Road Safety News

ABD calls for ‘outdated’ motorway limit to be raised

Friday 11th December 2015

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) is calling for the revival of a proposal to increase the motorway speed limit to 80mph to replace the current “outdated” limit.

The plea comes as the 50th anniversary of the introduction of 70mph limits on 22 December draws close.

The ABD says that “substantial improvements” have been made in vehicle and highway engineering in the last half-century, adding that drivers are now much more accustomed to motorway driving.

It argues that today's widespread lack of compliance with the 70mph speed limit is an indication of its “irrelevance to modern conditions” and is detrimental to respect for speed limits in general. The ABD goes on to suggest that tailgating, poor lane discipline, 'undertaking' and lack of driver concentration are other adverse effects of the 70mph limit, and says fears that the number of collisions may increase are “unfounded”.

It points to the increase in speed limits in the US since 1995, suggesting that analysis of accident trends shows no increase in collisions, while also highlighting research which  shows that that speed variance has a much greater bearing on accident rates than average speed.

It also highlights that most other EU countries have motorway speed limits higher than 70mph, with 130km/h (81mph) being the most common, and says that it’s time for the UK to be “brought up to date” to bring economic benefits, improve traffic flow, and end the “needless prosecution of safe drivers”.

The idea of an 80mph limit was originally raised in 2011 by then transport secretary Philip Hammond and in 2012, the Government announced plans to trial the new limit

However, current transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin cut short the plans in 2013, saying that they were "not a priority".

Ian Taylor, ABD director, said: “50 years after it was introduced, the 70mph speed limit has long lost the respect of the majority of drivers. The Government should increase the limit to 80mph without further delay, to bring it into line with modern safety standards and most other EU countries.  

“This should be followed with a thorough review of speed limit policy, reinstating the 85th percentile as the basis of setting local speed limits, to encourage the greatest compliance, lowest spread of speeds and minimum accident risk.”



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In fact, if one constantly uses the motorway in the early hours you will find that the average speed of early-morning commuters is in the 90-100mph range... there are no serious accidents as a result of this - accidents happen to inexperienced 'Sunday evening' motorway users. Take Germany for example, which has no limit on the most part of their motorways and have the safest motorways in Europe! Inexperience kills, not speed.
Lawrence Miller Wiltshire

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

Raising the speed limit to 80 MPH makes perfect sense to me given the advances in vehicle technology.

One thing that oppenents fail to acknowledge is that an increase to 80 MPH is not a mandatory instruction to drive at this speed, just that it will become legal where road conditions dictate that it is safe to do so. 80% of current traffic exceed the current limit of 70 anyway, so in essence trials are already underway!
Ian Nicholls

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

Did the ABD not notice the climate change conference in Paris last week. We need to cut fossil fuel use quickly. Driving faster does the opposite.
Stewart Taunton

Agree (2) | Disagree (12)

I expect that if the motorway limit were to be raised to 80mph, then the ABD's members would probably drive at 90 mph and start a campaign to raise the limit again.

It is the ABD that is out of date. Vehicles and roads have improved, but they're still driven by the Mark 1 Human Being. Unlike French autoroutes, most of Britain's motorways are too congested for an 80 limit - just look at how often the variable speed limits kick in. Raising the limit would just mean people rushing to join a queue faster, with all the risks of higher speed collisions that go with that. And of course there would be a bigger differential between cars and goods vehicles, some of which now stick to 50mph to save fuel.

The biggest cause of collision on motorways is following too close. People get impatient because there are too many other vehicles in their way on the road. We have to learn to share the road space with each other and be patient.
Guy Bradley, Hertfordshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (7)

Commenting on the motorists' attitude to speed limits generally, from what I've observed it's a misconception that all motorists want, or feel the need for, higher limits. There is still substantial compliance with the current limits and contrary to what the ABD might suggest, motorists are not all straining at the leash, perpetually poised at 1mph below current limts just waiting to be 'set free'.

Some still habitually exceed the limits, but they are still a small minority, but that does not mean that the limits need to be raised just to accomodate this minority. If the M-way limit ever became 80, I don't think overall speeds would change that much - certainly not enough to make it worth implementing.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (11) | Disagree (11)

I think an 80mph limit is a bit of 'red herring' - 70mph as a maximum is fine, but thanks to so-called 'managed motorways' more often than not the limit is 60mph or less even outside of peak times.
Paul Biggs, Tamworth

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)


If you were referring to me when you say "has the values wrong" then for the record it was the comment "130km/h (81mph) being the most common" which I was challenging. With only 9 out of 25 (26 including UK) then clearly 130km/h is not the most common.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (10) | Disagree (6)

With the correct driver training already in place, heavy trucks and passenger vehicles should now be travelling at 200kph. Increasing the speed to this level without the correct available training will put the weekend Sunday driver at serious risk and will only result is accidents when conditions change or the road design is substandard. I say give it a try and see what happens as most vehicles can now safely travel at 200kph plus.
James K Glaspy, Townsville, Australia

Agree (9) | Disagree (22)

I think that someone has the values wrong. At 70 mph it equates to 112 klm per hour. approx and only 4 countries shown are lower than the UK. On the other hand if the speed was increased it would bring it into line with the majority of other EU countries at 129 kmph There are some 21 countries who have a higher speed limit than we presently have.

I also regularly use the motorways and find that many drivers apart from HGV and towed caravans about 60 mph and other vehicles over that speed and quite a number at speeds in excess of 70 mph, more like 80 and 85 mph. The only danger that I see is that many cars do not obey the HC and keep a good stopping distance at higher speeds. But then when traffic slowed to say 50 mph due to road works they are even closer together and in greater danger of shunting than at 70 mph plus. Its one thing telling drivers to keep your distance but if they don't know what that distance is, it's getting nowhere.
Bob Craven lancs.... Space is Safer Campaigner

Agree (17) | Disagree (1)

The ABD has got its facts wrong. A simple analysis of speed limits in Europe from the AA website shows the following count of countries (other than UK) and limits on motorways :-

130 9
120 12
110 2
100 1
90 1

Consideration should also be made that many countries have far lower enforcement tolerance than the UK. Hence whilst UK police will prosecute, fine or require a speeding course at 79mph for its 70mph limit, in the Netherlands the 120 km limit of 74.5 mph is actually enforced at 3% plus 3km/h equating to 126.6km/h or 78.6mph. In addition there are many tales of police in France issuing fines from 131km/h on the French motorways, just 2.4mph above the current UK 79mph threshold.

From my perspective I actually see quite a high level of compliance on motorways with the overwhelming majority of drivers do so within the speed limit. Given what we also know about the increase in emissions at higher speeds then the idea of an increase in limit is fanciful.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (32) | Disagree (18)

If the ABD think 80 would be the 'right' motorway speed limit i.e. sensible, relevant and appropriate, then I presume they would not object to methods used to detect and prosecute motorists driving over their new preferred appropriate limit?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (30) | Disagree (14)