Liz Truss’s plans to scrap speed limits branded ‘unpopular’
UK motorways: Highways England warns drivers of speed limits
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The new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, spoke at a Conservative Party hustings in August and responded to a question from one of the attendees asking about road safety. She said that smart motorways need to be reviewed and that the Government should “stop them” if they are not working.
She added: “All the evidence I have agrees with the point you’re making on smart motorways.
“On speed limits, again, I’d be prepared to look at that.
“I can’t give you a precise answer on the points but I do believe that the smart motorways experiment hasn’t worked.”
It was announced in January that the rollout of smart motorways would be paused after a report from the Transport Committee.
It called for more safety data to be collected, as well as committing £900million to ensure that drivers feel safe and confident.
The Government said it would go further by ensuring current smart motorways without a permanent hard shoulder are equipped with “best-in-class technology” and resources to make them as safe as possible.
Some motorways have seen their speed limits cut from the national limit of 70mph to 60mph.
This is being done on some stretches of motorway to reduce emissions, with further plans to lower the limit of rural roads to as low as 20mph.
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Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Josh Hughes, partner and head of complex injury at Bolt Burdon Kemp, commented on the potential law changes.
He said: “The potential for the scrapping the 70mph speed limit on UK motorways appears unlikely to gain much traction – in fact, it is difficult to see where the serious demand really is for the proposal.
“It is well-established that driving at higher speeds is detrimental to fuel economy and increases harmful emissions.
“On that basis, calls for scrapping or increasing the speed limit would almost certainly be unpopular with more prudent motorists and environmentalists.”
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In 2011, the Government proposed to raise motorway speed limits to 80mph, but plans were rejected over fears they would increase emissions.
Then-Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced his intention to consult on raising the national speed limit on motorways from 70 to 80 miles per hour.
He said he wanted to make the speed limits reflect the reality of modern vehicles and driving conditions, not those from 50 years ago.
Hammond, who is now a life peer in the House of Lords, added that it would provide “hundreds of millions of pounds of benefits for the economy”.
Josh Hughes continued, saying: “In so far as safety is concerned, countries with de-restricted motorways (notably Germany) report higher rates of deaths on motorways than we do in the UK.
“Speed is invariably a factor in the road collisions that lead to personal injury and death on our roads.
“Even at 70mph, drivers are often caught-out by the distance it takes to slow their vehicle when coming upon a collision or traffic jam on the motorway.
“To my mind, as night follows day, if speed limits are scrapped or the limit increased, there will be many who will drive recklessly and give themselves too little time and space so as to avoid collisions on motorways.”
Germany’s Autobahn famously does not have a speed limit in parts, with many sections having a speed limit of 120km/h (74mph).
If a stretch of road has a black and white sign, it indicates a de-restricted section, where the recommended speed is 130km/h (80mph), although this is only advisory.
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