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National speed limit on single carriageway roads ‘is too high’


Andrew Forster
06 July 2018
Inappropriate speed below the 60mph speed limit is a regular contributory factor in crashes, says SYSTRA
Inappropriate speed below the 60mph speed limit is a regular contributory factor in crashes, says SYSTRA


The national speed limit on single carriageway roads should be cut from 60mph, consultants have told the Government.

The recommendation features in a road safety management capacity review commissioned by the DfT from consultant SYSTRA. The review was a pledge of the DfT’s British Road Safety Statement of 2015, which endorsed a ‘safe system’ approach to preventing deaths and injuries in collisions. This “aims for a more forgiving road system that takes human fallibility and vulnerability into account”, says SYSTRA.

SYSTRA recommends a review of national speed limits on Britain’s roads “as soon as possible”. “The lack of alignment with ‘safe system’ is evident particularly on the single carriageway rural network where 60mph is the national speed limit for road use by low and high-speed vehicles, motorised and non-motorised vehicles, farm and leisure traffic.

“Here, inappropriate speed by users within the posted speed limit is typically cited as a regular contributory factor in road crashes, rather than inappropriate road design and speed limit which does not encourage appropriate speed.”

The Government should target percentage increases in speed limit compliance and work with partners to achieve them. It should “promote the benefits of average speed cameras, fixed site and mobile cameras to key agencies, highway authorities and the community”. 

Road safety is hampered by a lack of priority in both central and local government, says SYSTRA. There has been “insufficient central government leadership in road safety over the last decade”. 

The lack of national casualty reduction targets is a major weakness. SYSTRA recommends the Government devises a new road safety strategy, including targets to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

Safety activity on local roads is under-resourced. “The Government should consider reintroducing a ring-fenced road safety grant for councils.” 

Overall, the safe system approach is poorly understood. “There is no national policy and guidance on safe roads and roadsides and safe system is not yet part of the mainstream of national highway engineering practice. Road classification, speed management on motorways, and the design and layouts of main road networks and urban roads, are not in line with safe system principles.”

A road safety research advisory group should be set up to provide “independent expert advice on research priorities related to implementing safe system”.

The report will inform a refreshed statement and two-year action plan for road safety. 

David Davies, executive director of PACTS, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, welcomed the report. “A road safety management capacity review was an action call by PACTS in 2015. At 384 pages, there is a lot in it and PACTS will be raising many of the issues and recommendation with government in the near future.”

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