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QOTW: are UK speed limits out of date?

by Parm Mann on 19 May 2008, 11:10

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Has the age-old speed limit become outdated?

Following on from last week's "Question of the day: do you still use an alarm clock?", it's now time to get those brain cells working overtime as we put forward this week's question: are UK speed limits out of date?

Well, before we look for answers, let's take a closer look at the speed limits themselves. In December 1965, multiple motorway crashes led to the introduction of a 70 mph speed limit for motorways and other unrestricted roads. Having been deemed a success, that experimental speed limit became permanent in 1967 for both motorways and dual carriageways, with a lowered limit of 60 mph for single carriageways.

Those limits, despite being over 40 years old, are still used today. Here's a complete breakdown of the national speed limits as they currently stand:

Type of vehicle
Speed limit (mph)
Single carriageway
Dual carriageway
Car/motorcycle, car derived vans up to 2 tonnes
Car with caravan or trailer
Bus, Minibus or coach up to 12 m long
Goods vehicle below 7.5 tonnes
Goods vehicle over 7.5 tonnes

Speed limits haven't changed a whole lot, but, cars on the other hand, have changed substantially. The majority of modern cars are easily capable of speeds in excess of 100 mph, and, with newer technology, are capable of coming to a complete stop in much shorter distances. As a result, many drivers, and organisations such as the Association of British Drivers (ABD), have called for the nation's motorway speed limit to be raised to 80 mph, or removed completely.

Recent studies have found that over half of Britain's motorway drivers travel at speeds in excess of the current 70 mph limit, yet, section 261 of the Highway Code, reads:

"You MUST NOT exceed 70 mph (112 km/h), or the maximum speed limit permitted for your vehicle (see Rule 124). If a lower speed limit is in force, either permanently or temporarily, at road works for example, you MUST NOT exceed the lower limit. On some motorways, mandatory motorway signals (which display the speed within a red ring) are used to vary the maximum speed limit to improve traffic flow. You MUST NOT exceed this speed limit."

Contrary to the explicit warning found in the highway code, many drivers are finding that travelling at speeds in excess of 70 mph on the motorway rarely leads to a penalty. Are there simply not enough patrols, or are speeds of above 70 mph now the inevitable?

So, dear readers, do you believe the national speed limit to be outdated? Do you believe it should be raised, lowered, or left unaltered? Let us know in our community poll.

HEXUS Forums :: 85 Comments

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Deffo a Raise it from me

should be 80 at least, ideally 90. Cruising at 70 is horrible and is impossible in the 3rd lane
It should be atleast 90 if not a 100mph on most of the motorways. There may be some sections where a lower speed may be warranted.

Speed of 70 is just plain stupid and a hangover from decades past.
I voted yes it should be raised, but I'm equally happy to have it lowered in the right places.

Unfortunately, regardless of the limit, some numpty will do half or double it.
Hmm, I voted yes for being raised, but I also think it should be lowered in certain areas.

I think it all depends on the area in question, but I do believe that there should be a complete re-think about speed limits in general.
Should be variable - depending on traffic/weather conditions.