How fast is too fast?

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When transport minister Claire Perry set out government plans to raise the speed limit for lorries on single carriageway roads from 40mph to 50 mph she suggested that it could result in savings of up to £11m a year.

Clearly there is a strong argument for saying that all the vehicles on a particular stretch of road should be able to travel at similar speeds to avoid dangerous overtaking manoeuvres. And it is not surprising that the DfT is now looking a proposal to increase the speed limit for HGVs on dual carriageways from 50mph to 60mph – bringing them closer to the speed limits for cars. The aim is for the new speed limits to come into force early next year.

Road Haulage Association chief executive Geoff Dunning has welcomed the change saying: “This evidence-based decision by ministers, to increase the limit to 50 mph will be strongly welcomed by hauliers and their drivers. The current limit is long out-of-date and the frustration it generates causes unnecessary road safety risk.”

Hilary Devey, founder and CEO of Pall-Ex, also welcomed the decision pointing out that: “The reduced speed limit has always been a source of frustration for motorists and ultimately put lives at risk as dangerous overtaking manoeuvres have occurred.”

But not everyone is in favour. Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “Put simply, when vehicles travel faster, it takes them longer to stop, increasing risk. It is very well evidenced that increases in speed equal increases in crashes and casualties.”

Of course, local authorities have the power to set their own speed limits in certain areas, and might decide that the speed limit on some sections of their roads should now be lowered for all vehicles.

And the Department for Transport has made it clear that it wants to carry out a study of rural road safety in the near future. This is not the end of the issue just yet.

Malory Davies FCILT,

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