Thursday, June 2, 2011

'Drive at 80mph on motorways'

Motorway speed limits could be raised from 70 to 80mph under radical plans being studied by ministers.

But drivers on congested sections of Britain's expressways could be forced to slow to 50mph under an official review of speed limits by the Department of Transport which is being considered by Transport Minister John Spellar.

Officials believe that the higher limit - rigidly enforced - would restore drivers' respect for all speed limits after surveys repeatedly showed that more than half of all drivers regularly exceed 70mph on motorways because it is "too slow".

The move would help mend relations with Britain's 30 million motorists after bruising encounters over the proliferation of "spy" cameras and the fuel tax protests more than a year ago. The higher limit would bring Britain closer into line with other European countries where 80mph is the norm.

Motorways are Britain's safest roads with drivers eight times less likely to have an accident than on a road in a built-up area, and motoring organisations have long demanded a more "realistic" limit that would enable drivers to complete long journeys in a shorter time.

Experts also point out that even a modest modern car is easily capable of travelling well above 70mph in safety. By setting a more realistic limit, officials believe, motorists would be more likely to obey lower limits elsewhere.

By demonstrating that ministers have conducted a thorough review of limits it would be easier to introduce 50mph thresholds on highly congested sections of motorway and more 20mph zones outside schools.

Officials within the Department of Transport are divided over the 80mph plan but are keen to implement 50mph limits in selected areas, claiming it cuts congestion by smoothing out the flow of traffic on heavily-used sections.

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