/ Motoring

What’s the real cost of an 80mph speed limit?

The increased 80mph motorway speed limit debate has raged here on Which? Conversation. But now the proposition for the 10mph increase has been hit with a new stumbling block…

The Road Safety Foundation (RSF) has stated this week that England’s motorway network just isn’t up to coping safely with an 80mph traffic flow.

According to its report, the RSF said existing motorways in the country do not offer enough protection to drivers and car occupants if the limit is increased. There would, it says, be an increase in the number of shunt crashes and there currently isn’t enough prevention to stop drivers running off the road.

Concerned by reduced fuel efficiency

But my long standing issue isn’t just with the effects on road safety, as motorways can always be rectified and improved. Instead, it’s the financial burden of an 80mph limit on motorists’ wallets that has concerned me.

According to the AA, two thirds of its members support the speed limit increase. But have these drivers looked into the efficiency pitfalls of this, which are clearly presented on the AA’s site? It says that ‘cruising at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph’.

And we already know that fuel prices are one of the key issues crippling consumers’ bank accounts at the moment. According to a recent survey from car valuation firm Glass’, as many as 38% of motorists said they would give up driving entirely within a year if prices at the pumps continue to rise.

Mileage matters on motorways

But with fuel efficiency being severely impacted by a motorway speed increase, drivers are ultimately going to get less mileage out of the fuel they’ve taken onboard.

And if people become more concerned about the extra 10mph eating away at their miles per gallon (mpg) figures, there could be serious safety repercussions with motorists lowering their speeds  to achieve a better return when the majority of traffic is moving at 80mph.

You can use our fuel economy calculator for an accurate interpretation of what an individual car’s mpg is. But for now, we want to know if the reduced fuel efficiency of an increased motorway speed limit would be an issue for you?

Comments
Member

Even if the speed limit gets upped to 80mph, there’s nothing forcing people to drive at that speed if the don’t want to. If they’re driving a shed, can’t afford the extra fuel or whatever they can still drive at 70 or 55 (just as long as they don’t hog the overtaking lane)

I wonder if anyone has done any research on what %age of people in fact drive above the 70 mph limit now. Chances are its the same roads and the same people so all an 80 limit might mean is no speeding ticket for actually doing the same speed.

Member
John Symons says:
17 May 2012

I agree. If some drive at 80 mph there has to be an unprecedented degree of lane discipline if less wasteful drivers are to drive safely, although it is clear that many drive at more than 70 or even more than 80 already. I doubt whether this proposal could be combined with other ideas such as allowing the hard shoulder to be used. There is also an increased risk of or greater impact from collisions with birds, deer, etc

Member
Daz says:
17 May 2012

Absolute rubbish (RSF) as most drivers break the speed limit now anyway so the increase in the limit would do nothing to change the status quo.

Member

Any decrease in fuel efficiency is counterbalanced through an increase in time efficiency. However, an increase to 80mph will only legalise what most drivers already do and which many police forces already turn a blind eye to. Coupled with a speed limit increase, as others have said, we definitely need a new specific offence of “driving in an overtaking lane without overtaking”.

Member

Not sure I agree entirely with the increase in time efficiency counterbalancing the reduction in fuel efficiency – I don’t see how arriving somewhere quicker will save you money in most cases?

And if you truly believe there’s currently a blind eye turned to travelling at 80mph on a motorway, do you think this will increase to 90mph if the limit is upped?

Member

Time efficiency is not only about saving money; it’s also about reducing time wasted while driving at an unnecessarily slow speed, resulting in increased time to other more interesting or productive tasks before and after a journey. Compare our low motorway speed limit with other European countries, most of which have fewer lanes and some of which have greater traffic densities.

Some police forces tolerate up to 90mph already, provided that the driver’s conduct is otherwise perfect. I doubt there would be any change in the current enforcement approach.

Member

My employer charges me out to clients at £175 an hour, so IN THEORY spending an hour more with the client and an hour less in the car would earn my employer £175. But in reality…

The time saving, i.e. the costs involved, are trivial. On a typical journey I’d save no more than 15 minutes from an increase in the speed limit.
The amount of work I do for the client is usually fixed, so it just means I start and finish a little later.

The argument that “Many people break this law” is feeble. If murder were to become commonplace would that be an argument to repeal the laws on murder?

Driving in an overtaking lane without overtaking, whilst very annoying, creates no danger to other road users in the vast majority of cases. And if it did, I’m sure it will be covered by existing motoring laws. So there is no need for a specific offence, an offence which would be difficult to define precisely and difficult to enforce.

Member

I wish the Cumbrian police could take a commonsense veiw of “speeding”. I was charged with doing 80mph on the M6 at Tebay while overtaking a slower vehicle, and it was very quiet that morning. I wrote a letter to the cheif constable explaining the circumstances, but received a letter back from his underling giving no ground for any excuse whatsoever. There is a place for “speed camera” vehicles but not on the top of motorway flyovers that are only there for revenue and nothing to do with road safety.

Member

beedee

Do you really expect the Chief Constable to reply personally and explain that there is no excuse for breaking the law?

Just pay up, inform your insurance company of your offence and expect to pay an increased premium for the next few years. 🙁

Perhaps we could get together and set up a campaign to get vehicle manufacturers to sell cars that will not exceed 70 mph. Better still if they can’t exceed any speed limit. After all, I’ve twice had speeding tickets for exceeding 30 mph on a dual carriageway, in the days before speed awareness courses were offered as an alternative to fixed penalties.

Member

If the RSF is really concerned about safety then they would be campaigning for a decrease in the speed limit when it is wet. (Most cars using wipers is a reasonable definition). 80mph in the dry on a motorway is really quite safe, anything over 60mph in the rain is not. They manage to have this rule across the channel so why not here?

Member
Phil says:
17 May 2012

It once again boils down to the speed limit being a maximum and not compulsory. It should be up to drivers to know they need to drive slower in heavy rain but I would agree many do not.

Many motorways do have variable speed limits and I think this is something that ought to be extended.

Member

Many people think the MOT test period should have been extended to two years. Some choose to drive without insurance. Many make phone calls or send texts when driving. Not many give any thought to the effect of driving on the environment other than how this is reflected in fuel costs. In the circumstances, why do we need speed limits or any rules about driving when we could trust the judgment of individual motorists? It would be interesting to know what our roads would be like if personal freedom prevailed.

Please will some manufacturer come up with a car that cannot exceed the speed limit for the road I am driving on. Then I could focus on what other drivers are doing rather than watching the speedometer. I am happy for the motorway speed limit to stay at 70mph. I appreciate that cars have improved greatly in recent years and there are fewer drunk drivers but the standard of driving does not seem to have improved greatly.

Member

This report is base on the assumption that most people people actually obey the 70MPh speed limit. When any motorist will tell you this is clearly not so.
Try doing 70MPH in the ‘fast’ lane on a motorway, and count the seconds until you are flashed by someone 3 feet away from your rear bumper.
Remember a few years ago police were trying to ticket those doing 70MPH or under in the ‘fast’ lane for obstructing traffic.
Our motorway network already has to cope with people driving in excess of 80MPH, so to cite the inability of the system to cope with traffic moving at this speed is disingenuous to say the least.
The issue is not speed, our cars today are safer than ever, it is the human at the wheel that is the problem.
We don’t need mare safety measures for cars, we need safer people driving them.
As we all appear to have a stupidity gene, I believe as wavechange & other commenter’s do that we need to be able to govern the speed of our motor vehicles, for our own protection, after all we now have braking controls, so lets go the whole 9 yards on this.
I read a graphic novel some time ago, the theme was that drivers were unregulated and allowed to do as they saw fit on the roads, lets just say that it involved fitting weapons on the cars, detachable hub caps with land mines etc…. Interesting read.

Member

m.

I cannot be sure but the stupidity gene (if it exists) seems to be confined to those who have either two X-chomosomes or both an X and Y-chromosome. 🙂

Member

@wavechange

You just had to go there 🙂

Member

And thanks for your humour, which provides a little light relief from the collective whinging on this forum.

Member

Agreed we need safer people, but that is just one part. A slow and hesitant driver is often just as dangerous as a fast and aggressive driver.

Also if you say all cars must have an automatic speed control then that penalises the poorer as everyone will have to get a brand new car, making motorways a high speed road for the elite.

There are many ideas floating around about how we can save all these deaths, but the simple fact remains that humans are pretty stupid overall. An 80mph limit on the motorway won’t make any difference to anyone either financially or from a safety point of view.

What is important is lane discipline and driver education as cars are extremely strong these days and if anything average speeds on all roads have been decreasing, lowering the risk of death even further.

Member

I did not suggest that everyone should have a a car that will not exceed the speed limit, but I would like one and so might others. I would not be interested in paying a lot or having to buy a large, expensive car to have this facility.

In the same way that we have to cope with rain and driving in the dark, we need to cope with slow and hesitant drivers. It’s not as bad as being stationary in a long traffic jam.

I don’t know what effect an 80mph limit would have on safety but there is no doubt that it will increase fuel consumption. Not that I have every established this for myself, of course. 🙂

Member
Simon says:
18 May 2012

The more important issue to be tackled by braver government (instead of one pandering to the ever increasing needs of the human race to get from A to B quicker for no apparent reason) is to DECREASE to 20mph the current 30mph limit on all residential roads in order to save lives. Those who disagree may wish to explain their reasoning to anyone who has lost a child or relative in an accident who (research proves) could have been saved had speeds involved been lower. Everyone knows that speed limits, whether at the top or bottom end of the spectrum, are broken; the trick is to make the starting point high enough to be acceptable, but low enough to ensure that pedestrians are given a fighting chance. As for motorways, considering all arguments, I think the 70mph limit is just about right…

Member
Dave Buckingham says:
18 May 2012

phew some difference in comments here but as most state, most drivers already exceed the legal limit and a good percentage that I encounter seem to prefer 80mph (not that they wouldn’t do more if the roads were clear I would wager)I have averaged around 70,000 miles per year for the past 5 years and used a 1.9TDi Audi A4. I had a couple of years racing to get every where in a hurry and averaged around 40mpg. For the past 3 years now I keep to around 60mph and average 56mpg (and on one run to Norwich from North Wales, I even managed 61mpg). Excellent return but, guess what? I still arrive at the same times as I did when speeding (speeding I said, not exceeding the speed limit) After using the M25 several times, in the variable speed limit areas, when the traffic is restricted to say 50mph or 60mph there never seems to be any traffic problems. Also, I am in favour of the chevrons on motorways (keep 2 chevrons apart) this does seem reduce tail gaters, not all but a lot of them and traffic flow seems to be improved. So, a reduction in collisions and fuel useage !!

Member
Richard says:
18 May 2012

I agree with the general view that increasing the speed limit to 80 will not make a significant difference to the speed that most people drive but it will stop people slowing down in lane 3 when they see a “jam sandwich” ahead. The overall key to managing speed in the acronym “SLICE”: Sensible Limits Informed Cautioned and Enforced. I would like to more “your current speed is” displays but all fitted with forward facing speed cameras to catch anyone who wants to see how fast they can go!

But I have a more serious concern about our current motorway traffic management plans. I think that MIDAS is fundamentally flawed. (MIDAS is the automatic speed limit system that is meant to sense congestion ahead and slow down approaching traffic.) Last week the MIDAS signs on the M25 from J10 to J8, about 10 miles, were all showing 60. The traffic was light and there was no obvious reason for the speed limit but according to the Highways Agency they were “working correctly”. What defence would I have if I got stopped for doing 70? Also in my experience the signs stay on for a long time after the congestion has cleared causing traffic to go slower than necessary.

What’s everyone else’s experience?

Member

Ever since my, now deceased, cousin told me his experience of being shown round the M25 control station and asking why is that stretch of road under a 50 limit and getting the answer, oops it shouldn’t be, we forgot to change it. Whenever I see a redcution in speed on the M25 with no visible reason other than to bunch traffic up, I wonder if its the same reason.

He was an ambulance driver.

Member

Irrelevant restrictions probably do not aid compliance. I recently encountered a 40mph restriction on a motorway bridge, in place because of high winds. Very sensible but the end of the restriction continued for more than a mile after the bridge.

Member

Higher speed limit =

More fuel used.
i.e. More cost
i.e. Bad for our economy (because road fuel is imported).
i.e. Using up a precious resource whose future supply is in grave doubt.
i.e. More expensive goods in the shops (because, in reality, limits for goods vehicles will follow suit within a couple of years)

More pollution.
i.e. More asthma and other respiratory problems in children.
i.e. More strain on the NHS.
i.e. More global warming; and other costly actions to offset this

More accidents.
More serious accidents.
i.e. More strain on the NHS
i.e. More strain on the Police Service
i.e. More strain on the Fire and Rescue Service
i.e. More road closures and delays
i.e. More distraught families
i.e. Higher insurance costs due to more and bigger insurance claims

But, of course, if your 150 mile journey includes 100 miles of motorway you’ll save NEARLY ELEVEN MINUTES on your journey time!!

Let’s leave it at 70mph.

Member
Phil says:
18 May 2012

Good point about pollution, it’s the hidden killer, taking far more lives than accidents. A figure of 50,000 a year was put forward in a report to parliament last year although not all of that is from road transport. Overall the UK has failed to meet EU standards for air quality for a decade or more, clearly we need to be addressing this as a priority.

Member

Don’t forget all the pollution caused in producing the fuel used for road transport and the fact that many of us are driving around in large cars that use a lot more fuel. Of course this does not make the headlines like deaths caused by a good motorway pile-up.

Member

Will we need new cars, or can we get away with an adjustment to the control systems of our modern cars to reduce the maximum speed?
Mercedes have governed their cars to 155MPH at least since 1981 [my SL was restricted back then], I have never bothered to find out how they did this, as I have never aspired to drive one anywhere near this speed.
I know after the war some hire car companies used to restrict vehicles to 30MPH, this was a mechanical adjustment.
Any knowledgeable mechanics out their who can tell us if this can or cannot be done ‘on the cheap’.

I do not agree with the max 20MPH in town, that can only be enforced by speed cameras on every road, and will add to our pollution problem, the only result will be more revenue raised by fines. An idiot doping 50MPH outside of a school would still be doing it no matter the speed limit.
The law says you should drive at the speed appropriate for the conditions, so under 5MPH is appropriate when passing schools and in busy high streets, and 30MPH may be appropriate at other times, only driver education can make our roads safer, not draconian legislation, which people will break at every opportunity.
30MPH is the maximum permitted speed, you do not have the right to drive at that speed.

If you want to stop accidents involving cars and pedestrians, ban cars from our cities.
This is not an off the wall idea, I do have a plan for car free towns that would solve a lot of our traffic problems.

Member
Phil says:
18 May 2012

Increasingly companies with large fleets of vans and cars are having speed limiters fitted, my employer is doing so with all new vehicles. These are simply a “black box” wired into the engine management system. They seem to be fairly tamper proof, one van driver disconnected the device only to find that his van wouldn’t start; even when he re-connected it it still wouldn’t start and a technician had to be called. He, the van driver, is in a spot of bother as you might imagine.

Clearly whatever the cost these companies are finding it cost effective in terms of reduced fuel and insurance bills.

Member
Matthew says:
18 May 2012

Maybe we need to drop maximum arbitrary speed limits in favour of flexible ones that can be raised and lowered depending on conditions. On the one hand, it is often not safe to travel at 70 whereas there are times when it would make any impact on a persons safety if they chose to travel at 120, provided their car was designed for that kind of performance. I am one who finds speed limits annoying, not because they are too low, sometimes they are quite appropriate, its just that they are so arbitrary and they criminalise normal good honest people, that’s not justice.

Member
Dave Buckingham says:
18 May 2012

Re. the comment ‘driving in an overtaking lane without actually overtaking causes no accidents’. In general I would agree but would also comment that: On a motorway when drivers insist that the ‘centre lane’ to be used at all costs (mostly so they are not over taken by someone else and then find a problem getting back into the centre lane) this very effectively reduces the motorway into a dual carriage way. An experience to share also: Whilst driving on the A3 (dual carriageway remember) coming into London from Guildford a couple of years ago, I approached the A3 and noticed that the left lane was completely empty for as far as I could see. The right lane was fairly busy but moving along at around 50 ish. I carried on in the left lane at 50, just keeping behind the last vehicle. More cars filled up the void behind the last car (none would pull in behind me. As the right lane started to slow, I carried on for about 1 mile, totally untroubled by any traffic at all. There was a gap of around 60 metres in the right lane and as I pulled alongside a Mercedes, the driver looked at me, shook his fist and accelerated hard (I am guessing, he thought I was going to pull into the gap in front of him) as he did so, he continued looking at me and, yes, you guessed, the BMW in front braked and captain Mercedes slammed into the rear of the Beemer. I admit to smiling to myself, sorry me Beemer but I smiled. I carried on in the left lane and pulled into Merton totally traffic free.I was at Tesco and watched the traffic all disappear and the blue light inevitable arriving. All because of not just one drivers greed and stupidity but EVERY driver in that right lane, you are ALL to blame. How much fuel was used crawling along that morning. How easily would it have been to, well, you all know the rest…………………

Member

Unless there are specific restrictions in place signposted at frequent intervals, all dual carriageway roads have a maximum speed for cars of 70 mph. This is convenient and easy to remember, and some of the modern dual-carriageway roads are designed to high standards. If there is a case for raising the limit on Motorways – and personally I am not persuaded – then I would strongly argue that the limit should remain at 70 mph on all-purpose dual carriageways. Many of these roads are not so well-designed as Motorways for the current speed limit with their tighter radius curves, gradients, roundabouts, offside exits, short acceleration/deceleration lanes at junctions, and absence of hard shoulders. The sighting distances for signs and the size of lettering are inferior to Motorway standards. The exits from these roads frequently involve rapid deceleration, steep gradients and sharp bends culminating in traffic signals. The all-purpose dual carriageways can usually also be used by vehicles prohibited from using Motorways, such as pedestrians, learner drivers, tractors and combine harvesters, and powered wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Raising the speed limit from 70 to 80 mph appears to be quite popular and the sort of thing that appeals to politicians. I just hope this will be thought through very carefully and that if road safety arguments do not prevail then deep consideration will at least be given to the fuel waste and pollution issues.

Member
Clayton Ryan-Jackson says:
14 November 2012

Even if the speed limit gets upped to 80mph, there’s nothing forcing people to drive at that speed if the don’t want to. If they’re driving a shed, can’t afford the extra fuel or whatever they can still drive at 70 or 55 (just as long as they don’t hog the overtaking lane)
I wonder if anyone has done any research on what %age of people in fact drive above the 70 mph limit now. Chances are its the same roads and the same people so all an 80 limit might mean is no speeding ticket for actually doing the same speed.
I agree. If some drive at 80 mph there has to be an unprecedented degree of lane discipline if less wasteful drivers are to drive safely, although it is clear that many drive at more than 70 or even more than 80 already. I doubt whether this proposal could be combined with other ideas such as allowing the hard shoulder to be used. There is also an increased risk of or greater impact from collisions with birds, deer, etc
Time efficiency is not only about saving money; it’s also about reducing time wasted while driving at an unnecessarily slow speed, resulting in increased time to other more interesting or productive tasks before and after a journey. Compare our low motorway speed limit with other European countries, most of which have fewer lanes and some of which have greater traffic densities.
Some police forces tolerate up to 90mph already, provided that the driver’s conduct is otherwise perfect. I doubt there would be any change in the current enforcement approach.
My employer charges me out to clients at £175 an hour, so IN THEORY spending an hour more with the client and an hour less in the car would earn my employer £175. But in reality…
The time saving, i.e. the costs involved, are trivial. On a typical journey I’d save no more than 15 minutes from an increase in the speed limit.
The amount of work I do for the client is usually fixed, so it just means I start and finish a little later.
The argument that “Many people break this law” is feeble. If murder were to become commonplace would that be an argument to repeal the laws on murder?
Driving in an overtaking lane without overtaking, whilst very annoying, creates no danger to other road users in the vast majority of cases. And if it did, I’m sure it will be covered by existing motoring laws. So there is no need for a specific offence, an offence which would be difficult to define precisely and difficult to enforce.
This report is base on the assumption that most people people actually obey the 70MPh speed limit. When any motorist will tell you this is clearly not so.
Try doing 70MPH in the ‘fast’ lane on a motorway, and count the seconds until you are flashed by someone 3 feet away from your rear bumper.
Remember a few years ago police were trying to ticket those doing 70MPH or under in the ‘fast’ lane for obstructing traffic.
Our motorway network already has to cope with people driving in excess of 80MPH, so to cite the inability of the system to cope with traffic moving at this speed is disingenuous to say the least.
The issue is not speed, our cars today are safer than ever, it is the human at the wheel that is the problem.
We don’t need mare safety measures for cars, we need safer people driving them.
As we all appear to have a stupidity gene, I believe as wavechange & other commenter’s do that we need to be able to govern the speed of our motor vehicles, for our own protection, after all we now have braking controls, so lets go the whole 9 yards on this.
I read a graphic novel some time ago, the theme was that drivers were unregulated and allowed to do as they saw fit on the roads, lets just say that it involved fitting weapons on the cars, detachable hub caps with land mines etc….
Agreed we need safer people, but that is just one part. A slow and hesitant driver is often just as dangerous as a fast and aggressive driver.
Also if you say all cars must have an automatic speed control then that penalises the poorer as everyone will have to get a brand new car, making motorways a high speed road for the elite.
There are many ideas floating around about how we can save all these deaths, but the simple fact remains that humans are pretty stupid overall. An 80mph limit on the motorway won’t make any difference to anyone either financially or from a safety point of view.
What is important is lane discipline and driver education as cars are extremely strong these days and if anything average speeds on all roads have been decreasing, lowering the risk of death even further.
Will we need new cars, or can we get away with an adjustment to the control systems of our modern cars to reduce the maximum speed?
Mercedes have governed their cars to 155MPH at least since 1981 [my SL was restricted back then], I have never bothered to find out how they did this, as I have never aspired to drive one anywhere near this speed.
I know after the war some hire car companies used to restrict vehicles to 30MPH, this was a mechanical adjustment.
Any knowledgeable mechanics out their who can tell us if this can or cannot be done ‘on the cheap’.
I do not agree with the max 20MPH in town, that can only be enforced by speed cameras on every road, and will add to our pollution problem, the only result will be more revenue raised by fines. An idiot doping 50MPH outside of a school would still be doing it no matter the speed limit.
The law says you should drive at the speed appropriate for the conditions, so under 5MPH is appropriate when passing schools and in busy high streets, and 30MPH may be appropriate at other times, only driver education can make our roads safer, not draconian legislation, which people will break at every opportunity.
30MPH is the maximum permitted speed, you do not have the right to drive at that speed.
If you want to stop accidents involving cars and pedestrians, ban cars from our cities.
This is not an off the wall idea, I do have a plan for car free towns that would solve a lot of our traffic problems.
Unless there are specific restrictions in place signposted at frequent intervals, all dual carriageway roads have a maximum speed for cars of 70 mph. This is convenient and easy to remember, and some of the modern dual-carriageway roads are designed to high standards. If there is a case for raising the limit on Motorways – and personally I am not persuaded – then I would strongly argue that the limit should remain at 70 mph on all-purpose dual carriageways. Many of these roads are not so well-designed as Motorways for the current speed limit with their tighter radius curves, gradients, roundabouts, offside exits, short acceleration/deceleration lanes at junctions, and absence of hard shoulders. The sighting distances for signs and the size of lettering are inferior to Motorway standards. The exits from these roads frequently involve rapid deceleration, steep gradients and sharp bends culminating in traffic signals. The all-purpose dual carriageways can usually also be used by vehicles prohibited from using Motorways, such as pedestrians, learner drivers, tractors and combine harvesters, and powered wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Raising the speed limit from 70 to 80 mph appears to be quite popular and the sort of thing that appeals to politicians. I just hope this will be thought through very carefully and that if road safety arguments do not prevail then deep consideration will at least be given to the fuel waste and pollution issues.