Why our speed limits need an overhaul
22 May 2008 09:07
Plans to reduce the speed limit on small residential roads to 20mph, to be championed by road safety minister Jim Fitzpatrick, are welcome.
The current 30 ‘built-up area’ limit – just under half the speed allowed on motorways – is clearly too fast for quiet narrow residential roads where children play, dogs frolic and old ladies amble across the road for a nice cuppa. Twenty, on the other hand, seems about right. Twenty allows quiet roads to be playgrounds as well as thoroughfares.
While the government has got speed on its mind, now would be a good time to review the whole limit lunacy. Instead of the confusing variability on urban dual carriageways – in my neck of west London, we have 30, 40 and 50 mph limits apparently chosen at random, all strictly policed by Gatsos – we should agree an in-town dual carriageway limit: say 50 mph?
And instead of our outdated 70 maximum on motorways – a speed introduced 43 years ago when we were all driving Ford Cortinas fitted with crossply tyres and iffy drum brakes – we need a realistic limit.
I suggest 85, which ties in with many mainland European countries (130 km/h or 81 mph is the max in France and Italy). Eighty-five is the de facto limit anyway on motorways. Eighty-five is the speed at which rational people drive and reasonable police officers accept.
Like previously proscribed activities – such as gay relationships, flying kites and shaking your doormat onto the street – it is merely legitimising what sensible people already happily accept.