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Government to Consider 80mph Speed Limit on Motorways

So it’s not an increase in deaths or accidents, but the amount of pollution that’s kept the limit at 70mph for the last eight years

Do you know why the speed limit is still 70mph on motorways? Apparently, it’s down to environmental concerns. That’s at least what was stated in 2011 when the speed limit was last reviewed.

So it’s not an increase in deaths or accidents, but the amount of pollution that’s kept the limit at 70mph for the last eight years. In 2018 when the issue was raised again Highways, England said that ‘public opinion’ was preventing the 10mph increase.

Personally, I always thought it was down to the crash barriers. Allegedly they are only tested to deflect a vehicle at speeds of up to 70mph, not over. This fundamental safety constraint has always been the official line sited when it comes to increasing motorway speeds.

All UK safety barriers are tested to a European Standard EN1317. This dictates that the barrier should deflect a vehicle hitting it at 20 degrees while travelling at 70mph.

But now, according to the Secretary for Transport, Grant Shapps electric vehicles are crucial to getting us travelling faster on UK motorways, not barrier design or safety.

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As more and more electric vehicles hit our roads, the overall CO2 output of our four-wheeled travels will slowly lower. Therefore, the increase in pollution by driving that bit faster should be offset, in theory, by the people who have so far gone green and switched to electric.

An independent report in 2011, when the raising of limits was last suggested, came to the conclusion that allowing us all to drive at just 10mph more would create an extra 2.2 million tons of CO2 yearly. This would have undermined the countries emissions targets so the idea was shelved.

It’s an interesting thought, and I’m sure the logic is there, but currently, pure battery vehicles sold this year amount to just 1% of the market. In total there are around 230,000 plug-in vehicles in the UK, that number includes, and is mostly made up of hybrids, so not even full electric models.

Compare that with the total figure of vehicles on our roads, which is 37.9 million, electrified vehicles make up just 0.6%.

I think we’re a long way off Mr Shapps lofty thoughts.

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Although it’s welcome that a new limit of 80mph is to be considered, it should probably be done so based on other factors. Vehicle safety has increased exponentially since the 1965 70mph limit was introduced. Back then achieving 70 in any vehicle would have been quite a hair-raising experience in itself. These days you can sit well above that speed and not even notice.

Many of us travel above the 70mph speed limit on motorways anyway these days, even the Police will often turn a blind eye to what’s going on in the fast lane as long as things are sensible. Only with the advent of ‘smart motorways’ have people kept to a strict 70mph for the most part.

A report commissioned by the Department of Transport found the above to be accurate, with more than half of drivers freely admitting to breaking the 30 and 70mph speed limits.

Going faster may shave time off your journey, but it’s certainly not the most fuel-efficient way of driving. Sitting at 70mph uses 25% less fuel than at 80. Think about that next time you’re accelerating down the M1.

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The most economical way to drive on the motorway is a steady 55-60mph, that puts you smack bang between all the lorries. Hence why many don’t do it. It also increases your journey time considerably.

Shapps also spoke about lowering speed limits in certain areas by 10mph, outside schools, for example. Road safety charity Brake has long advocated that urban and built-up areas should have a default 20mph limit. Which makes total sense in housing estates and areas where traffic volume is generally low, and speeds can’t reach beyond 30mph anyway. 

Ready to switch to an electric vehicle? 

There is no "fast lane" on a motorway and referring to it as such is a little irresponsible.

Speed limit should remain at 70 mph. People already break that but raising it will give the speed merchants confidence to go even faster. Putting the limit up will merely balance emission reductions by use of electric vehicles. The aim should be overall reductions, not just staying the same. Ask yourselves, why does everyone have to get to where they're going faster and faster? You only gain a few minutes by doing 80 instead of 70. 60 mph is a mile a minute. Covering the distance that could take 20 minutes on foot in 1 minute, that sounds pretty amazing to me!

Encouraging people to drive faster is irresponsible, motorway drivers already drive well over the limit especially on the outside lane, electric cars make little difference to emissions at the moment as there are to few on the roads, reduced emissions is not an excuse to raise the speed limit.

you keep talking about pollution.is it just U.K that causes this, France has had 80.MPH for years and Germany has had the Autobahn with unlimited speed limits so why haven't they ever reduced the speed limits?????or is this just another plug for the electric cars. please clarify.thank you

Can see it now, drive an electric vehicle at 80mph and petrol and diesel cars will be reduced to 50mph. By law. Only today I read in one part of the country they have a 50mph limit, enforced by cameras. Report stated emissions had dropped. Watch this space.

I dispute your suggestion that driving at 80mph uses 25% more fuel than at 70mph. My car is fairly typical of modern vehicles, despite being 13 years old, Fuel consumption _decreases_ if I drive at 70 versus 55-60, and remains pretty constant when I exceed 70 (at the right time, to keep up with the flow of traffic). I drive a 2ltr diesel and with the current 'average' MPG displayed and always try to keep the figure as high as possible, and have achieved 64 MPG while doing a constant 75 - 80 on the motorway. However whilst I agree with raising the speed limit to 80 on most motorways and suitable dual carriageways, the penalty for exceeding that speed should then also be increased. The fact that the majority of drivers already drive at 80 - 85 mph in the outside lane, and have done for many years, without any serious increase in the accident rate, proves it is safe to do so, despite those who claim it is dangerous..

???? So driving a Electric car at a faster speed will reduce the death tolls ?????????????????????????????????mmm

The speed limit should be cut to 60mph. Environmental concerns are the main ones to consider.

Just because we will be emitting less Co2 in future due to electric cars and stricter emissions doesn't mean that we should then use that saving up again by speeding up! The point is to emit less Co2 forever, not keep the levels the same. Silly or selfish?

In Germany they have no limit on some roads. Now why we build Range Rovers with 300hp ? Lets all buy bycicle and pollution wont be a problem . Is down to us to know when to speed up and when not . For highways with 3 lanes I propose 1 lane 60 . second 70 , third 80.

Mind you we would would be lucky if we reached 50mph never mind 80mph,with all the new speed restriction cameras.and finger happy highways management.

Even if it actually creates more CO2 emissions ? Let's just ban motor vehicles totally, oh and airplanes and any form of combustion, problem solved ?

Cant say this will make any difference other than pushing the 'average' up to 90. The vast majority of people drive at 80 already, I'm regularly passed at 70 by police cars without their lights and sirens going. I even remember reading an article by a traffic policeman saying they weren't that bothered by people driving past at 80, they were more concerned by those driving at over 90.

I fail to understand what this obsession is with 70mph. A 2l low revving engine at 70mph or 80mph will presumably use less fuel than a high revving 2l engine at the same speed. Equally, a vehicle with a top speed of 140mph will almost be ticking over at 70-80mph whereas a small engined car might be close to red lining at that speed. They can’t both be magically using the same amount of fuel or creating the same emissions. I’m a bit of a conformist and tend to set my cruise control to 70 on the motorway and plenty of vehicles pass me. It seems that increasing the limit to a strictly enforced 80 would have little if any impact on pollution or fuel usage if many (or even most) are already doing that speed or faster. Indeed, if an 80 limit were strictly enforced, it might even reduce emissions and fuel consumption if those who currently exceed 80 were forced to slow down to that speed.

We should adopt the German Autobahn system of no limits unless weather is bad. The standard of driving has plummeted in this country since limits were introduced on Motorways and A roads. Speeding, according to the Governments own figures, is only 10th in the list of causing accidents ( according to the latest available Government figures June 2018) as follows 1.Driver failed to look properly – 42,189 accidents reported 2.Driver failed to judge other person’s path or speed – 21,211 accidents reported 3.Driver was careless, reckless or in a hurry – 17,845 accidents reported 4.Driver had poor turn or manoeuvre – 15,560 accidents reported 5.Loss of control – 12,151 accidents reported 6.Pedestrian failed to look properly – 8,687 accidents reported 7.Slippery road surface – 7,327 accidents reported 8.Driver was travelling too fast for conditions – 6,468 accidents reported 9.Driver was following too close – 6,040 accidents reported 10.Driver was exceeding speed limit – 5,102 accidents reported. I don't know about anybody else but I get sick of idiots doing 40 mph on 60 limit roads yet they invariably speed up to around 50 mph once they hit a 40 mph limit. Then they go around boasting that they have never had an accident, maybe they haven't but they cause plenty I'm sure.

I've never believed the Co2 thing. I believe its just a goverment scam that serves many purposes; but that's another topic. As stated in the article so many cars ignore the 70mph limit anyway. I wouldn't object to civilian vehicles in the UK being electronically limited to 80mph.

Really hmm ???? can’t see any problems with that honest????????

Great idea can it be 70 90 110 though now that would be progress

I think it's a idea good & long awaited! However I think the issue of people that don't adopt the rule of 'PULL OVER IF NOT OVERTAKING!' is an MASSIVE PROBLEM that needs to be addressed! (excluding heavy traffic where staying in lane is recommended) this is causing poor flow of traffic as I see many times on the M25 where the outside lane grinds to a halt (sometimes very sudden!) while the inside lane is flowing perfectly!! This is causing pollution with frustrated drivers ducking & diving around the idiots hogging the 2nd & 3rd lanes!! plus starting and stopping!!

I want autobahn rules too, that'd be amazing. However all of your points that are motorway based would massively increase in THIS country. The discipline just isn't there. Look at any autobahn video and see how they drive. We'd stand no chance. Same goes for allowing undertaking. Nicd idea but completely impossible.

The problem with most drivers is that they always want to go ten MPH more than the speedlimit. 30, they do 40. 40 they do 50 etc. So 80 will be the new 90. Someone actually suggested that a limit of 80 would bring drivers who already do 80 into line. Thats cloud cuckoo land. All they will do is use it as an excuse to drive at 90 MPH. As for a polution solution, it's dead in the water or on the roads if you like. If that was the case, why do heavy goods vehicles govern their engines down to 10,000 to 12,000 rpm to keep them in the green zone on their rev; counters. It's to save fuel, which in turn, creates less polution. It's a magicians slight of hand.

Where do you live?! Any police car I've passed has be doing less than 70 so people don't just stay behind the cop car for miles and miles. But yes they pretty much ignore drivers doing 80 if conditions allow. I have no problem with this. Its idiots driving at 80 when it's appalling weather that causes most accidents.

Well not irresponsible but wrong yes. But how many people do you see using a middle and outer lanes as they are described in the Highway code? If they did, accidents would be massively reduced, and and avg speed would safely be increase

And ban carnivores of course! Its also proven veggies and vegans are saving the planet too, something else for them to be righteous about.

Along the M5. I used to drive for a living, constantly saw it and you're right, everyone just follows the police cars speed.

We just need better lane discipline. Then there would be far less braking and acceleration which plays a huge part in car pollution.

Invisiblek1d75, Just to be clear they are national statistics not just motorways and yes you are right, the discipline isn't there, that, in my view, is partly because people don't know how to drive fast, they are all dumbed down and because they drive so slowly they fail to concentrate properly on the road, looking at and talking to passengers as they drive etc.

Yep. But look at the way interiors are being made as well. Audi and their touch screen only for heating etc. Looking down to just change the temp that needs at least two presses of the screen? Madness. I've just drove a my first heads up display car. Should be a mandatory feature. Felt instantly safer.

Big problem today is the majority of vehicles aren't being piloted by Drivers. In older times before vehicles became refined thinking beasts that are warm and comfortable with power steering, power brakes and a host of technological "driving" aids and entertainment systems preventing boredom; in those not very distant times many more pilots of those basic motorised beasts could claim to be Drivers who had more sympathy and understanding of the needs of their charges and a genuine interest in driving. Many drivers of today are merely steersmen by comparison using vehicles as a means to an end without sympathy or understanding... My late father was a professional driver, spending many years driving trucks at the then 28 mph speed limit, loading, roping and sheeting his own vehicle. He believed (and I agree) the biggest single road safety measure that would lead to a defensive driving culture would be to outlaw comprehensive insurance, forcing everyone to either pay for their own share of collision damage or become embroiled in expensive and lengthy court battles...

I agree Vernon, as well as a car driver, I'm a motorcyclist and I'm aware of road surface changes, wet weather conditions, leaves etc making roads slippery in Autumn etc, roads that are otherwise dry but you know that tree lined B roads will be in the shade even on a sunny day and may still be damp and a myriad of other things that most car drivers but they all contribute to safety behind the wheel of a car, something modern drivers cannot comprehend, mainly because they are just pilots not drivers.

I remember a time not very long ago when strikers picketed refineries and supplies of petrol began drying up. The traffic in our little town quickly became abnormally light. I was lucky to have filled up just before the filling stations voluntarily rationed their regulars and stopped serving strangers altogether. It is interesting to note, with less traffic my fuel lasted exactly twice as long for the same weekly mileage. It is clear the quickest and most efficient pathway to meeting vehicle CO2 targets is reducing the traffic density and cutting congestion. 37 million vehicle registrations on this small island is ridiculous and when so many want to use the roads at once it soaks up land, manpower and resources better used for other purposes. It is long past time the government took the step of re-engineering society to design out the need for so much travel, much of which is useless and ill-conceived; ever since that idiotic MP told the nation "to get on their bikes", the country's already overly busy roads went crazy. If there was any sense and any of Tony Blair's promised joined-up thinking, Britain's non-perishable goods would be on newly expanded and modernised railways and canals, the stupid idea of high speed heart-to-heart rail travel would be junked as it is preventing slower trains transporting goods and masses of people shorter distances at cheap-as-chips fares from operating. Trucks shouldn't be allowed to deliver long distances and return empty and distance commuters should be actively encouraged to either live where they work or work where they live. In a well-designed and well-run country the majority of workers should be able to get there on foot, by cycle or by a short bus ride... Speed limits are the least of Britain's problems and higher speed limits are all very well if most drivers are willing and eager to slow down whenever the conditions are less than optimum - as if that would ever happen! The phenomenon of motorway vehicle bunching is well known and dangerous enough with a 70 mph speed limit - at 80 mph it is terrifying!

Fuel consumption decreases the faster you go? Yeah alright then. I'm afraid that there is something wrong with the car's metering system! The 25% extra is a valid, recognised and above all logical value. Please let me know the make/model of your car.

You don't have to look down to change the heating in one of the new type Audis. You can speak to it

Sorry a 10 litre truck diesel will not rev to or much beyond 2000 RPM, sweet spot with max torque around 1200. and are geared to cruise at that. A performance motorbike would rev to 12000.

10mph saves nothing on journey times but just makes impacts more severe. With the removal of the hard shoulder from many motorways this is an idiotic proposal

It would be far more interesting if they removed speed limits on the fast lane altogether, honestly driving at 80 I get an ache in my foot trying to hold it up....

The whole electric car issue has not been properly thought through and is once again being pushed by political ideals. The infrastructure is dire, the charging takes too long and what will happen to the national grid when everyone has a "bumper car?" Quite simply, the whole issue of climate change is caused by human population increase and deforestation. I accept that older dirty engine cars are a problem for air quality but modern vehicles are so much better and with proper maintenance should answer most issues.

You are right of course. 10 - 12,000 was a slip of the comma. As a retired diesel engineer, I used to dyno test Cummins naturaly aspirated and turbo charged engines from inline 6's 245 horspower upwards, right up to V 12's used in open cast mining and iron ore haulage within the open mine galleries. The V 12's were attached to AC alternators driving electric DC motors on each axle with built in sun gearing to provide the necessary torque. Later I worked on ALCO diesel locomotives with V16 engines driving alternators big enough to power a small town. Those were Canadian locomotives and to say they were designed for Canadian conditions, they worked extremely well in the Australian outback, hauling iron ore trains over a mile long, with two locomotives on the front, one in the centre of the train and two at the rear. Iron ore had to be hauled from the mine to the coast, over a mountain range, for shipping to Japan. I worked in the locomotive maintenance workshops, where a full overhaul would take place of the diesel power house, the traction motors, turbo chargers, blowers and all the associated running gear. During my time there I worked on every aspect mentioned above. The company was Mount Newman Mining in West Australia.

live where you work or work where you live would be great IF companies bothered to create jobs where people lived, and as that would drive housing costs up in the area, people who were needing to move to live where they work would not be able to afford to move initially. thats the reason that the UK is divided into all the towns and villages that there are, instead of all living in one huge metropolitan area!

true but many of the pollution statistics are taken (such as the 25% difference in emissions) from older cars which have 5 or even 4 speed transmissions. my car (2010 Ford Mondeo 2.0 Diesel) has a 6 speed gearbox. 70mph is around 2000 rpm (not the 3000 rpm common on 5 speed petrol powered versions of the same car) and will only just run without labouring at 50mph on level ground in 6th. any incline needs a downshift to 5th (increasing RPMs and emissions) the car also struggles to top the mid 40s mpg at 50 in 6th on level ground. bring the engine speed up so the car is doing 65-70mph (1800-2000rpm) and i dont need to downshift uphills (although MPG drops below the levels of downshifting on steeper hills) and my mpg on level ground increases to the high 50s/low 60s mpg, all figures taken from the onboard computer. all that is great for my car. right up to the point that i end up following a new driver, pensioner etc in those tiny little city cars (hyundai I10, Toyota IQ/Aygo etc, there are dozens of them) with higher revving 5 speed petrol engine equipped (again because of where the torque is) OR SUV drivers, who are trying to make their huge 4x4 match the MPG they got previously in the Ford Fiesta or similar they owned prior to the 4x4, who are sitting at between 40 and 50mph. great for their emissions and MPG but RUINS it for everyone else around them! so not so much a slight of hand but more of a fact of variations of engine types, vehicle weights and gearings! hgv engines are lower revving and have their peak torque at lower rpms (idle is often at 500rpm instead of the 800rpm on a car engine for example) so can run at lower rpms.

Easy to mistype do it all the time myself :) Strange thing might be psychological, but the Bigger block Cummins 290 in a truck seemed to pull better than a later 10 liter with similar bhp and torque. Similarly an old 2.8 Iveco Daily TDI van pulls better in all gears than a later 2.3 with same axle ratio.

For the last 7 years I've had a Skoda Octavia 2ltr diesel DSG (and drive in eco mode all the time) and get an average of 52 - 54 mpg (with outside temperature above 18 degreesC) on a longish journey, doing 70 - 85 mph. It drops down to about 48-49 in winter. It shows no appreciable difference doing those speeds, and in fact is a tad more economical at 70 mph than at 50 mph. I drive at 'sensible' speeds on dual carriageways and motorways, and have checked consumption not only on the car's computer, but by how much fuel I put into the thing versus miles travelled. I've been driving for almost 50 years, and was taught 'economical' driving first by my father, then by several professional drivers (and passed my IAM test at age 25, and Bronze Defensive Driving Test at age 30). I used to do 50K miles every year on average for my company, and had the lowest fuel consumption in the company (on a pro rata basis). I also had the lowest tyre usage, despite doing high speeds (in days gone by). But I have driven cars with smaller engines and got much poorer economy, even at 55mph as they are under powered. The most economical vehicle I ever had was a Ford Orion with an 1800ccc diesel engine. It never dropped below 55mpg and often exceeded 60, even driving at speed in Germany, and that's over 20 years ago now. Oh - and like other drivers on here, I also passed my motorbike riding test and have ridden large bikes since I was 17, so have a biker's viewpoint when driving.

I accept your comment but you didn't take on board my assertion if there was joined-up thinking in government and the rest of the country the government would be re-engineering society and actively encouraging people to either work where they live or live where they work. Active encouragement would presumably include a carrot-and-stick approach that provides suitable rewards for those that get on board and penalties for those who do not. It must be accepted society could not be re-engineered in a normal free market. I would like to see a return to the Victorian idea of a business owning houses in which the permanent employees lived which would be quite impossible today due to the transient nature of business, but industrial estates are fairly permanent places and often surrounded by housing. It makes sense for an industrial estate to own such housing and provide them for workers on the estate at peppercorn or zero rents...

dont get me wrong, i do agree with the sentiment BUT in the age where all business cares about is profit for shareholders who have little or no impact on the day to day running of the business, it will sadly never happen. keeping fat cats happy is more important than the staff or end customer, hence why firms like BP, SHELL, ANY of the GAS/ELEC. companies, BT, Internet Providers etc (i could go on all day) have ever increasing profits and prices, but the service never improves!

You aren't wrong Peter, your cynicism is justified and I share it - my idea contained lots of "ifs", perhaps I should have used capital letters? In my lifetime there has been a string of governments of both colours that have been completely under the thumbs of business and industry but electoral reform is coming and hopefully the time when people can vote for a government they want instead of choosing what they perceive as the lesser of the evils isn't too far away. When that day arrives, the new style of government will hopefully begin to tackle some of the thorny environmental issues Thatcher declined to tackle, deciding to go with the ultimate in short-termism instead. Global warming and climate change was predicted about 150 years ago and we had a schoolteacher in the 1960s that banged on about it. Thatcher recognised it as a fact but did nothing and "President" Blair told us not to worry as technology would cure everything - wrong! Britain's CO2 reduction targets is much too little much too late and we aren't even on target to achieve those we are committed to as our emissions are still increasing... Sometime soon the government is going to have to make big changes...

I agree with Larry. This myth that "The most economical way to drive on the motorway is a steady 55-60mph" was set up around the same time that the Highway Code decided the stopping distance from 70mph was 315ft. In a 1965 Ford Anglia with drum brakes, no anti-lock, no power assistance. Similarly getting that same car up to 70mph (if that was at all possible back then) was in 4th gear (top at the time,) with the right boot flat on the floor and the engine screaming in protest. The modern car is as aerodynamic as a jet fighter and has at least two more gears than Ron Weasley's Anglia. The engine is barely more than ticking over in top gear at 70mph, and my 15 year old, 2 litre Skoda averages well over 60 mpg while mostly 70mph cruising. For comparison, my Dad used to be over the moon if his 1600cc Cortina Mk3 from 1973 returned 35mpg on a run. And he drove like a monk.

The argument about CO2 is irrelevant. There's no evidence that rising CO2 levels are causing warming - claims to that effect are based on bad science. An increased speed limit of 80mph is clearly a good idea as most drivers regard that as the limit anyway.

I Don't know if it is true that driving above 70mph increases pollution, but if there is proof that is so, then I would say the 70 limit should stay, given the importance of reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. However it is true that in certain motorway conditions you can comfortably and safely drive at up to 80, especially where there are 3 or more lanes in the carriageway, which allow for a greater variety of speeds which helps to avoid log-jams. But on 2-lane motorway carriageways we should only exceed 70 to overtake, or when there is very little traffic, as faster moving vehicles in the "fast" lane can make it very difficult for others to pull out of the slow lane to overtake slower-moving vehicles when the road is busy.