80 not out

A few years ago, I'd have welcomed the Government's plans to increase the motorway speed limit to 80 mph. When I was schlepping up and down the motorways doing 50,000 miles a year I'd have welcome the relaxation of a limit that seemed entirely designed to generate points on licences.
Today, running Great Escape Classic Car Hire, I've changed my perspective a little. Nowadays me and my team drive over 50,000 miles a year up and down the motorways, but always with a car trailer attached. It changes your approach somewhat. With a trailer you're limited to 60 mph and the inside or middle lanes. Trucks have similar geographical restraints but are limited to 56 mph. As we trundling along on cruise we see major problems with this situation, which an increase in the speed limit for cars would exacerbate.
The fundamental problem on motorways is the relative speed between vehicles. Cars travelling at 70 mph versus trucks limited to 56 mph mean that the passing lanes regularly get cut down to one rather than two, as trucks struggle to overtake trucks. Cars travelling at at least 70mph have to squeeze past overtaking trucks, which causes bottlenecks behind the trucks (and resulting risk taking) and blind spots in front of them (particularly dangerous at motorway slip roads where cars race on to the motorway and across the lanes).
For trucks and trailers stuck at a maximum of 56 mph or 60mph, cars travelling at 70 mph or more pose significant dangers, unfortunately ones that few car drivers fully appreciate. Trucks and trailers need space to manouvre, but cars travelling at higher speeds rapidly close gaps to nothing, turning a safe manouvre into a dangerous one. Trucks and trailers often depend on the foresight of drivers to enable them to manouvre, whereby cars move over a lane to provide space.
Increasing the car speed limit will widen the speed gap between cars and trucks and therefore increase the safety risk in these situations.
Instead of increasing motorway speed limits, the limit on trucks needs to be addressed. Trucks are perfectly capable of travelling faster safely. Giving them a maximum speed that is closer to cars would improve safety for everyone. It would balance the relative speeds between cars and trucks, thereby reducing the risk of bottlenecks and impatience, and enable trucks to overtake each other faster and more safely. A 62 mph limit for trucks, equivalent to 100 kph, would move cars and trucks to safe relative speeds. It would barely impact on fuel economy and is small enough not to impact safety.
The car speed limit should remain at 70 mph. Put frankly, there are too many dangerous drivers already travelling safe in their euroboxes - increasing their ability to speed puts everyone at risk. 70 mph is a quick, economical and safe speed. I'm not a self righteous safety freak. I love driving fast cars fast and I was the one always travelling at 85 mph in the fast lane. But once I got a sat nav and realised that the extra 15 mph never got me there quicker, it only cost more in fuel, I slowed down and started to enjoy the drive.
The danger with motorways is relative speed. Increasing the gap between trucks and cars is a recipe for disaster.
Graham Eason, Great Escape Classic Car Hire, 01527 893733

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