Health and Environment, Motoring|

80mph Speed Limit is Risk to Health

80mph on a SpeedometerMedical experts are now warning that an 80mph speed limit on motorways could lead to more crashes, which will result in further injuries and deaths. The British Medical Journal report claims that the risks will be greater than the benefits from the government’s plans to increase the limit 10mph in Wales and England. It’s been projected that the government will complete the change to an 80mph speed limit by 2013.

Former Transport Secretary Philip Hammond says that the current 70mph speed limit is out of date and economic benefits will be reaped from it. He insisted that the law needs to change, with nearly half of motorists already breaking it. The government has also argued that deaths on roads have declined by 75% in the last 55 years due to advances in car safety. The number of serious and deadly accidents on the UK’s roads, since 1967, have continued falling to a level where the country has one of the lowest death rates in the world.

The report questions the basis of the economic benefits since the speed limit rise won’t extend to heavy goods vehicles. Their main concern of more crashes is linked to previous moves in other countries. Higher speed limits in the US were introduced in 1995, resulting in 16.6% more deaths due to vehicle incidents. The rise had been implemented after a reduction in the limit in 1975 following the oil crisis in 1974. The freeway speeds were changed from 55pmh to 60mph and 65mph, and highway speeds were changed from 65mph to 70mph and 75mph.

The authors argue that similar increases in traffic deaths may occur if the speed limit is raised in the UK. If there are more accidents, then there will be more traffic jams. In turn, the cost of lost opportunity due to motorists sitting in traffic will increase as well, along with the cost of healthcare due to the rise in injuries. There will also be more gas emissions, a potential increase in obesity because more people will take advantage of shorter journey times, and air pollution will likely rise.

However, European Public Health professor Martin McKee, who teaches at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says that it’s hard to see how any benefits will outweigh the costs. It’s shown from past evidence that rises in speed limits lead to significant jumps in road deaths, while there are possible other negative health and economic impacts. He called the speed limit proposal a “populist gimmick”. With the recent loss of lives on the M5, they challenge the government to give evidence that justifies the policy.

 

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