Speed and spend

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In a climate where every penny is crucial and the idea of saving the planet and saving money go hand in hand, the speeding debate has been reopened following suggestions that the Government is planning to increase motorway speed limits.

Roads minister Mike Penning told the Daily Mirror: “We need to look at the economic benefits of shorter journey times as well as considering implications for road safety”, but also added: “Any proposals to change national speed limits would be subject to public consultation.”

The 70mph motorway limit was originally brought into force in the mid-1960s as a temporary measure but has remained in place ever since, particularly as a fuel-saving measure during the fuel crisis of 1973.

Now the debate has reopened, with the suggestions that a reduction in journey times would be beneficial to all.

However, road safety charity Brake has outlined strong opposition to the change. Ellen Booth, Brake’s campaigns officer, said: “It would be simply immoral to raise motorway speech limits when research indicates it would lead to more deaths and serious injuries, which cause devastating trauma to families, and which are a considerable economic burden.

“It would also fly in the face of this Government’s commitment to lower carbon emissions. In short, a decision to raise the motorway limit would go against safety, environmental and financial sense.”

Supporters of the move highlight that motorways have the fewest accidents when compared with urban streets and country lanes, and that Britain has one of the best safety records in Europe.

Road safety has also moved on in the decades since the original limit was set: every new car on sale today has ABS and airbags, while safety systems such as Electronic Stability Control are either standard or optional on almost every available model.

With just a few months until the summer recess any decision to press ahead with the legislation will happen in a matter weeks, but with the Spanish government implementing speed reductions in order to save fuel and the mood of austerity firmly in people’s minds, it is hard to tell whether the move will meet with public approval or apathy.