Increase in motorway speed limit poses risks to health

Government plans to increase the motorway speed limit in England and Wales will have adverse effects on health, outweighing any economic benefits, claims an editorial published in the British Medical Journal today.

The authors, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, criticise government proposals to raise the speed limit on all motorways in England and Wales from 70mph to 80mph by the year 2013.

The government argues that deaths on road in the United Kingdom have fallen by 75% in the past 55 years thanks to advances in car safety and see it fit to increase the speed limit as "almost half of all drivers break the current limit anyway". They add, furthermore, that since 1967 the number of serious and has continued to fall and as such, the UK now has one of the lowest rates of road deaths in the world.

The authors of the editorial challenge all of these arguments. They question the basis of the suggested economic benefits, given that the higher limit will not extend to heavy good vehicles. However, their main concern draws on research which links an "exponential" increase in crashes (resulting in injury and death) to a rise in . In the US, higher speed limits introduced in 1995 resulted in a 16.6% increase in deaths due to . The speed limit increase followed a reduction in speed back in 1975 in response to the 1974 oil crisis. The laws on highways and freeways changed from 65mph to 70-75mph and from 55mph to 60-65mph.

They also identify other health related reasons for keeping the current limit, including the increase of , and potential rise in obesity due to more people taking advantage of shorter car journeys.

The authors comment: "It is difficult to see how any benefits of an 80mph speed limit would outweigh the costs: past evidence shows that speed limit increases lead to substantial rises in road deaths, as well as other potential negative health and ."

The authors argue that this proposal appears to be a "populist gimmick" by the coalition government. Given the recent loss of life on the M5 motorway, they challenge the government to produce the evidence to justify their policy with its attendant risks to life.

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Jan 06, 2012
Of course. Real life saving benefits will accrue from reducing the speed limit to below 5 mph. If the goal is to contain fuel use, 0 mph has great potential.

Allowing people to travel efficiently makes no sense at all.
Jan 06, 2012
Drivers will still have the CHOICE to drive at the old speed limit.

These nanny state authors love to impose their life style choices on the populace but I'll bet that they will also drive at the higher speed once it is implemented.
Jan 06, 2012
BMJ is at it again publishing pure bunk.
Jan 07, 2012
Highway speed limits will be 40 MPH, 60 Km/h by 2050.

This will be required to reduce transportation fuel consumption. An car traveling at 80 MPH will consume approximately 5 times as much fuel as the same car at 40 MPH.

At 60 Km/h, automotive construction materials will also be strong enough to protect passengers in almost every crash. as a result, driving fatalities will drop to near zero.

Jan 07, 2012
Correct Tard Boy. For more than half the jobs that exist today, office presence isn't needed at all. Tellecommuting makes much more sense than physically commuting.

"If the goal is to contain fuel use, 0 mph has great potential." - DogBerTard
Jan 09, 2012
Of course. Real life saving benefits will accrue from reducing the speed limit to below 5 mph. If the goal is to contain fuel use, 0 mph has great potential.
Allowing people to travel efficiently makes no sense at all.

I heard this from Germans on the Autobahn: "if you can't drive competently, buy a donkey."

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