As discussed everywhere, ministers are looking to increase the motorway speed limit to 80mph:
[Transport Secretary Philip Hammond] added: “Now it is time to put Britain back in the fast lane of global economies and look again at the motorway speed limit which is nearly 50 years old, and out of date thanks to huge advances in safety and motoring technology.
“Increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph would generate economic benefits of hundreds of millions of pounds through shorter journey times.”
By generating ‘economic benefits’, he presumably means financial benefits to King Abdullah or the head of any other oil producing nation; as anyone knows that the faster you drive, the more fuel you rip through.
The high priest of petrol-heads, Jeremy Clarkson, writing in a post last month on the Top Gear site, had a rather surprising take on this:
It is, however, not fine to have an 80 limit in Britain because then, the police will turn a blind eye to those doing 95. And 95 on British motorways is too fast. There are too many other cars, too many Nissans, too many pensioners coming the other way on the wrong side of the road.
But what about the other impacts? Damian Carrington, writing in the Guardian, summarises neatly:
More people will die and be injured in crashes: more work for doctors, nurses and ambulances. More cars will be written off or damaged: good news for motor manufacturers and mechanics. And the biggest, most profitable companies in the nation – BP and Shell – will have yet more money poured into their coffers as drivers pump more petrol into their tanks. The fact that emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide will leap too seems, astonishingly, a secondary concern in the short term.
I’ve not actually looked too closely at the NO2 increases this would entail (though presumably they would also go up, as would the likelihood of photochemical smog etc). The point about road deaths is not to be ignored either.
A few years ago, I crashed my car. As was a standard thing at the time, I had to go on a road safety course. It was actually pretty useful and taught many interesting things; most memorably was how just a small increment in speed at the point of impact can cause a shocking effect on the human body. The odds of people walking away from a higher-speed crash are greatly diminished, as revealed in the gruesome photos we were shown.
So then: just another typical, ill-thought-out, cheap attempt at winning popularity from a backward-looking government.