I agree with the point made by Chris Leonard in ‘Scrap the speed limit’ (Letters, 7 May). Most of today’s vehicles are safely capable of being driven well in excess of current speed limits, even toward the end of their useful lives.
But a big part of the problem is the people driving these vehicles. Most motorists are simply not capable of driving safely for prolonged periods at high speeds. The current UK driver education, training and test system does not help.
Many drivers do not appreciate when their driving ability is impaired due to fatigue or other causes, which is when they become a hazard. If driver training and education was improved so motorists were more aware of their limitations and abilities and how their faculties change in the short and long term, there may be a case for raising speed limits. This will require a change in society’s attitude and will take many years to achieve.
A good reason for leaving speed limits as they are (or lowering them, as in the early 1970s) is to limit fuel consumption and road casualties. Driving anything faster requires more energy for the same distance travelled. High-speed accidents are always more serious and, given the government’s policy of trying to reduce energy consumption and road casualties, the raising of speed limits is highly unlikely.
The existing road infrastructure is often barely adequate for the speeds we now use. Substantial investment would be required in roads to make them safer for high-speed use, which would probably be wasted because of the increased use and consequent congestion they would attract.
Maybe vehicle manufacturers should consider putting a fuel consumption indicator beside the speedo in place of the rev counter?
Has Chris Leonard actually driven on
Congestion and less-than- perfect driving standards make it frequently impossible to drive safely — if at all — at the speed limits we have now. Twenty years ago I advocated raising the speed limits in the
Relatively few accidents have speed as a major cause, but it will always worsen their consequences. ‘Advanced brakes, suspension, steering and devices such as stability control and adaptive cruise control’ (quoting Mr Leonard) along with ABS, are not always going to add to safety. Giving false confidence and reducing the need to concentrate on driving, leaving you to use, say, a hands-free phone, might make things more dangerous, not less.
If you drive at any time other than the dead of night, the amount of traffic generally prevents you from going far beyond the speed limit and seriously limits the time you can gain on a journey by trying to drive at excessive speeds.
I now drive a car with about 60 PS/tonne, against my previous vehicle with about 145 PS/tonne. The reduced acceleration does not stop me driving at the speed limits and my journey times are barely altered. Even so, it’s probably capable of exceeding the speed limit by at least half.
Speed limits in the