YP Letters: Don’t prosecute until motorway drivers reach 80mph

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From: Neville Newton, Ripon.

I WAS a police road traffic officer when the motorways opened and the 70 mph limit was imposed. I patrolled the motorways for many years (Neil McNicholas, The Yorkshire Post, December 21).

At that time, there were no central barriers and motor vehicles were quite primitive compared to today and there were three times as many casualty road accidents as there are today.

The reason that the road accidents have reduced dramatically are more to do with improvements in the road network and vehicle safety and traffic management and driver training than the 70 mph
 limit.

The de facto speed limit in 
the outside lane of the motorways is already 80mph, which is more to do with the traffic flow than it has to do with ‘speeding’ drivers.

I was a police advanced driving instructor and have done academic research into vehicle speeds and accident causation.In my opinion it’s nothing to do with those drivers who travel at 80mph in the outside lane of the motorways.

The traffic flow is normally about 60mph in the left-hand lane and about 70 mph in the middle lane and about 80 mph in the outside lane and it 
seems to work very well in normal weather and traffic conditions.

The authorities used to decide on a speed limit according to the 85 percentile speed of traffic on any road and the 85 percentile speed of traffic in the outside lane of our motorways is probably about 80 mph which has become the de facto speed limit for the motorway network and appears to work well until there is a police vehicle around when the natural traffic flow is disrupted.

While the police say they will prosecute when a driver is doing 70 mph + 10 per cent + 2 mph = 79 mph, they appear to realise (to their credit) that the normal traffic flow works well and have accepted that the de facto speed limit on three- and four-lane motorways is 80 mph and I believe that no driver should be prosecuted until they abuse that de facto speed limit.

There is a strong case for the speed limit on our motorways, the safest roads in the country, to be raised to 80 mph and then for the police to strictly enforce any serious abuse of that limit, 
rather than prosecuting thousands of otherwise law-abiding drivers for driving perfectly safely at 80 mph on three and four lane motorways, particularly during daylight hours and good visibility and fine weather and dry roads and light to medium traffic flow.

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