Increase in motorway speed limit poses risks to health

January 6, 2012

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.

Explore further: Speed cameras in urban areas save millions in cash

Related Stories

Speed cameras in urban areas save millions in cash

July 28, 2011
The deployment of speed cameras in urban areas saves vast amounts of money as well as lives, reveals a two year financial analysis, published online in Injury Prevention.

Recommended for you

Americans misinformed about smoking

August 22, 2017
After voluminous research studies, numerous lawsuits and millions of deaths linked to cigarettes, it might seem likely that Americans now properly understand the risks of smoking.

Women who sexually abuse children are just as harmful to their victims as male abusers

August 21, 2017
"That she might seduce a helpless child into sexplay is unthinkable, and even if she did so, what harm can be done without a penis?"

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.7 / 5 (7) 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.
2.3 / 5 (3) 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.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 06, 2012
BMJ is at it again publishing pure bunk.
2.6 / 5 (5) 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.

2.3 / 5 (6) 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
4 / 5 (1) 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."

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.