A Highways England (HE) study into raising speed limits from 50mph to 55 or 60mph through motorway roadworks confirms the longstanding ABD position that sensible speed limits improve compliance and increase safety by reducing driver stress.
For the purposes of the study, Drivers were classified in segments as follows:
Nervous: 31%, typically aged 40+ and have been driving for some time
Respectful: 22%, experienced drivers, highly qualified and driving professionally
Steady: 25%, confident drivers who are happy, relaxed and confident
Superior: 9%, typically young with limited driving experience
Speedy: 13%, typically driving for over 20 years, and demand a high level of driving ability from others
HGVs are a significant factor in the (negative) driver experience on motorways, particularly in roadworks, where fear was heightened due to the number, speed, size and inability to overtake in a 50mph limit.
60mph was preferred by drivers for the ability to pass HGVs safely.
60% of drivers experienced a decreased heart rate in the 60mph trial zone.
Heart rate (and therefore potentially stress) did not increase with the increased speed limit.
It was perceived that vehicles were more spaced out in a 60mph limit, traffic flow was improved and it was easier to maintain the speed limit.
Th 60mph limit improved customer satisfaction, HGV driver behaviour, journey times and speed limit compliance.
Comparing 55mph to 60mph:
Increasing the speed limit to 55 or 60mph had no negative impact on the safety of road users
Average speed improved by 5/4mph compared to 3mph for 55mph
Close following by HGVs was decreased by 15% for 60mph, with no decrease for 55mph
For 60mph, a 60% reduction in heart rate was recorded in the Nervous, Steady, Superior and Speedy segments, with a 4.64% increase in Respectful segment.
For 55mph, a 56% reduction in heart rate was recorded in the Speedy and Steady segments, with the greatest increase in heart rates recorded in the Nervous, Superior and Respectful segments (0.12%/9.88% and 11.21%).
The Study can be found here:
The results are a clear demonstration that setting a higher rather than a lower speed limit improves compliance and safety by decreasing driver stress. This is a stark warning for those who continue to campaign for lower speed limits as an anti-car measure under the guise of road safety.