The argument for higher motorway speed limits

We’re constantly told that speed is important to getting things done – in work, in life. We demand ever faster broadband speeds and want to be served quicker at the supermarket, so what’s the big deal over an extra 10mph?

Those in favour of a hike in the motorway speed limit point to the unofficial regular speed on the nation’s highways that’s considerably north of what’s legal. Modern cars are more capable of coping with higher speeds than those that saw the introduction of the national speed limit many years ago.

It figures, then, that such progress should herald an increase to 80mph.We all live fast paced lives, so it stands to reason that we shouldn’t be held back on our much-touted safest roads. And then there’s the elephant in the room, or rather the country with derestricted highways – Germany – the poster boy for no speed limits. If German drivers can manage to play nice with each other at high speeds, why can’t we?

It’s not a watertight argument, though. Opponents point to the UK’s ‘arms length’ approach to driver training as an area of concern. Our cars might have all the latest safety kit, but are drivers equipped to deal with the higher speed? Remember, there’s currently no mandatory motorway training for learners.

And then there’s the cost of motoring at a time of high fuel prices. Running at 80mph burns considerably more fuel than driving at 70mph. The green lobby isn’t happy either, as more fuel burnt means more exhaust emissions.

For or against, you can’t avoid the enforcement issue. Currently the speed limit is hardly strictly enforced, which is probably why such a relaxed environment has evolved. So, do we stick at 70mph officially and encourage a light touch or raise the limit but accept a more rigid enforcement culture to maintain a good safety margin?

And will the new limit be a blanket figure for all motorways, or will it depend on traffic volumes or weather? Will two-lane roads be excluded, for instance? It’s a can of worms waiting to be opened.