Blog: Welcome to 40mph Britain

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

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I know it has been in force for some time now, but I’m still trying to get my head around how the newer lower speed limit of 40mph for trucks on ‘minor roads’ is going to improve safety…

It is obvious that there is an anti-motorist campaign taking place at Westminster right now, and currently speed – or more precisely its reduction – is a political hot potato. Excess speed is now seen as the root of all vehicle accidents in the UK, and government is doing all it can to reduce it, and therefore, reduce accidents.

On that basis, reducing the speed limit for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) to 40mph on minor roads must be a good way of reducing accidents…

Personally speaking I’m not so sure. What seems to be happening on the dreaded Thrapston-Peterborough A605 link road (hardly a minor one, you’d have thought) is that slow moving convoys are clogging up this heavily used road, and a number of car (and van) drivers are having to take increased risks (through frustration) to get past the head of the queue – and on their way.

After all, it is perfectly legitimate and legal for cars (and vans) to steam up to 60mph and go for the overtake. Except that most drivers would rather sit in a catatonic state staring at the rear axle of one of these lumbering HGVs, thinking about everything except actually driving their cars. And having huge numbers of zombified drivers on the road is going to improve safety by how much, exactly?

No, it seems to me that some policy makers in Westminster have decided we need a 40mph blanket limit, and are too cowardly to push it through, knowing it to be a vote-loser. So in the end, they slow down the trucks, knowing that 90 per cent of motorists will dutifully fall in behind. Clever – but hardly in keeping with your principles.

There has always been a bit of an anti-overtaking culture in the UK. You can travel in France, Italy or Germany, and usually manage to drive at a speed that suits you. If you need to pass the car in front, you just get on and do it… then go about your business. In the UK, if you’re confronted by a slow moving car ahead, you’re constantly wondering if the act of passing it will instigate an act of road rage from the other motorist, incensed by you having the nerve of actually wanting to go faster than him…

How many of you have been in this situation, on a quiet A- or B-Road? You’ve caught a driver going 45mph, you’ve gone on to pass him (safely and considerately, of course), only to have them flash their lights and wave their fists at you? Or you’ve been stuck behind someone else dawdling along at 39mph on the same stretch of 60mph National Speed Limit road, only to see them hit a 30 zone and not slow down…

So knowing this, the government slaps on a speed limit which only affects a small percentage of road users, knowing that most of the rest of us will blindly fall into line behind? As for me – I’m increasingly taking the B-road option – where it is mainly possible to travel at 60mph without any hassle at all. Of course, in time, many others will end up doing the same. Until the point that accident rates on B-roads begin to climb as they clog up…

So could someone please explain to me why a 40mph limit for trucks is safer?

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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