“Since long before Britain’s first motorway opened in 1958, pleas for an upper speed limit on them have been heard with depressing regularity,” we sighed 58 years ago.
“Now the matter has come up again, and this time it’s [government body] the National Road Safety Council which has reportedly proposed a limit of between 50mph and 70mph after dark.”
“Quite how this has arisen from a series of disastrous concertina accidents [on the M6] when drivers were hampered by fog is difficult to understand,” we continued.
Indeed, the local chief constable had admitted on television that the speeds involved hadn’t been high – less than 30mph, in fact.
“As regular users of British motorways know, there’s no need for a limit,” we asserted, citing drivers bunching up and staring at their speedometers too much as negative potential consequences.
We were obviously horrified, then, when Labour’s transport minister, Tom Fraser, “jumped in with both feet” and imposed a general speed limit of 70mph and a 30mph one in foggy conditions on a four-month trial basis.
“Why has this been done?” we asked. “One answer is that no one knows for certain, after years of talk and experiment, whether such a limit will reduce the number or severity of accidents. This [trial] may produce some valuable information.
“Another answer may be that a government whose main claim to fame in the transport field so far has been to add 6d a gallon on petrol and slow down road building felt compelled to make some dramatic move or other.
“Without doubt, too, quite a large and sincere section of the public with little or no experience of driving and no appreciation of the long-term effects will applaud this decision.”