23rd Aug, 2021
Now before you say anything, we know that it probably doesn’t sound like it would be the most popular idea. Then again though, if you talked to any of its proponents, they would probably tell you it’s likely to save lives – so what better reason would there be to give it a try?
We won’t go into too much depth about the general dangers of driving in wet weather. (Let’s be honest, if you’re an experienced UK driver, you’ve probably had a lot of practice!) But here’s a particularly relevant fact from the Highway Code: Rule 277 says that stopping distances in wet weather are at least double those of cars driving on dry roads. The typical stopping distance from 70mph in dry conditions is about 96 metres, but this extends to 192 metres in wet weather. To put that into perspective, that’s about 48 car lengths. Underestimating that can easily lead to accidents that might end up with someone deciding – I need to scrap my car.
What’s more, the notoriously temperate UK climate means we tend to get a reasonable amount of rainfall even in the summer, so braking in wet weather is more or less a year-round concern for British drivers. So it’s probably not all that surprising that a significant number of drivers have recently said that they’d want to see the 70mph motorway speed limits lowered in wet weather, in a new survey conducted by the RAC. In fact, almost three quarters of them (72%) said they’d want speed limits lowered.
Currently, France is the only European country with rules in place that effectively lower speed limits during poor driving conditions. During inclement weather, the speed limit goes down from 80mph to 68mph. (If this seems very specific, it’s worth bearing in mind that France likes to measure its speed in kilometres per hour, so it’s actually 130km/h going down to 1310km/h.)
But even though France might be a relative outlier with these regulations at the moment, there’s a decent argument for them to be implemented here too. In 2019 alone, about 806 people were killed or seriously injured on British highways, and 30% of these (246) happened when the road surface was damp, wet or flooded. That’s a noticeable increase from the number of people who died in the same conditions four years previously (206). And in 2018, wet roads and drivers travelling too quickly were contributing factors in around 250 motorway collisions. And these are just figures from the last few years.
All this gives some valuable context to the RAC’s research, which involved 2100 drivers. 33% of those drivers said that the speed limit should be lowered to 60mph in wet weather, while 7% said that it should be cut to 65mph. On the other hand, 17% said that they’d want it reduced even further, to as low as 55mph or even 50mph. 14% on the other hand think that the speed limit should indeed be cut, but they weren’t completely sure by how much.
Plenty. We’re sure you’ve probably even thought of a few yourself! A fifth of the drivers surveyed (21%) said that they wouldn’t be in favour of lowering speed limits. Of that segment, 54% of them said that drivers already adjust their speed to suit driving conditions.
Plus, 60% of them pointed out that there’s an inherent difficulty in defining what actually qualifies as wet conditions. Do lower speed limits apply just when the rain is falling, or when the road is actually damp? If the latter, how damp does it have to get before speed limits are lowered, and how dry must it be before they’re lifted again?
Then there’s the elephant in the room, the one that we suspect you’ve been thinking about already. About 40% of those who objected said that drivers tend to ignore speed limits at the best of times – although that may soon be changing – so probably wouldn’t obey a lower limit anyway.
Having said that though, 78% of those in favour of the scheme said that lower limits would be successful in encouraging drivers to slow down, and 72% said that it might save lives, so is worth trying. 65% said that visibility would probably improve, as there would be less spray thrown up from vehicles in front, while about half (53%) said that it would almost certainly reduce overall vehicle speeds, even if not everyone chooses to abide by the new limits.
That last view is shared by one of the RAC’s official spokespeople, who says that if even a fraction of drivers obey the new speed limits, it could lead to a measurable safety improvement on the roads. Before that could happen though, meticulous care would need to be taken to ensure that it was effectively implemented, including deciding on exactly what the limit would be, updating the Highway Code, and fitting new roadside signage to inform drivers.
Let’s be honest, if it does get implemented, it’s still likely to be controversial for many drivers. But there’s no denying that there’s more chance of it happening here than in many other countries – it’s not for nothing that the UK has one of the best road safety records in Europe. (And it’s not the only controversial motoring law currently under consideration.)
As to whether it will actually become signed into law though… who knows? We’ll have to wait and see.
Whatever happens them though, you can always count on one thing – here at Scrap Car Network, you can always rely on us to get you the very best price when you scrap your car.
All you need to do is enter your car reg and postcode into the fields on our site, and we’ll get you an instant online quote before you can say cash for cars. It only takes a few seconds. Curious to find out how much your car is worth?