Thursday, 6 September 2012


There has been a bit of a debate here about speed limits on Britain's roads.  We're not like Texas, where an 85mph speed limit has just been approved on one road, since we don't have long, straight, undeveloped stretches of road of that sort.  But we do have Motorways which are built to accomodate fast driving.

The national limit (on Motorways) is 70mph.  This limit was decided at a time when many cars only just managed 70mph.  The Motorways were also half empty.  I remember driving up the M1, the first Motorway to be built here, soon after it opened, just to try it out.  I did manage a little over 70mph, but then I hardly saw another vehicle.  Nowadays, very, very few drivers take any notice of the 70mph limit.  I recently drove round part of the M25, at speeds rarely under 80mph, and I was overtaken continuously.  But we now have seat belts, disc brakes, obstruction sensors, collision control, engine braking systems, and many other safety devices which make driving at high speed much safer than it was in my young days.  Drivers are far more likely to have an accident from not paying attention (usually because they are on the telephone or playing with their GPS or trying to break one finger off a Kit Kat), than they are from speed alone.

One proposal being discussed in Government is that the limit on Motorways now be raised to 80mph.  This may ease congestion.  But, frankly, all it will probably do in reality is recognise the actual average speed of modern drivers.  The police don't pay too much attention to speeding these days, unless some other element makes it dangerous driving or unless the driver is fleeing a crime scene (such as the Lamborghini-powered Audi the other day that was outrunning a police helicopter at speeds of up to 200mph).  The Deputy Prime Minister is in favour of this change, but many in his own party even are against.  We don't know what the Conservative part of the Coalition thinks about this (if it thinks about road speeds at all at the moment).

I have complained before about frequent changes in the speed limit on certain roads.  The limit is normally 70 on a dual carriageway, 60 on a single carriageway and 30 in towns (occasionally 20).  Vans, buses, goods vehicles, etc have different restrictions.  Occasionally, the limits are reduced because the road passes an area where there might be slow traffic or pedestrians.  In Findon, for example, there is a long stretch of dual carriageway where the speed limit is 60mph because there are slip roads into and out of a school.  I have never understood how 60 is safer than 70 passing a school, but there it is.  And there are 13 changes between here and Petersfield, a 20 minute journey I undertake often.  One minute there is no limit, then suddenly it is reduced to 40mph in a village, then 50 again up to the next village, then 20 for the centre of a small town en route (another proposal has been for all town centres to be restricted to 20mph; the Lib Dem part of the Coalition likes this, but I'm not sure it carries much weight otherwise), then back up to 70 for a short rural stretch, etc.  Needless to say, many drivers either don't understand or don't take any notice.  It is a confusing hotch-potch.

But the main point about these speed limits, which doesn't yet seem to be recognised officially, is that each is accompanied with large signs on both sides of the road, in an attempt to inform and warn drivers.  That's 13 sets of signs on a mostly rural Hampshire road.  And, where the speed limit exceeds 30mph, there will be 'repeater' signs at intervals to remind you of the higher limit.  In some villages, where there is no street lighting and therefore no lamp posts to tell you this is a built-up area, there  will be regular repeater signs right through the village.  That's some 20 sets of signs, or 40 signs in each direction, or 80 signs altogether, on a 20 mile stretch of road.  The entire country is littered with speed restriction signs, 'no limit' signs and repeater signs.  Not to mention signs announcing other road restrictions, warnings, directions, etc.  This is the now famous stretch of the A3 just up the road from here.

Note the speed camera in amongst that lot, as if you'd spot what the speed limit is, as you drove past.  Now consider the improvement if large numbers of these signs were removed.  This is far more important than faffing around with changing speed limits (and presumably adding new signs accordingly).

So, here's my proposal.  You can have it for nothing, Dave and Nick.  Make all Motorways and dual carriageways 80mph, all other main roads 60mph, all rural and minor roads 40mph, and all town centres 20mph.  No exceptions.  There are always signs anyway saying 'pedestrians' or 'hospital' or 'school' or even 'elderly people', so we don't need those backed up with another sign saying 'that means you should drive slowly; ie 40mph'.  In other words, let's take ALL the speed signs away.

As you enter a Motorway, there are signs telling you that there is no speed limit (ie 70mph).  Why?  There are no exceptions on any Motorway in the whole country.  Take them away!  Under my scheme, if there's a main road, no need to post signs all the way along it to remind you of the speed limit; it's 60mph.  If there are likely to be young or especially elderly pedestrians, you are more likely to see the single sign warning of that and to slow down, than if the sign is lost in a sign forest or if you have sign fatigue and have begun to ignore them.

Meanwhile I shall continue to floor the accelerator and let the car's onboard computer do the driving.  In fact this post has been entirely written by the car's onboard computer and not by my driver at all.


  1. You have a fair point about the roadsigns ... there are too many and surely while you're looking at them your mind isn't exactly on what's happening in front of you.

    Going off at a tangent, Blogger doesn't seem to have taken off yet has it. Is that because people are holding on to Multiply until the very end ?

  2. I think they are hanging one, although several are now here. One problem is perhaps the awkwardness of a new site. I find it hard to find people and make friends (more so than in real life I mean).

    1. A few have gone to Ipernity ... which is a bit too near to eternity for me.

      Others seem to have subscribed to a handful of blogs and now don't seem to know which to go with.

      I agree though, a new site does take some getting used to. This one has a number of different features which I prefer to Multiply and seems more professional somehow ... Multiply did seem easier to use though.

  3. Neil, you do realise that a commenter has to prove he or she is not a robot before having their comment accepted ? I had five attemopts before I could decipher the letters and numbers on my comment above ...

    ... here goes again.

  4. Thanks, Charlie. No I didn't realise that. I'll see whether I can fix it.