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Monday, 8 July 2013

Speed limits

I was on facebook a few minutes ago when a member asked why don't we abolish speed limits on motorways? Of course straight away comments were the usual. We need them to prevent accidents. I disagree.

Apart from the fact that the 70 mph speed limit was set when cars were fitted with drum brakes, no ABS, crossply tires, and dubious  suspension, this figure was just chosen at seemingly random.

My premise is that speed alone is not the killer. The killers are "Innapropriate speed and lack of spacial awareness. You shouldn't drive at 70 in thick fog, but why can't you drive at 100 mph on the M25 at 0300 in the morning in good conditions? How many drivers use all their mirrors? I must spend 30% of my time using my mirrors in order to build a mental picture of the vehicles around me.

One sign of a good motorway driver is that they use their brakes sparingly. This driver evaluates relative velocities in good time and eases of on the throttle  as required to cease closing with the vehicle ahead.

Personally I feel safer driving around the M25 in the rush hour than on a weekend when the Rover 45 owners club are out in force visiting relations.


  1. There has been talk of raising the speed limit on motorways to 80mph but this doesn't seem to have come to anything. A raising of speed limits is overdue (how many of us take the ACPO guidelines into account - 10% plus 2 miles per hour - to drive at, roughly 88mph on a fairly clear motorway) but there is still the problem of lack of lane discipline, which can lead to road rage or even fatal accidents. No doubt there are those who have experienced the actions of members of the middle (or outer) lane owners club sticking to that particular lane at 60 or 65mph and refusing to move over into the empty inside lane. That they are causing an obstruction seems to be rarely taken into account when drivers receive a summons for undertaking, even though they are merely remaining in the inside or middle lane while travelling at the authorised national speed limit. To offset this are the 'up yer bum' crowd who seem intent in taking their steering wheel into your boot while you are overtaking a slower driver. It is a fact, much agreed by anyone who has driven in Germany or France, that lane discipline and driving standards in this country are shocking and there are times when a 50mph speed limit seems too much. I will agree that no account is taken of different driving conditions - having driven up the M5 on a clear day, in light traffic, with the '50mph' speed limits applied, simply because the cretins in the traffic office have failed to shut them down after an earlier accident has been cleared - which makes me feel that these control room operatives should stand side by side with the MLOC and OLOC members in front of the firing squad. Commonsense does not sem to be a factor in the Great British speed limit debate. What to do, what to do?

  2. Part of the problem is that lanes added to roads & motorways are often on the 'wrong' side.

    These additional lanes are always built on the nearside (i.e. left hand side).

    However, there is a category of driver which always seems to drive in the off-side / right hand lane, or, the one immediately to its left. So marked is this phenomena, that after a 4th lane was added to the north-east sector of the M25, it now regularly has two unoccupied near-side lanes rather than just the one, as before the widening.

  3. The 70 mph National Speed Limit was introduced as a temporary measure in December 1965. It is often blamed on Barbara Castle, but at the time the Minister of Transport was Tom Fraser.

    The reason given was a spate of serious accidents in foggy conditions, but it is often claimed that the MoT had been alarmed by AC Cars testing their latest Cobra on the M1 at speeds up to 180 mph.

    It was confirmed as a permanent limit in 1967, by which time Barbara Castle (a non-driver) had become Minister of Transport.There was surprisingly little debate at the time: the fact that the average family car of the time could only just exceed 70 mph perhaps had something to do with this.

    It should be noted that this limit applied to all previously "derestricted" roads, not only motorways.

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  5. "My premise is that speed alone is not the killer"

    Correct - it's the sudden deceleration which does the killing.

    "One sign of a good motorway driver is that they use their brakes sparingly. This driver evaluates relative velocities in good time and eases of on the throttle as required to cease closing with the vehicle ahead"

    I make a point of doing this on all roads. Having survived nearly 30 years on motorcycles in addition to 40 driving cars and vans, I learnt long ago to look well ahead, not just at the brake lights directly in front. There's a further reason for so doing - saving fuel. Bugger all to do with appeasing the green brigade, but thanks to exorbitant taxes I try and use as little as possible. Mothers Vauxhall Agila has over-run fuel cutoff, so I make best use of it. The ancient Panda does not, but has more than enough transmission and aerodynamic drag to render the middle pedal virtually redundant.

    Of course the downside to this is finding my rear view mirror constantly full of front grilles! And I don't dawdle at 40 mph either... If the truth be known it goes back to my teens, when my M/C had a top speed of 73mph downhill, and a 0-60 time of 20+seconds. I learnt to avoid slowing down if it wasn't necessary, by planning ahead, and picking the best route through bends. The result was perfectly acceptable journey times, even with limited performance. These days everyone drives as if they were taught at the Bob Newhart school of bus driving (look it up).

  6. You seem to be making the assumption that people are capable of adjusting their speed and positioning using throttle control and good driving techniques but I would suggest that the majority of the people who cause problems aren't capable of doing that because they're not good enough drivers. Whether that's because they haven't been taught properly, I really don't know. Perhaps part of the problem is that a lot of these drivers have never had to pass a British driving test, which, as I think we're probably all aware, is far stricter than in many other parts of the world.


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