98% of Drivers Think Speed Limits are Too Low
A recent survey from insurance company Peoples Choice found 99% of male drivers and 97% of female drivers regularly exceed the speed limit.
The measure of speed generally used when setting speed limits for maximum safety is the 85th percentile speed. This is the speed at or below which 85% of vehicles would choose to travel. It has been demonstrated that setting speed limits below the 85th percentile speed results in an increase in average speeds as drivers can see that the limit is inappropriate and thus ignore it.
The finding that 98% of drivers exceed some posted limits is evidence that many speed limits are set well below the 85th percentile speed.
ABD Chairman Brian Gregory said:
"The ideal is for drivers to adapt their speeds to the actual hazards present on a moment-by-moment basis. If we accept that poor driving standards make speed limits necessary, then those limits should be governed by established road safety principles, such as the 85th percentile, and not by political correctness on the part of local councils who have no training or expertise in road safety matters."
Whilst everyone would agree that 30mph is a sensible speed limit for busy shopping or residential roads, there are many roads where the speed limit has been set too low.
The worst example is motorways, where a 70mph limit still exists over 35 years after it was imposed 'temporarily', and despite massive safety improvements to cars.
There are also an increasing number of roads where the speed limit has been reduced without good reason.
Some dual carriageways have been reduced to 60, some single carriageway rural roads to 50, some urban roads from 40 to 30. In the vast majority of cases the previous speed limits had been in force for over 40 years without any major problems. Often these speed limit reductions have been accompanied by the installation of speed cameras, leading drivers to suspect that money was the motive, not safety.
In 1995, Suffolk introduced 450 30mph limits on roads that were previously 60mph, since then the number of accidents has risen by an average of 51 per year, after falling by an average of 171 per year for the preceding seven years.†
ABD spokesman Mark McArthur-Christie said:
"We believe that forcing drivers to comply with unnecessary speed limits on faster roads discourages them from complying with necessary speed limits on slower roads, and thus leads to an increase in accidents."
The ABD calls for the standard motorway speed limit to be immediately raised to 80mph‡
, and for properly defined national criteria for speed limit setting, to ensure that they are based on genuine road safety principles, not the whim of councillors.
† Graphs showing the consequences of lower speed limits in Suffolk are shown on our website:
‡ The ABD's submission for the raising of the motorway speed limit can be seen on our website: