Speed limits

 

               I am in favour of speed limits. It makes sense to say to drivers in busy built up areas they should not go above 30mph when the road is clear, just in case something unexpected happens which requires them to brake or swerve. The national speed limit of 60mph is also a wise precaution on most roads where there is no lane segregation and no single direction access and exit from the road.

             The old rules were fairly simple. If you were driving in a built up area with street lights, the speed limit was 30. You were told this on original entry in to the town or village, and told of its end on exit by a simple sign. The rest of the time commonsense told you it was 30mph from the surroundings and the street lights. If you started your journey within the built up area you knew it was 30 from the environment.

           In recent years there has been a profusion of intermediate speed limits. There is no obvious logic to the choice of some of them. The other day I counted the number of changes of speed limit on a 15 mile journey locally. I counted 16 changes of speed limit. It varied between 20,30,40,50 and 60 mph. I did not go onto the motorway which would have added a 70.  There were pieces of road with street lights where the speed limit was higher than 30mph, without frequent repeater signs on  the lampposts to remind you of the different limit. Apparently similar roads through built up areas changed from 40 to 30 and back again.

           Research shows that drivers are best at obeying the 60 speed limit on non dual carriageway roads. They regard 60 as the upper limit of what is wise on such roads, and normally drive well below 60 given the bends and hazards on such roads. When it comes to the 60 limit most understand it is an upper limit, which you do not normally achieve.

          When I travel on motorways, seeking to keep to a steady 70, most traffic overtakes me. It looks as if most drivers judge around 80 to be a safe speed on motorways, and probably take the risk thinking  they will be unlucky  to be prosecuted if they stay below 80. There does not seem to be much driver buy in to the idea of 70. Motorways are our safest roads,  because traffic travelling in different directions is kept apart and because vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists are not allowed on them. In this respect motorways are more like railway lines, which are also segregated and do not allow any other users to share the route.

              30 mph areas are more difficult. There is a stronger case for the 30 than for the 70 on motorways, and most people if asked would say they agree with the 30 limit in built up areas with single carriageway roads. Yet when it comes to driving modern cars with good brakes and steering, many drivers reckon they are safe at more than the speed limit and allow the speed to drift up. If speed limits are to work well, there needs to be general acceptance of them by the driving public.

            Many drivers do think the profusion of differing limits and frequent changes of limit can be counterproductive. Drivers end up studying road signs and speedometers more than is healthy  for keeping alert to what is going on on the road ahead. Traffic managers should be careful before introducing too much complexity. Speed control has to be part of helping get people to their destinations with   safety for all road users, not part of a policy to stop people using cars or trying to make the motorists task too difficult.

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90 Comments

  1. Nina Andreeva
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    JR I am with you on 70 on the motorways, not just for safety, but also for the price of petrol. Why are service stations in the UK a rip off with what they charge for fuel? On the autobahns the price difference from a normal petrol station is only a couple of cents.

    30 in the suburbs? Try doing that in Bristol with its profusion of bus lanes that never have any buses on them and cycle lanes whose intended users prefer the pavement. With having to put up with those obstacles I prefer to walk into work its much more quicker. Even the Avon ferry into the city centre often appears to beat the traffic flow it passes against

    • rose
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

      And try parking in Bristol when there is no charge on a Sundays. It is chaos, with everyone driving in to fight for that free space whether they need to or not – as well as very polluted!

      • a-tracy
        Posted August 7, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        I don’t understand why someone would drive into a very polluted Bristol to fight for a free space they don’t need? A vibrant City is what most people consider a desirable location, what’s the alternative, driving to a deserted half closed retail space that charges you for parking? There are several of those towns near where I live.

        • rose
          Posted August 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

          A very angrya nd frustrated stranger called on us last Sunday complaining that he had been driving round for two hours looking for a space. We were unable to help him. You may call that “vibrancy” but he won’t be coming in to look for it again. If people had to pay a small charge they would think about bringing in the car when they don’t really need to, as they manage to on every other day of the week. Then those who had to drive in would be able to park.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 7, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

            Problem where we live rose,is a greatly reduced train and bus service on Sundays.

          • a-tracy
            Posted August 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

            Rose, I would have directed the frustrated stranger struggling to park to the Bristol park and ride scheme that I availed myself of when I visited the City recently. If they were too late and everyone else had the parking spaces – tough – but there was an alternative for them.

  2. Alte Fritz
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Yes, we do need limits. But look how drivers sort themselves out to make way for emergency vehicles, or even how they manage when traffic lights break down, provided a policeman does not intervene. People really do not need to be bossed about 24/7.

  3. Old Albion
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Speed limits in England are a complete and utter random nonsense. The rules to set them seem unsettled with local councils, police and government policy all used.
    The whole system needs a major overhaul.
    I live just outside Maidstone. I could drive you past the entrance gates to a local private school at 40MPH and would not be ‘speeding’
    I could also drive through some winding, narrow country lanes at 60 MPH and would not be ‘speeding’ but would probably kill myself.
    Yet if i drive on the M20 and exceed 70 MPH i would be ‘speeding’
    The road on which i live bisects the village. Many years ago the residents eventually managed to get the 30MPH limit painted on the road in what turned out a vain attempt to get drivers to slow down. Still they speed through, often at twice the limit (we have ATC figures to prove it) The police aren’t interested, the council indifferent. Which is strange, because they have plenty of interest in the A229 (Bluebell hill) where a static camera van operates regularly, enforcing an artificially low 50MPH on a four lane dual carriageway. This of course rakes money in rather than costing money……………

  4. lifelogic
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Well, the reason for this is clearly to try to catch people out with speed cameras. It is quite common to reduce the speed limit on, usually conveniently down hill sections, of dual carriageways from 60 to 40 just before the carefully positioned speed camera. Clearly done for no reason other than mugging. The West Way and the end of the M11 as some examples.

    If one drives through central London it is like a game of chance with bus lanes (with different applicable times on different days), very poor direction signs, hatched junctions, bike lanes, congestion zones, pointless no right and left turns and cameras to catch you out wherever possible. And that is before it even comes to the parking. Why should the few percent who travel by buses and bikes get 50% + of the road space.

    I read that a single box junction in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham raked in £1 million in fines – the council clearly have a big incentive to create deliberate congestion and unclear signs and variable time bus lanes etc.

    Then we have the anti car traffic light phasing too just to increase fuel consumption and pollution I assume.

    Simple clear and honest is what is needed and without the motorist mugging tax motives.

    Do we want drivers to look at the road and take care or to read the times of the bus lanes (as they change from section to section)? It is not providing public services just organising a very inefficient back door mugging tax.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      The problem, as usually, is the lack of any effective, democratic controls to ensure that the state sector at least tries to act in the interest of the public, rather than those of the state sector and cash raising. All usually cheered on by the BBC think people, pressure groups and some “charities”.

    • Bert Young
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Speed cameras are normally positioned on the “hill” side of the road not the “downside” . The assumption is drivers will naturally speed up to compensate for the upward slope !!

      • alan jutson
        Posted August 6, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        Bert

        Speed camera’s are usually on the down side in our area, so when you lift off, the car will increase in speed without you braking.

        Usually they are situated just inside the 30mph limit from 40mph (Barkham road a prime example)

      • lifelogic
        Posted August 7, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        Well just after the down hill section and on the start of the up hill on a clear safe stretch, is best for their cash registers.

    • wab
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      “Clearly done for no reason other than mugging. The West Way and the end of the M11 as some examples.”

      The Chris Huhne Memorial Speed Camera at the bottom of the M11 is there to slow people down before the merge with the A406 happens. (It is also a flat section, not downhill.)

  5. Robert K
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    The odd thing is that it is hard to find anyone who supports the explosion of nit-picky rules for the road – not just speed limits but the profusion of superfluous signs. Yet we all drive cars and want to get to our destinations swiftly and safely. Several experiments in Europe and here show that removing signage altogether makes roads a safer place, because drivers and other road users start to pay more attention to their own and each other’s safety and less to following sets of rigid instructions.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Robert–One aspect where there is no consistency (at least that I can detect) is white lines either side of (especially narrow) country lanes. Around me, I’d say half the lanes have these white lines and half not, with as I say no rhyme (certainly no rime) or reason. There was a survey or a Commission or somesuch not too long ago that said that removing the white lines reduced accidents because without them drivers had to concentrate more and not subconsciously rely on the lines causing more reckless driving round blind bends etc. Nothing happened of course. And continually repainting these lines, including after roadworks, doesn’t come cheap and itself blocks the road causing congestion at best.

  6. Daniel Lucraft
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    In my car I’ve measured the speedometer discrepancy at 10%, which I’ve heard is quite normal. This means maintaining 70 requires keeping the speedometer on 77, which is tricky to do.

  7. JimF
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Yes, your last paragraph is correct.
    1 When 80% of your concentration is attending to the niceties of changing speed limits, you are a danger to other road users. Also there is a tendency to use cruise control to maintain speed within these areas which has dangers off-motorway.
    2 20mph signs which are springing up are potentially dangerous to pedestrians as a quick look can give the impression to pedestrians that a car moving at 15-18mph isn’t moving at all.
    3 The police now want to have their cake an eat it. Travelling in the centre lane on the motorway, irritating though it is to other road users, normally involves a car travelling at 70 +/-5mph. There is now the possibility that a motorist can be stopped for doing this rather than moving down a lane then out into 80mph traffic to overtake (getting caught again).
    4 For the more attentive brain, the mere fact of travelling at such slow speeds that one’s full attention to the road isn’t required dulls the concentration.

    • Deborah
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      It is far more difficult to drive safely when a large part of one’s attention is focussed on the speedometer, trying to guess the speed limit and spot the cameras.
      When you add in avoiding potholes and watching out for people tailgating/undertaking on the motorway, driving seems more dangerous and stressful now than it was 30 years ago, despite improved car safety and less drink driving.
      Simplification around sensible speed limits and a return to the police pulling people over to reprimand them for real dangerous driving (not minor speeding) on the motorway would be welcome.

      and another large part is trying to avoid the enormous, dangerous potholes.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      2) 15-18 mph is about a quarter to a third of a mile per minute or 22-26 feet per second. So it will be clear to anyone watching that the car is moving.

      4) Given that train drivers sometimes fall asleep despite travelling at fast speeds it seems that slow speeds aren’t what dulls a person’s concentration. Evidence shows that repetitive things, not slow things dull your concentration.

      • Ludwig
        Posted August 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        uanime5, re:(4) It entirely depends on the context. If I were driving on country lanes at 50 mph I would be concentrating very hard without problem, but 50 mph on a motorway or non-urban dual carriageway is soporific. The other annoying thing is when some contra-flows are 40 mph while most are a much more reasonable 50 mph. If we can all drive on a two-way road at 60 mph then I don’t see why a contra-flow needs to be 40 mph, other than to try and issue more speeding tickets.

        Motorways should be 80 mph and both speed limits and lane discipline more rigorously enforced. Urban areas can vary from 40 mph on a wide and busy road, to 20 mph on a housing estate.

        What would be very useful on motorways are more variable speed limits that can change the limit according to traffic conditions at the time and manage the flow.

  8. Peter
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    A journey I used to make had 7 different speeds in as many miles, enforced by 2 fixed cameras and a mobile camera site (right on the transition from 40 to 30) – plus whatever police patrolling took place.

    There seemed to be no rhyme nor reason to several of these limits – why would a dual carriageway with few side turnings or obvious hazards through an industrial estate be restricted to 30?

    As far as I can see this picture is now the norm nationally.

    And the worst thing is that there are now so many safe, wide roads where the limit has been reduced from 40 to 30, enforced by cameras whose only purpose seems to be to catch innocent motorists out.

    In the 70s one could say with some confidence that a speeding ticket was the sign of a bad driver. But these days even a careful driver can end up with one, especially in a strange town.

    Is all this designed to maintain road safety – or raise money?

    • Peter
      Posted August 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Actually it was THREE fixed cameras not two. The one I forget to mention was positioned on a downhill section of 40mph dual carriageway!

      One of the others was positioned just inside a 30mph limit after the limit fell from 60mph.

      It would be interesting to know what the rationale for UK speed limits actually is.

      Because on the face of 60mph for most country lanes seems absurdly high (you’d soon be in the hedge or the hospital!) – and many urban limits of wide straight roads seem absurdly low.

  9. Martin
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    It is worth noting that HGVs have much slower general limits. I’m therefore not convinced by limits that only reduce the legal limits for cars and not HGVs.

  10. alan jutson
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Your last paragraph sums it up nicely.

    Far too many signs are now present, to such an extent that should you try to read them all, you cannot read/concentrate the road ahead or the junctions that enter and exit from them as well as perhaps you should.
    Thus I tend to read the road rather than the signs, as I believe it is safer to do just that.
    Indeed with modern cars being better soundproofed, more powerful, higher geared and with better suspension, it is very easy to simply drift over the 30 mph limit.

    I now find myself spending much more time glancing at the speedometer than I did 30-40 years ago due to the higher gearing of modern cars, which simply cannot be driven in top gear below 40mph.

    Whilst I fully accept that the 30mph limit is sensible in towns, I find more and more 30mph limits are being set on some quite rural stretches of road, where 40mph or even 50mph has tended to be the norm in the past.

    It would seem that life in every aspect is becomming more and more complicated, and roads are no different, especially when you can be fined so easily with hidden camera’s on box junctions where unphased traffic lights exist, no warning of impending bus lanes, speed camera’s, and a whole range of confusing parking signs and times.

    Most of us just want a simple life, but are being force fed confusion by the regulation zealots in almost area of life.

    • alan jutson
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      Want to see what life was like without traffic lights, signposts or white lines on the road.

      Yellow lines, parking meters, box junctions, speed humps, speed camera’s, never even imagined.
      But we did have some bus lanes, they were called trams.

      Then Google: London in colour 1927.

      Yes I know times are different now, but then people were completely responsible for their own actions and safety.

      Cannot help but think we have now gone too far in the opposite direction.

      • rose
        Posted August 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

        My great grandfather was run over four times in those days – presumably he couldn’t adjust to the motor traffic. Miraculously he survived – perhaps because the speeds were less.

  11. Anthem
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    In 25 years of driving, I have been convicted of speeding twice and on both occasions it was for breaking the 30mph limit.

    On one of those occasions I should have known better (if I recall correctly, I was doing 36mph) and whilst I did not consider my speed unsafe for the conditions, it was a fair cop, I held my hands up and accepted the punishment.

    On the other occasion, I was also doing around 36mph in a 30 zone and, to this day, I regularly drive along the road and wonder why it is a 30mph road.

    It is wide enough to be a dual-carriageway, on one side there are houses set well back from the road (the houses even have stairs down onto the pavement so they are all elevated above road level) and on the other side there is nothing but a fence, behind which is, I think, some woodland or fields or something.

    You can quite easily drive along the road and see just three or four other cars and if you see five pedestrians, it’s busy.

    With so little going on on the road, it is actually a challenge to keep your speed below 30mph because there’s little to use as a visual “gauge” and every time I drive along it I find that I am spending most of my time with one eye on the speedometer.

    However, there IS a camera along it somewhere (not one of the obvious big, yellow boxes… this one is hidden from view) and it was this camera that caught me out.

    I can only believe that it is there to generate revenue for the local council.

  12. John Bracewell
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Recently, my area (a small village between Bath and Bristol) has received a Consultation survey about adopting a 20mph speed limit across the whole village. All the roads except one, the A4, are short with bends and it is already almost impossible to reach 30 mph unless you are the Jeremy Clarkson type. The A4 which runs through the middle of the village is to be exempted from the 20 mph limit and is to remain at 30 mph. In the consultation there was no indication of how many accidents there have been in the village due to speeding on roads other than the A4 which is the one road that is extremely dangerous with cars joining it at junctions, 3 sets of traffic lights within 400 metres and an existing speed camera site. There is, quite rightly, already a 20 mph limit outside the Primary school and on a section of the High Street which is narrow and twisting. It is difficult to see what the extra expense of road signs and implied monitoring to uphold the new general 20 mph limit if it is introduced will reap in benefits. These sort of public consultations without providing the full facts about accident rates and the likely benefits of a proposal are misleading, it seems designed to give an appearance of being responsive to the constituents of the Council without being genuinely so. The irony is that the Council are considering a new 95 house building scheme which has a single exit on to a narrow road near one exit/entrance to the Primary School thus creating a road/parking hazard which the new 20 mph limit proposal is presumably designed to reduce/eradicate. A lot of people will just follow the knee jerk reaction, lower limits must mean more safety, without thinking about whether there is an existing problem.
    This will add another set of road signs to a quiet little village and without further explanation and road accident statistics it does not seem to make sense.

  13. a-tracy
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    This morning on a narrow country lane two large vans, one a wagon and drag and one a 16 tonner were trying to pass each other on a road that is not supposed be used by vehicles over 7.5 tonne, it was very dangerous, this same road is used frequently by these large vans and they often take people’s wing mirrors off, or push them into a brick wall at the side of the road, without a backward glance. Even when the Council are told about it nothing is done.

    Perhaps the higher speed limit could be trialled on the M6 toll road and much quieter sections of the motorway north of Carlisle.

    The M6 speed gantries are poorly controlled at the moment, I was driving to Bromsgrove last week and the overhead signs were going from 60 mph to 50, to 40 back to 60 within the space of a mile, it was ridiculous with a four lane motorway with only two lanes being used and everyone trying to keep to 40 mph! With the odd driver being unaware of the cameras average speed fines – however – how they calculate that when the speed is up and down in such a way from one gantry to another is hard to see.

    The transport department should speak to the career drivers that have to negotiate all of these rules and regulations. I know a chap that is being prosecuted for doing 68 in a 70 mph dual carriageway in a car derived van under 2 tonne, when the Highway code gives the speed for these vehicles as 70 mph. He has to take a day off work and drive a 342 mile round trip to defend himself in court. It is important if receiving these points means losing your job if the points tot up. As for those people that say career drivers are the problem these guys drive up to 1000 to 1500 miles a week in all locations around the UK, not their local areas where they know where the speed cameras are! They have to drive professionally and safely, being very observant of all these multiple speed changes on short stretches of road or they wouldn’t keep their livelihood and health for long.

    • a-tracy
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      The narrow country lane I spoke of needs the 7.5t barred signs sooner before the commitment is made by the van because there is no turning circles if a mistake has been made by an out of area driver.

    • Edward 2
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      a-tracey, I agree with your comments on Midlands motorway gantry speed limits which like the ones on the M25 are backed up by speed cameras.
      Random speeds set with one gantry at 40 the next 60 and the next 50
      Many left on after yesterday’s incident sometimes just over one lane causing dangerous sudden braking and several times at night odd gantries have had random 20 or 30 limits for no reason.
      It is chaotic and will cause accidents.

  14. Iain Gill
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    In recent years there has been a profusion of far too many signs close together, not just speed limits that can change up and down every few feet for miles. There is no way even the best driver on a road which is new to him or her can possibly read all of the signs flashing by, not when there are hundreds of signs in a 50 yards stretch. Its silly.

    As for speed limits there is lots of nonsense spouted by the public sector thought police. Speed does not kill bad driving and bad road design kills. A safe driver having his licence revoked for getting caught a few mph over an arbitary limit a few times is silly if he was driving safely. And far too many speed limits have been set far too low, in some cases with even the police force appealing again the decision to lower limits to silly levels.

    Once again abd.org.uk already has ready made policies which the Conservative party should just copy.

    And yes far too many different limits. Another country I know very well has two limits 50 kph or 100 kph, you are either in one or the other and its easy to tell which.

    And yes the motorway speed limit is generally far too low in this country.

  15. JohnEustace
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Local councils downgrade the speed limits on some stretches of road to save money on maintenance. The standard of road surface required for a road with a 30 limit is lower than for roads with higher limits.
    So the situation you correctly describe with multiple confusing limits on a short journey is often caused by councils taking short cuts on budgets.

  16. Peter Richmond
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Near me just outside Norwich on the A11, is a 40mph sign, then just after the roundabout, I can go at 50mph but within another few yards it becomes 40mph again. Just one example of many where money is wasted on road traffic signs. Perhaps we cannot go back to the old days of which you write but certainly we need to simplify and rationalise all these signs.
    While on the topic of road signs, many directional signs in the vicinity of our towns and cities to me seem to be put up without any consideration to the user. I doubt the local councils or whoever put them up ever ask a motorist unfamiliar with an area to actually test drive the directions. Perhaps councils should be required to have up to date map software which can be uploaded onto the satnav or mobile phone and we can remove all this plethera of signs.

  17. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Speed limits are sensible if the signs give the correct instructions .I am very aware of the dangers of too high a speed traveling around areas which put people and particularly children and older people at risk There were some very good adverts a few years ago highlighing the differences between a child being knocked down at 40 mph and 30 mph.
    I drive around the district in the evenings and there is always pressure to get visits in within a certain time. I refuse to speed to see my caseload of patients , however when one is presented with time limits it is tempting to go a little quicker.
    I recently have had a couple of black BMW’s with young men who insist on turning off motorways at the last minute darting in front of me and overtaking on busy buzzing main streets at a speed of around 60 mph. Where did our driving instructions go to to pass our tests?

  18. Nationalist
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    The way to cut through the Gordian knot of “policing for profit” is to require authorities to pass ALL the money they receive from any source other than local taxation or central government grant to HM Treasury.

    They would still be able to run speed/lane cameras, and charge for residents’ parking and impose library fines but they could keep NONE of the money.

    This would concentrate their minds and keep them focused on providing essential services only.

    I also think local authorities should “rent” their parking restrictions such as yellow lines from HM Treasury. Every year they should pay per metre per hours of operation for yellow lines. This would concentrate minds wonderfully and I’m sure a lot of unnecessary restrictions would be swiftly removed.

  19. behindthefrogs
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    There is a very strong case for a standard speed limit of 20 mph in housing estates except perhaps on a spine road. This should also apply outside schools and similar environments.

    • Dan H.
      Posted August 7, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Lancashire now has blanket 20-zones on all housing and town areas, with the exception of through roads which remain at 30. Of interest to the statistically minded like myself is the fact that absolutely NO comparison testing between blanket 30 and near-blanket 20 has been done, or is proposed to be done.

      In other words, someone decided to blow 9 million pounds of taxpayers’ money of 20 zones and has made no provision whatsoever to see whether or not this affects accident rates, or for that matter local cancer rates. Most cars will not easily maintain 20 in third gear; 2nd is more like it, but at such a speed they are inefficient and churn out more pollutants than at the higher speeds.

      So, this then creates a question: if 20 zones reduce injuries, is this reduction balanced by an increase in cancers from the pollution caused by slow vehicles?

      I suspect we shall have to wait a few years, then compare demographically similar towns in Yorkshire and Lancashire to discover the answer. Even if the results are that KSI levels increase, I strongly suspect that the “Only Forwards” and “Never Admit A Mistake” tendencies of government will force the retention of these 20 zones.

  20. Richard1
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    The most dangerous roads now are country lanes. 60mph is too high. Perhaps we should go to 80mph on motorways and have a default of 40mph elsewhere except on dual carriageways. Town limits are confusing and, as pointed out by Lifelogic above, temporary limits on roads such as the M11 seem designed to entrap motorists for no apparent reason (though in one recent prominent case this had had a useful public benefit)

  21. Javelin
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Sorry to go totally off topic here – but I found out last night that civil servants have this very cheap private health care – (1.50) a day for them and all their relatives called Benenden.

    What it allows them to do is to see a doctor 24 hours a day and jump the NHS health queue. Funnily enough nealry 1 million civil servants have this perk.

    Which begs the question how many NHS managers or NHS watchdogs have this perk – meaning they can basically jump the queues on the NHS and go to a private hospital !!

    Why should civil servants get private health insurance for almost free (£150 a day).??

    I’m going to write a free down of information request to the Care Quality Commission to find out how many of the managers who are trying to improve the NHS dont actually have to use it.

    For me its the biggest scandle under this Government …. by an order of magnitude. My jaw hit the floor when I heard about it.

    John did you know this was going on ???

    http://sha.org.uk/Home/About_us/Added_Value/Preferred_Suppliers/Benenden_Healthcare_Society/

    Reply This seems to apply to College lecturers who wish to pay for this benefit. I don’t think civil servants get private healthcare as a perk from the state

    • a-tracy
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      Wow!

    • David Price
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      Not just lecturers … from the bottom of the website page Javelin linked to;

      “Benenden Healthcare membership is initially only available for current or former employees of the Post Office, Civil Service, BT, registered charities, public sector bodies and other approved organisations whose aims and objectives are deemed compatible with those of the Society. Some services have a six month qualifying period.”

      It is clearly a discriminatory organisation … I wonder if there are tax implications for such a benefit.

    • Javelin
      Posted August 7, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      No – it is open to “civil servants” – not just college lecturers. For example teachers, lawyers and managers. Including NHS managers and even managers at the Care Quality Commission.

    • alan jutson
      Posted August 8, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      It is certainly open to all NHS employees, from my understanding.

  22. Pleb
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    The police won’t bother you at 80 on a motorway. Speedometers have a plus/minus 5% tolerance which means the 80 speed is within the speedometer variation. They will bother you if you go above 90 though. So 80 is the real limit on motorways.

    This is similar with drink driving. I often hear the call for a zero limit, but there is no machine that can accurately measure zero for anything, without a plus/minus tolerance. This is why they can’t really do a zero.

  23. Edward2
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I realise this is a controversial idea, but I wonder what would happen if speed limits were made advisory rather than mandatory?
    Drivers could concentrate on their standard of driving in general rather than concentrating on monitoring their speed so much.
    Police would be looking more at bad driving or dangerously high speeds which could easily be proved with cameras in in most patrol cars.
    Having an accident due to driving at a higher speed than advised could bring stiff penalties as well as very expensive insurance costs.
    Would driver behaviour change all that much?

    • uanime5
      Posted August 7, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      I hear that in Italy that traffic signs are considered a suggestion by most drivers, rather than mandatory. Perhaps we should compare their accident levels with UK accident levels.

      • Edward2
        Posted August 7, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        You can compare the Italians habit of breaking their law by running red rights with the UKs habit of obeying red lights if you want to Uni, but I’m don’t think that would get us any useful data towards what might happen if speed limits were advisory.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted August 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      An interesting idea. Barry Goldwater once suggested in the middle of a USA presidential election that social security payments should be voluntary. He lost.

      • Edward2
        Posted August 9, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

        Again like Uni’s Italian red light post I don’t see this as a valid comparison.
        Barry Goldwater had other odd ideas which helped his failure more than this one, as well as a more popular rival candidate.

  24. Atlas
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Quote:

    “Drivers end up studying road signs and speedometers more than is healthy for keeping alert to what is going on on the road ahead … not part of a policy to stop people using cars or trying to make the motorists task too difficult.”

    I completely agree John, I’ve told my MP so several times. I am firmly of the opinion that this plethora of limit changes is purely to raise speeding fine revenue.

  25. Bert Young
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Oxford is always an unpredictable place to drive because of the many cyclists during term time . The centre of the town is restricted to 20 mph – a speed that does require careful monitoring . The approach roads are all 30 mph and the by-pass 50 mph . I have never witnessed an accident or anyone caught speeding . Parking is , of course , a nightmare and a considerable disincentive to city centre retailers and night time restaurants . As one gets older one becomes more reliant on the motor car particularly where the bus services to town are too far away for access and for required points of destination . The solution is not an easy one and requires quite a degree of compromise by the authorities involved . Pickles has made a start .

  26. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Its like everything else politicians and their civil servants are involved in. They make everything more complicated and expensive. From Income Tax to Road Tax to street signs in fact everthing is more complex. They must leave common sense at the door when they move into their jobs. Add in the EU and no wonder we have run out of wealth. Governments are the problem never the solution.

  27. Mike Wilson
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Motorways are my pet hate. Or rather people who have accidents on them and the ‘officials’ who then decide it is a ‘crime scheme’ and close the motorway for 6 hours. Thousands of people caught in the jam with no food, water, toilets or information. It is a bloody outrage and it happens all the time these days.

    Which bit is tricky? Traffic all going one way. No junctions, roundabouts or traffic lights. When people join there are long lanes in which to adjust your speed and merge into the traffic.

    Yet there are way too many accidents on motorways – 99% of which are caused by people driving too close together. I hate speed cameras – as they are simply revenue machines – but cameras above motorways measuring speed and distance with draconian fines for anyone ‘tail-gating’ – that would be fine by me.

  28. John B
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Regulation gives a false sense of security and licence.

    How often have we heard someone involved in an accident insist, ”Well I had right of way.” Or, ”I was driving within the limit.”

    A number of towns in Europe have experimented with the removal of all traffic signs and road marking, even doing away with raised or identifiable pavements.

    This introduces uncertainty and therefore greater vigilence among drivers and pedestrians.

    Results have been encouraging with slower moving traffic and fewer accidents.

    Of course if we get rid of rules, we don’t need rule makers.

    Parliment would make a great hotel and leisure complex just like its local government counterpart across the water… and when I was a Londoner we did not miss it when that shower were no longer lording it over us. Of course it came back in another manifestation, but by then I had moved out.

  29. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    It often feels safe to do 35 or 40 in a 30 mph limit. The question we all have to ask is: are there any pedestrians around and are they safe? Child pedestrians, especially boys, can behave recklessly with little warning.

  30. oldtimer
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    There certainly is a profusion of speed limits in the South East. We were travelling an A road just outside London the other day where the limit was constantly changing. Furthermore tree and shrub growth had succeeded in obscuring some of the signs until you were right upon them. At times we did not have a clue what the limit was supposed to be even though it was a main road.

    Old topic: the charity sector. You discussed this the other day. I see from a report in the D Telegraph that a very large number of executives earns substantial incomes (in the £100k-£170k range) from running charities. Some appear to be refugees from the Blair/Brown governments. Nice work if you can get it. The report also stated that UK charities had received in excess of £1.1 billion over the past three years from public (ie taxpayer funded) sources including the UK government, the EU and the UN. It seems that Mr Cameron is determined to keep them all in clover with substantial increases in the aid budget. It does not seem right to me.

  31. johnfaganwilliams
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    OK I get the need for speed limits in towns and on country roads. But, why do I have to travel at 70 mh on a deserted dry motorway at 0600 hours? My car is capable of over 180 mph, I am fit and a vastly experienced and skilful motorist with good eyesight. Why can it not be like in Germany that I can drive as fast as I like – but if I have an accident at high speeds the emphasis is on me to prove that excessive speed was not to blame. Surprised at you John, thought you were supporter of personal freedom.

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      You can drive as fast as you like on certain bits of the autobahns, however you will see signs allover the place saying “runter vom gas” with a picture of a grieving widow, orphans etc warning you of the potential consequences of doing so. The biggest inhibitor for me in taking advantage of this is the cost of petrol. However as the autobahns seem to be mostly congestion free (the a2 especially to Berlin) there is no need to drive like a maniac to get to where you want to go to on time in the first place

      • Bazman
        Posted August 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        At 200mph you will be travelling the length of a football field every second with 2 psi of air pressure against you in still air. The biggest danger being rear ending the traffic at 100+mph. At motorways speeds.. Get some.. Take look at Ghost Rider on a 500 bhp Suzuki Hayabusa on an autobahn. Top speed? Enough..

        • johnfaganwilliams
          Posted August 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

          To those who replied: I think there is a via media between 70 mph and 200 mph…… Having driven, often, in excess of 200mph my personal view is that this is far too fast for road cars and the average driver. What I don’t support is 70mph as some sort of weird barrier. It was introduced when the maximum speed of the average car was, more or less, 70mph so didn’t impact much on anyone. Now the average car probably does 120mph – maybe that’s a sensible compromise?

          • Bazman
            Posted August 8, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

            The average driver does not have the skill or reactions for 120 mph on a motorway. Not without technological assistance in the form of distance and braking control features.
            Don’t write about some right wing fantasy of freedom of choice as it will not wash.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 9, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

            Why do you wierdly have to spin everything to you disagree with, as being right wing Baz?
            As if the left wing with their feelings of righteousness always have the correct solutions to every debate.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 9, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

            ‘Freedom’ and ‘choice’ like being free to choose the Ritz and blow ‘harmless’ cigar smoke in the face of the poor and stupid. You know I’m right and righteous Eddy Two.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 10, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

            If freedom and choice are only available on the right wing of politics as you seem to confirm Baz, them that is where I will be
            Socialism should be about power to the people but it always ends in totalitarianism.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 12, 2013 at 5:23 am | Permalink

            It’s a bit like the argument that socialism always runs out of other peoples money, but as we have seen from the banking crisis this is a capitalsit problem that most cannot admit to.

  32. miami.mode
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Why does everyone seem to want to go faster than the speed limit?

    • Johnny Norfolk
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      People appear to think they must travel at the speed limit not less. People appear to me to be driving faster then ever, or maybe it just looks that way.

  33. alexmews
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    The Royal Parks recently reduced the speed limits on the roads in Richmond Park from 30 down to 20. I don’t recall the official reason.

    i am a frequent cyclist and driver in the park. I think the move has been counter productive. On an open road with clear visibility 20 seems very slow in a car. It is also pretty close to the speed that many cyclists are averaging in the park. On the downhill stretches – bikes overtake the cars. On the uphill the reverse. Both parties get super frustrated. At 30, the car overtakes the bike once. Presumably that is safer than the take / overtake / take / overtake.

    • alan jutson
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      Alex

      20mph in Richmond Park I would agree seems daft.

      No doubt someone has had an accident with a deer at some stage, and so now everyone pays the penalty.

      Certainly agree many cyclists go more than 20 mph, indeed I have clocked some doing 40mph.

    • miami.mode
      Posted August 7, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      alexmews

      I assume you feel that cyclists do not have to adhere to any road regulations.

  34. wab
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    There are two reasons we are getting this patchwork of speed limits. The first is that the ruling elite hate motorists (excepting themselves), so are happy to have any excuse to have a go at them, including reducing the speed limit in semi-random ways. The second is that health and safety has become more and more prominent in the culture, hence providing one of the convenient excuses (it’s not the only one) to be anti-motorist and make it into a virtue. In the same way that the country was bombarded many years ago with the message that 40 mph was far worse than 30 mph, the middle class activists are now saying the same thing about 30 mph versus 20 mph, and the latter will soon be the default speed limit in most towns. No doubt in a decade or two we will hear the same story from the same people with 20 mph versus 15 mph.

  35. Tom William
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    While on the subject of speed, it should be an offence to take longer than thirty seconds to overtake a single vehicle. It is not unknown for a lorry to overtake another lorry at far less than walking pace, leading to tailbacks of scores of irritated drivers.

    Damian Hill has said he believes drivers in the UK drive far to close to the vehicle in front of them and also at speeds which take no account of weather conditions. What can be done about this? In the old days there might have been a patrolling police car which would pull offenders over but nowadays police cars, when you see them, are rushing about going to an “incident” (or going off duty).

  36. rose
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    I would much prefer to have dedicated bike lanes at the sides of main roads, and a decent tram service up the middle, rather than speed limits which aren’t observed and the obstructive mess of bottlenecks and buildouts. As for those pathetic few feet of painted bike lane which goes from nowhere to nowhere…

    The way to deal with excessive motoring is to follow the Japanese example and say anyone can drive, so long as they don’t park on the roads and clog them up. With motorists having to pay for their own arrangements for parking instead of relying on council subsidised parking in the street, people would soon take to their feet and bikes, or use public transport.

    As we are now a heavily populated country with very little space, it is useless people harking back to how nice it was in the forties when they could drive and park wherever they liked. Actually, at that time they weren’t allowed to leave their cars in the road – a policeman would soon be along saying, “You can’t leave that there ‘ere, Sir”. Now they don’t even bother to stop people parking on the pavements. In fact they do it themselves when it suits them.

    We just can’t accommodate 40-50 million cars in our little streets and lanes, even if there is still going to be enough room on the motorways – which I rather doubt. And as for parking on double yellow lines for 15 minutes, or parking across people’s driveways – how is that going to work? Why have double yellow lines if they aren’t to be observed, and why have pavements if they are to be continuously obstructed?

    Reply: Trams are very costly and inflexible, and could add to the difficulties in many streets where there is insufficient width for your vision. The roads we park on when allowed we pay for – they are not the Councils’

    • behindthefrogs
      Posted August 7, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      The problem with cycle lanes marked at the side of roads in built up areas is the number of motorists who regard them as parking places. Anyone, like myself, who regularly cycles from Wokingham to Reading will be very aware of the dangers of passing cars parked in the cycle way.

      • rose
        Posted August 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Yes, motorists want all four lanes to themselves, two for driving in and two for parking in, and often the pavements as well. And they feel oppressed and obstructed!

    • rose
      Posted August 7, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      Agreed they are not the Council’s but everyone’s, or rather they are the Queen’s Highway; but councils are still letting out to private individuals at a subsidised rate the space which should be reserved for travelling on. The rule of thumb for a true market rate is that the parking spaces should never be more than two thirds full at any one time. That is the case with some commercial carparks but not the subsidised ones, and certainly not the streets. I am afraid I disagree with you fundamentally on the principle that the roads belong to motorists to park on. They don’t. They are there for everyone of the Queen’s subjects to travel on, and certainly not just motorists who are johnny-come-latelies in the game. If they can afford to buy, maintain, and run their cars at their own unsubisidised expense, then why should the parking be subsidised? And why should the roads be obstructed? It doesn’t make sense rationally, but the expectation that the Council will subsidise parking, and that people may clog up the streets with their cars, lorries, and vans, and even now the pavements, has gradually grown up by default.

      To get it in perspective, try imagining how you would feel – and this may in fact happen – if lots of people started camping in the streets? Curtained campervans may be seen parked in most cities these days, but the habit could well increase as the numbers of unhoused incomers multiply. They could well say the streets belong to them and they have a right to sleep in them, just as you now assert the right to leave your car in them.

      I take your point about the trams, but would they cause as much difficulty overall as the motorcar, looking at the question with fresh eyes? And what about the benefits? If they could take bikes and wheelchairs, prams and pushchairs, would they not be a more useful form of transport for a very crowded and polluted country? More people would bicycle if they knew the tram could take the strain over long distances and steep hills, and for people in wheelchairs they would be invaluable on the same principle. The boomers are going to have to face the future with many of them in wheelchairs and no-one to look after them or ferry them around. Trams could be the answer in cities and towns.

      Reply Of course the main use of the highways must be for traffic to move from A to B.
      As someone who has paid for a garage for my car, I also think that people living in older terraced homes from the pre garage age, or on a new estate where Labour’s planning system blocked adequate off street parking, do need freedom to park on a suitable patch of highway. The rest of us need to be able to park near shops and other amenities, and soem of this may be on the highway where the road is wide enough and it does not impede flows.

      • rose
        Posted August 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        Another group of people who have annexed the streets for private storage are the owners of dustbins, particularly commercial ones. Whole streets are now given over to the permanent storage of their stinking rubbish and not a sou paid in rent or for cleaning up the mess.

      • rose
        Posted August 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        “As someone who has paid for a garage for my car, I also think that people living in older terraced homes from the pre garage age, or on a new estate where Labour’s planning system blocked adequate off street parking, do need freedom to park on a suitable patch of highway. The rest of us need to be able to park near shops and other amenities, and soem of this may be on the highway where the road is wide enough and it does not impede flows. ”

        Dear Mr Redwood, if only you were as tenacious in standing up for the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians as you are of motorists – and I could add, if only you were as devoted to the interests of savers as you are of borrowers! Savers, and bicyclists/pedestrians/people in wheelchairs get a really raw deal in this country, and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I could list all the needs that aren’t being met, but I think you know them.

        Reply But I do stand up for pedestrians , the disabled etc. I do most of my own journeys by walking so I am well aware of the needs of pedestrians.

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted August 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      I have just been to Sheffield and was scared to death crossing tramlines where there were abut 6 junctions together and tramlines without lights or signs. The tram lines curved and cut through all the junctions . I needed eyes every side of my head!

  37. English Pensioner
    Posted August 7, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    When I was in Germany and could drive on most autobahns at any speed, I found it most comfortable to drive at about 75-80mph. If I drove faster, it required considerably more concentration whilst driving at 100mph became quite stressful, even when there was little other traffic, so I would suggest 80 mph is probably a sensible figure. Incidentally, in Germany they also have minimum speed limits on some roads and individual motorway lanes, which puts a stop to the overtaking lorry on our motorways blocking two lanes for several miles whilst it tries to pass another lorry which is just going fractionally slower.

    • johnfaganwilliams
      Posted August 8, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I assume from your nom-de-web that you are over 65. Quite why you think that your own limits should apply to everyone else is a mystery.

  38. Alan Wheatley
    Posted August 7, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    I note where the DfT is putting most of its effort and have spent some time studying the DfT’s web site, following which I have come to the conclusion that this department is institutionally pro rail and anti road.

    As policy they issue guidance to local authorities which induces them to reduce speed limits: it is much easier to conform to the guidance than the justify acting alternatively.

  39. Alan Wheatley
    Posted August 7, 2013 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Supporters of ever lower speed limits, judging by what they say about the limits, seem to believe the fallacy that it is possible to prescribe what is a safe speed.

    What ever the speed limit road users must always allow for the fact that they might encounter circumstances where the only safe speed is stationary.

  40. Alan Wheatley
    Posted August 7, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Cars are the only vehicle that is limited to the same speed on a motorway as on a dual carriageway.

    I makes sense for the speed limit FOR CARS on a motorway to be 80.

  41. Alan Wheatley
    Posted August 7, 2013 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    HGVs are limited to 40 on a single carriageway where the sped limit is 60. But it is rare to come across one that is actually obeying this limit.

    I would like to know what, if anything, the relevant authorities do with their cameras to catch drivers of vehicles limited to less than the signed limited exceeding that limit.

    • a-tracy
      Posted August 9, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Alan I’ve got held up quite a number of times by HGVs that are restricted to 40 on a single carriageway and 50 on a dual carriageway in fact I’ve seen some pretty dangerous manoeuvres by frustrated car drivers that then take silly risks overtaking them.

      The roadside cameras in the vans capture them, they get 3 points for every offence and if they have four offences in three years they lose their jobs.

  42. john wrexham
    Posted August 8, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    Sensible stuff, John, but I am afraid you have just disqualified yourself from working for any Highway Authority!!

  43. John Adams
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Javelin, you should get your facts right. Benenden healthcare is open to anyone resident in the UK. It has also for many years been open to members of friendly societies. The sum which you mentioned of £150 per day is ludicrous. Membership actually costs £1-80p per week, (the price of a half pint of beer) and is due to go up by 9 pence per week next year. It has for many years been open to NHS staff and many who I know have taken advantage of that.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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