The Government has announced it plans to increase speed limits on some sections of motorways undergoing roadworks from the current limit of 50mph to 60mph.
It will come as no surprise that the 50mph is hugely unpopular with motorists. With feedback indicating drivers felt frustrated by the limit, especially, when it remained in place even though no work was in progress.
To try and improve things for all motorway users, Highways England, conducted extensive research into the safety of a potential rise in the speed limit. The study covered eight schemes, including sections of the M1, M6 and M4, with results taken over an eight to 10 week period.
The results found that it is safe to increase the speed limit to 60mph. What’s more, motorists saved an average of almost 3,780 hours journey times across all sites, indicating the significant potential higher motorway speed limits could have in keeping traffic moving and reducing journey times.
The study also found motorists are less likely to break the 60mph speed limit than the 50mph and that the prevalence of dangerous driving practices like tailgating reduced.
Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive, said: “All of our research shows that road users benefit from 60mph limits in roadworks. They have shorter journey times and feel safe.”
Higher motorway speed limits in action
There will not be a blanket rise in the speed limit, and lower speed restrictions will remain in place on some sections of roadworks. The higher 60mph speed limit will only be implemented where it safe for drivers and road workers. As is the case now, road signs will still inform drivers of the correct limit.
Highways England has said it will use different strategies on different sections of roads to minimise disruption to drivers while maximising the safety of its workers. Some parts of roadworks will be permanently set at the new higher limit. Whereas, others will implement a contraflow policy with 60mph limit on stretches where main construction is not taking place. There will also be stretches using a dynamic strategy, which will only see an increase to the 50mph on non-working days.
AA president Edmund King has welcomed the news stating that driving at 60mph can be safer than driving at 50mph. He said: “Sticking at 50mph often leads to other drivers tailgating in order to try to force vehicles to pull over,” which echoes the findings of Highways England research.