A New Speed Limit For Motorways?


15 October 2019

By Elizabeth Bradshaw

The Secretary for Transport, Grant Shapps, has said that the issue of increasing motorway speed limits should be examined as more electric cars take to the roads.

These newer, greener vehicles could see motorway speed limits increase to 80mph.

The issue was last considered in 2011, when a report commissioned by the Government stated that an increase of 10mph to the national speed limit would lead to increases of 2.2 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

Mr Shapps recently said at the Conservative Party Conference:

“When it was looked at in 2011, it was thought the carbon emission addition would be too great… I think there is an argument that once you have increased the level of electrification and therefore decreased or entirely removed carbon, that you might look at those things again"

Although electric vehicles only make up 1% of all newly registered vehicles in the UK, the period of July 2018 to July 2019 saw an increase of almost 200% in terms of fully electric vehicles registered.

However, concerns over safety have been expressed, should the current speed limit be increased. The RAC have stated that speed limits "are fundamentally an issue of safety" rather than a predominately environmental issue and would not support increasing the speed limit without further studies being carried out in to the possible safety implications of such a change.

Any call to increase motorway speed limits seem to be at odds with the current policy of creating more 20mph zones in urban areas. Such zones around schools and in cities have been imposed to improve air pollution levels.

A Department for Transport report recently highlighted the benefits of increasing the speed limit for heavy goods vehicles from 40 to 50 mph. The limit was increased in 2015 and this, the report claims, has freed up thousands of driving hours and saved businesses millions of pounds.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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