/ Motoring

Do we need a minimum speed limit on our roads?

Cartoon of a snail on wheels

There’s been a lot of talk about raising the speed limit on the motorway to 80mph, but I’m more interested in your thoughts on raising the limit from the bottom instead of the top. Time for a minimum speed limit?

It emerged a couple of weeks ago that the government plans to radically overhaul Britain’s road regulations, expanding the number of 20mph zones in cities and towns, but also increasing the motorway speed limit from 70 to 80mph.

It’s certainly a subject that has got you talking here on Which? Conversation, but it was a more recent headline grabber that got me thinking about the opposite end of the spectrum.

Excessively slow travelling vehicles can be a hazard

Last Friday I read the report about Caroline Turner, a 76-year old Great Grandmother from Romford who led police on a 27-mile “chase” at 10mph through Essex.

The pensioner, who had reportedly driven the wrong way round a roundabout, was finally stopped by a police officer on the A12 who was RUNNING alongside her car, on a dual carriageway!

This is clearly an extreme case, but there’s no doubt that excessively slow travelling vehicles can be a hazard on the road.

Substantially slower-travelling cars disrupt the flow of traffic on motorways, creating long tailbacks as freight vehicles attempt to overtake, and easily catching drivers out who don’t expect to emerge behind another car travelling 20 or 30mph slower than the maximum limit.

And slow-moving motors become even more dangerous away from the motorway, on open roads that have the national speed limit of 60mph.

There’s no question that being stuck behind someone on a clear piece of road travelling at 30 or 40mph is frustrating (in fact, driving too slowly currently has 7% of the votes in our poll of biggest pet hates about other drivers), but this can sometimes lead to drivers attempting dangerous overtakes as their patience wears thin.

Could a minimum speed limit be policed?

The fundamental problem with the idea is that policing a minimum speed limit would be difficult. There are always going to be exemptions to the rule of travelling at a minimum speed: car issues, like slow punctures and activated limp modes; onboard issues, like a passenger feeling sick or a pet onboard; and condition issues, like driving slower due to fog or ice.

There’s also a case for motorists to drive at a speed that they feel comfortable and safe at, and it’s fair to say that not all drivers share the same confidence levels.

But sometimes, especially when sat in the fast lane of a motorway behind a 20-car long queue all stranded behind a lorry overtaking a family hatchback, I do wonder if there needs to be more emphasis on the importance of driving at a respectable speed, especially as it can be a case of road safety for the slow driver and their passengers and other road users around them.

Does slow moving traffic grate on you? And do you think there should be increased education about travelling at adequate and safe speeds?

maygreen says:
24 October 2014

Why should we allow the Government to increase the speed that HGV’s are allowed to drive? The standard of driving is pretty appalling now, it looks as if more deaths and injuries to car drivers are inevitable. Please can we put a stop to this idea that money is more important than people.

colin hill says:
5 June 2015

the reason they are thinking about increasing speed limits for HGV’s is to do with the amount of fatalities occurring with impatient overtaking of HGV.s on single lane country roads etc. I’m an HGV driver and having had experience of car overtaking me on a bend and killing car driver coming in opposite direction I sort of understand where they are coming from, although not a fan of all what governments do etc. I don’t think in this case it has got much to with money, if at all.

colin hill says:
5 June 2015

I’m responding to coment I just read about how annoying it is being stuck behind people going slow on a clear peice of road. Please take this into account. there are people like myself who have to stick to the speed limit no matter what, and however nonsensical the speed limit maybe on a particular bit of road. e.g. aproaching junction 25 of M5 westbound – dual carraigeway very wide but is 30 mph limit – why? I am a HGV driver who now has 6 points on lisence through not much more than bad luck and a speed camera blitz in bristol area recently and not always sure what speed limit is in certain places. If I get flashed again I’ll be unemployed as work I do, companies don’t accept drivers with more than 6 points. So the next time you get stuck behind someone going very slow on a clear peice of road with no hazards, he may be another poor sod who’s trying to stick to a ridiculously low speed limit and there might be cameras or police cctv in layby etc. Be careful.