01 April, 2012

Motorway speed limits

Some months ago there was talk of ministers raising the speed limit on UK motorways from 70 mph to 80 mph.

The main arguments in favour seemed to be (1) it is economically beneficial for drivers to get to their destinations sooner; (2) cars have more in-built safety features than they used to so an increased speed limit won't lead to more deaths on the motorways; (3) 50 per cent of drivers flout the limit anyway, which means that the law should be changed.

(3) is so clearly a spurious argument that it makes my head spin. How about: 50 per cent of men perpetrate domestic violence anyway, so we should revisit the laws that make domestic violence a crime. Or: 50 per cent of teenagers have shoplifted from a store anyway, so we should make the laws against theft more lenient.

Just because people flout a law -- even if it's 50 per cent of people -- doesn't diminish the severity of the crime.

The case made by (2) seems to me equally crazy. Note that the point being made is that deaths won't increase as a result of raising the speed limit. But what about injuries? No one seems to dispute that injuries are likely to increase as a result.

And this surely can't be a good thing. More injuries will result in more hospital visits and more medical care, thereby stretching NHS services further and so negating any economic benefit gained via argument (1) above.

Not to mention the damage done to people psychologically by being in a high-speed car accident...

I vote that we stick to the 70 mph limit. Given the traffic on the motorways where I live, you're lucky to make a steady 50 anyway!

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