Half of drivers ignore the motorway speed limit

The 70mph motorway limit was set in 1965 (Picture © Emissions Analytics)

The 70mph motorway limit was set in 1965 (Picture © Emissions Analytics)

Government research shows that last year 47 per cent of cars, 46 per cent of motorbikes and 48 per cent of vans broke the 70mph speed limit when traffic was flowing freely. 

The figures also show that 73 per cent of lorries flout the 40mph speed limit on non-motorway roads in non built-up areas. As a consequence, the Government is planning to raise the HGV speed limit to 50mph. However, despite the large number of drivers who don’t stick to the 70mph motorway speed limit, there are no plans to raise that to 80mph for non-HGV motorway traffic.

Transport minister Baroness Kramer said: “There are a variety of reasons why it is appropriate to change the national HGV speed limits on single and dual carriageways. One is that the low level of compliance with them is symptomatic of them being set at the wrong level compared to other limits. On single carriageways the non-compliance level for cars is 7 per cent and buses and coaches 26 per cent, compared to 73 per cent for articulated lorries.”

However, the move to increase HGV speed limits was criticised by the shadow transport secretary. Labour’s Mary Creagh said: “Road safety and law enforcement should be a top priority for any Government. Sadly, more than 10,000 frontline traffic police posts have gone since 2010. Instead of increasing HGV speed limits, ministers need to take concrete steps to make our roads safe for all users, particularly children, older people and cyclists.”

The Government had been due to raise the motorway speed limit to 80mph when Philip Hammond was transport secretary. When Patrick McLoughlin took over in September 2012 the plans were shelved. A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We want people to drive safely at all times, which is why we recently increased the fixed penalty to £100 for several driving offences, including careless driving, and why we have given local councils more flexibility to implement 20mph limits and zones.”

But campaigning group the Association of British Drivers wants the motorway limit increased to 80mph. Spokesman Mark McArthur-Christie said: “With the huge improvements in all aspects of vehicle performance, the 70mph limit only serves to create bunching of traffic, frustration and loss of driver concentration. Over half of all drivers break the limit, which creates a lack of respect for the whole system of speed limits, including those set for valid safety reasons.”

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