Amazing to me how much foolish comment is being expended by officials over something as inconsequential as the possible raising of the national motorway speed limit from 70 to 80mph.
All we’re doing, surely, is bringing ourselves into line with the vast majority of European countries. Much more important, we’re simply adopting the unofficial law Britain’s car-users drafted more than 40 years ago.
Any realist will tell you that for as long as motoways have existed, 80mph has been viewed as the respectable, the stay-out-of-trouble motorway speed by responsible, competent drivers. Go slower, especially in the outside lanes, and you’ll needlessly impede those behind; go much faster and you start catching the traffic ahead.
You can discount all the nonsense about the speed hike causing more accidents or more rapidly expending the earth’s precious resources. I predict surprisingly few of us will drive any faster or slower. The “fatality” and “CO2” arguments are being formulated, predictably enough, by that curious band of commentators who mysteriously claim to know what’s right for cars while glorying in having as little as possible to do with them.
Anyone who genuinely plies the motorways knows that what truly saves fuel and prevents accidents is a driver’s willingness to maintain a steady course and speed (even 80mph), avoiding lots of lane-changing, or constant speeding up or slowing down. My own recent experience with a Mercedes S-class diesel is that you could do 40mpg-plus journeys in the thing, while cruising with the traffic at 83mph, provided you never let rip with the acceleration.
It’ll be interesting, mind you, to know the fate of the so-called ACPO guidelines on speed. As any fule kno, the ‘real’ speed limit since Mrs Castle brought us 70mph all those years ago has been 70mph plus 10 per cent, plus 2. So 79mph before you collected the ticket. And 96mph before you were summonsed.
Does this now mean 90mph for the former and 100-plus the latter? Personally, I hope not. Driving older cars teaches you that if you can maintain something north of 60mph on a day-long journey, you’ll get to your destination around half an hour behind the bloke risking all in the Porsche Turbo. It might be less, actually, if your steadier pace means fewer fuel stops. Me? I’ll be doing 83mph as normal, which is an actual 80mph true when you allow for the speedo error. After all these years, I’m no longer a law-breaker.
Have your say on the proposed 80mph speed limit here: