speeds at which we are allowed to drive on them - and do.
Idris Francis

Agree (3) | Disagree (4)

Well! I signed the petition to stop the speed increase and I also donated money to help pay for similar campaigns. Maybe that proves I'm gullible or maybe it's because I saw what a car travelling at 80mph did to the body of my seventeen year old son who died as a passenger in a car driven by someone who did not possess the skills or the maturity to drive at this high speed.

No matter which side of the argument you are on, let it not be your loved one who is in the morgue before you realise or accept that excessive SPEED in the wrong hands is a killer.
Charles Dunn

Agree (7) | Disagree (6)

If speed limits are so crucial to road safety, the only roads in Europe without them would surely have such a poor safety record that they would stand out like a sore thumb?

But the Autobahns have a good safety record that compares well against other motorways with speed limits, and that's a FACT.

They had in 2006 around the same deaths per billion km as Ireland yet, when I have been on Irish motorways, I experienced comparatively low traffic speeds, lots of speed cameras and many Police cars.

If you didn't know that most Autobahns had no speed limit, you would never spot that from studying the safety statistics!
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (7) | Disagree (6)

Is it the speed that causes accidents, or is it poor / inattentive drivers, irrespective of speed?
Laird Assessors - Wirral

Agree (10) | Disagree (0)

The 2006 rate of deaths per billion vehicle kilometres on EU motorways showed that Germany was placed 8 out of 19 member states. Great Britain was placed at 4. France was placed 6.

The rate of fatal casualties per billion kilometres driven on German autobahns in 2006 was 50% higher than the rate of fatalities per billion miles driven on British

Not interpretation – this is factual data using the rate per billion vehicle kilometres driven on autobahns/motorways which is directly comparable.

The report is a published report that is open to peer review and whose data and conclusions have not been challenged (other than by Idris in this thread, so far without supporting evidence).
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (9)

It is a matter of record that motorways are several times safer per mile than A roads, so traffic attracted to motorways and away from A roads will lead to fewer casualties. Not just theory but a matter of record in other countries. Have you any idea how much worse casualties would be if we had no motorways?

Nor are German autobahns, usually with higher limits or none, any more dangerous than our motorways. International comparisons show no correlation whatever between motorway speed limits and casualties on them.

Just as congestion costs this country £20bn a year, a 1mph reduction in average speed would cost £2 to £5bn a year (simple calculation based in time - money and GDP per hour per head).

Hospitals are some 200 times more likely, per hour to lead to sudden death of a patient than are motorways the sudden death of a road user (again a simple calculation).
Idris Francis

Agree (7) | Disagree (14)

It's just a red herring. The government have no intention of raising the legal speed limit but it takes one's mind off something else. At the end of the day they knew that safety organisations would be against it and they will be seen to conceed. They knew that from the outset.

With the rec. not to take some speeders to court [let's say 80mph] they have already given their consent to a raise in motorway speeds and nothing will now change that as it's gone ahead somewhat unopposed. A win for both sides then.
bob craven

Agree (9) | Disagree (0)

It might be advisable to treat the ETSC German Autobahn report report with considerable caution. Quite apart from some dubious assumptions, such as claiming the power model is “an empirically verified model” even though it has been shown not to work when applied in practice, it seems to cherry pick data.

Two sections had speed limits imposed and the report compares PIA+ in the 3 years before and after for the 1st, and then swaps to KSI in the 1 year before and after for the 2nd. Why change the parameters? Also, speed limits may have been introduced following an unusually high number of collisions therefore they would have come down anyway. “Selection bias” needs to be excluded before meaningful conclusions can be drawn.

But throughout the report it is patently obvious that the Autobahns are far safer than many motorways that do have speed limits and Wikipedia is therefore correct to state: "The overall road traffic safety of German autobahns is comparable to that of other European highways".
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (7) | Disagree (5)

In addition to the evidence that demonstrates 80mph limits on motorways would be a retrograde step for casualty reduction, it would also increase CO2 emissions. The third issue is that of Speed Generalisation or migration – whereby permitting higher speeds on some roads leads to increased speeds on adjacent roads and areas. These roads are engineered for lower speeds. This raises issues of both safety and CO2 emissions – calculating these solely on the effects on the motorway sections where a speed limit is proposed to be raised is not sufficient to assess the full effects of these changes.

Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

Agree (11) | Disagree (10)

I'd say there is a problem with their logo as it has a double negative in it so therefore it is saying yes to 80!
Dr James Whalen, Wolverhampton

Agree (24) | Disagree (3)