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Raise the motorway speed limit? Or raise awareness of safe stopping distances?
20/10/2016

Raise the motorway speed limit? Or raise awareness of safe stopping distances?Nine out of ten (88%) company car drivers admit to speeding on motorways, according to new research from RAC Business, which represents a 7% increase on figures from last year.

What’s more, 60% of company car drivers think it is totally acceptable to travel at 80mph on motorways and a third (31%) think the current speed limit is inappropriate for the road. In line with that nearly three quarters (71%) believe the motorway speed limit should be increased to 80mph.

There’s been a longstanding debate about whether to raise the motorway limit to 80mph. Those in favour argue that since the Highway Code was published vehicles are now much better made and far safer. Consequently, cruising at 80mph is nothing like it was many years ago and, thanks to better braking technology, stopping distances are reduced.

But lets not overlook the fact that stopping distances are made up of two parts. ‘Thinking Distance’ – in other words, the distance you will travel from seeing the need to brake, and getting your foot onto the brake pedal. This is also known as ‘Reaction Time’. Then the stopping distance itself, which is down to the vehicle’s brakes, but also the road/weather conditions.

This basically means ‘speed’ is not the only factor in one’s ability to avoid a collision. If I’m driving too close to the vehicle in front, not giving me enough time to stop, I could be travelling at 50mph on the motorway and still drive into the back of them. In fact, many rear end collisions are when motorway traffic is heavy and slow.

For this reason, we can’t simply say that 80 mph is safer than 70 mph. I would be the first to agree that driving at 80mph on an open, clear, dry motorway is pretty harmless assuming you’ve got plenty of space to stop if anything happens in front of you. Sadly, we witness everyday how dangerously close people drive to one another on our motorways, which is why more education is needed about safe stopping distances too.

Another factor to take into consideration is that, due to the distractions of modern driving, such as mobile phones and checking SatNav screens, thinking distances can increase, and we need to further educate drivers that paying attention to the road is far more important than a telephone call.

So, if the Government does decide to raise the limit, I sincerely hope it also raises the profile of safe stopping distances because, as I’m sure many insurers and fleet operators will tell you, ‘hitting 3rd party in the rear’ remains one of the highest causes of accidents on our roads.

Source: ETW