/ Motoring

What if your car’s speed was automatically limited?

25mph speed limit

The EU is toying with asking car makers to fit speed limiters to new cars. This could automatically slow down your motor if you tried to exceed the speed limit. A step too far or a helpful road safety measure?

So how would these speed limiters work? The technology, known as the Intelligent Speed Adaptation scheme, would either use cameras in cars to read road signs, or GPS satellites to automatically send the local limits to cars.

You’d then either be warned of the speed limit, or your car’s brakes would be put into action should you get close to driving over the limit. The rules could even require speed limiters to be retrofitted to existing cars.

The EC’s Mobility and Transport Department is consulting on whether to roll out the technology in order to cut EU road deaths by a third by 2020. That’s down from the current 30,000 yearly deaths on EU roads.

However, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said that he’ll oppose these plans, stating that Britain has one of the safest road networks in Europe. UK road deaths are apparently at their lowest levels since records began in 1926. A government source said:

‘It is definitely something that [Patrick McLoughlin] is keen to resist and he has told officials that it is something we don’t want to do. To be forced to have automatic controls in your car amounts to Big Brother nannying by EU bureaucrats.’

Could speed limiters create new safety issues?

Introducing speed limiters could cause new problems according to the AA:

‘It could take away people’s ability to get themselves out of trouble with a quick burst of speed, such as in overtaking situations where the capacity to accelerate can avoid a head-on collision.’

With the way technology is going, many of us might be travelling in driverless cars in the future, where our speed is automatically regulated in car convoys anyway. Is that a future you’d like to see? And as for speed limiters, would you consent to having your car fitted with one?

Should cars be fitted with speed limiters to automatically control your speed?

No (66%, 309 Votes)

Yes (30%, 142 Votes)

I don't know (4%, 17 Votes)

Total Voters: 468

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I cannot think of many occasions when being able to exceed the speed limit would have helped me get out of trouble, but I do concede that it should be possible to override any speed control system.

I would welcome testing automatic control of maximum speed because constantly having to keep an eye on my speed and trying to work out the speed limit on certain roads is, I feel, a diversion from other aspects of safe driving.

My suggestion is that trials are conducted, so that we can see if automatic speed control makes a significant difference to road safety. It does concern me that drivers might be encouraged to drive at the speed limit rather than the appropriate speed for the prevailing road and traffic conditions.


I’ve been driving for 45 years and, since driving has frequently been a requirement of my job, I estimate that I have driven over three quarters of a million miles in that time. I’ve always had a penchant for fast cars and have owned a couple of ludicrously fast cars in my life.

Yet I can remember only one, yes only ONE, occasion where a fast car has got me out of trouble. Even then, I was still below the speed limit.


A few years ago, I came up behind a car travelling at a speed well below the speed limit and decided to overtake it. Halfway through the procedure, the car (being driven by a young girl) increased speed to a significant extent and I was obliged to accelerate quite hard in order to complete the manoeuvre
safely. Of course she should not have accelerated while being overtaken but the fact is that she did do so but I managed to accelerate out of danger. It does happen.



Why were you OBLIGED to accelerate quite hard?

Surely you had the OPTION to slow down and drop back in behind the young girl’s car. Taking this option is safer for you, safer for other road users, legal, more economical and SENSIBLE.

Or are you the macho, competitive type who will never be beaten?


Under the circumstances, completing the operation was the least risky option, for two reasons. Firstly, even if I had braked, there was no longer any remaining gap of sufficient size to pull back into safely. Secondly, there was other overtaking traffic behind me, which would have been surprised by sudden braking on my part, when the road ahead was quite clear. It has nothing to do with being “macho” at all. I would have been quite prepared to drop back if that had been the best option.

The fact remains that accelerating out of trouble is sometimes the best option. It is, of course, a matter of judgement that depends on the circumstances at the time. In this regard, there is a brief account on Wikipedia of an incident that occurred in 1952 in which London Tower Bridge started to open while a double-decker bus was on it. The driver made a split-second decision to accelerate and jump the small gap that had already opened up. He accomplished this successfully and no one was seriously injured. Had he attempted to stop, one expects that the outcome might well have been tragic.



I’m afraid that there are those contributing to this thread who have a complete blind spot about the possible need, under some circumstances, to use acceleration as a means of avoiding an incident. The opinion seems to be that it is always possible to anticipate hazards with sufficient time to go through a well defined avoidance procedure. Anyone who needs to accelerate to avoid a problem is, therefore, demonstrating they are not competent in anticipating hazards. The possibility that sometimes they may not be amenable to anticipation seems not to be within their comprehension.



I suspect your comment about “those on this thread” refers to me. May I clarify my position, please.

We are all human and fallible, even the police driving instructors you refer to elsewhere. My point is that a competent driver should find him/herself in these “accelerate-out-of-danger” situations only on extremely rare occasions. So rare that it is a fairly weak argument against fitting speed limiters to vehicles.

It sounds as if Allan, above, was forced into this situation by other people’s collective irresponsible driving. I fully sympathise. The one occasion when “accelerate-out-of-danger” saved me was when I encountered three, bloody-minded HGV drivers at once – one blocking my safety gap to the left, one to the right and one close behind me – so accelerating was the only safe option.

So, yes, I agree absolutely, fully, entirely, wholly, completely, totally, 100% that “accelerate-out-of-danger” is sometimes the best and safest way to avoid an incident. But it should be rare and if you find it is happening frequently you really should be going back for a refresher advanced driving course run by the police.



I think a well known saying concerning the fit of caps is apposite!

The reason for my comment was your, not unexpected, response to Allan’s original post about his experience. You immediately assumed that it was all his fault that he was in the situation and that he could have avoided it by other means. As you say yourself from your own experience, though, acceleration is occasionally the only option as it was in this case.

My own situation is that in 60 years of motorcycling and car driving I have only had to employ the use of acceleration only on a couple of occasions, but on the one that I mentioned in my other post it saved me from serious injury or worse. The problem is not that one driver is in this situation on many occasions but rather that many drivers find themselves in the situation once when it is critical. This is why I would oppose the idea of automatic speed limiters. In another post I give some figures from 2001 which indicate that just 12.5% of accidents are attributed to excess speed. Note that excess speed does not merely mean exceeding the speed limit. It also has to be taken into account that a percentage of these incidents involve drivers operating illegally. So, at best, applying automatic speed limiters may have an effect on fewer than 12.5% of all accidents, but because of the resultant inability to accelerate out of danger, could introduce a whole new category of accidents.

On a lighter note, I saw an excellent example of nemesis following hubris this morning. A cyclist burst from a concealed entrance and crossed the road at high speed without any attempt to look first to see if it was safe to do so – he was obviously working on the principle adopted by many cyclists that it is the responsibility of others to avoid him. When he reached to far side of he road he attempted to jump the kerb but got it terribly wrong and both he and his cycle did a most impressive forward somersault. What happened afterwards I have no idea, the bus on which I was travelling moved on.