Monday, April 06, 2009

Hold on tight, everyone, 48, 49, 50 miles an hour!

On yes, hold on tight everyone because our government believes that 50 miles an hour is fast. It believes that to drive at more than 50 miles an hour could be dangerous so they have introduced from today a new 50 mph speed limit. This is not on a single carriageway road over a steep mountain with hair-pin bends, this is along the M4 motorway between junctions 24 (Coldra) and 28 (Tredegar Park) around Newport. The Welsh Assembly Government wishes to emphasise that the 50 mph speed limit is essential for the safety of motorists and thanks them in advance for their co-operation.

Well, blown me down, what on earth can be dangerous about driving along a quiet motorway in the early hours of the morning at speeds of between 50 and 70mph? This is a motorway for goodness sake and all motorways are built and designed with a 70 mph speed limit. There is no need to reduce the speed limit on any motorway to 50 mph when the national motorway speed limit agreed through central (Westminster) government is 70 mph. The national speed limit for a single carriageway road is 60 mph and reducing a section of motorway to an even lower speed limit of 50 mph makes a mockery of all speed limits.

This section of motorway around Newport has 2 downhill sections in each direction. With a 50 mph speed limit all coaches and lorries will have to use their exhaust brake, gearbox brake retarder or foot brakes to check their speed otherwise it would over-run well above 50 mph. Whenever a coach or lorry is dragging a brake the brake lights at the rear of these vehicles come on. Of course your amateur car driver has no idea whether the coach or lorry is checking it's speed or is braking. Therefore the car driver hits their brakes and bunching of traffic occurs.

As a rough rule of thumb whenever you see brake lights being used on a motorway it signals the actions of a bad driver. There is no need for brakes to be applied in normal driving on a motorway but forcing coaches and lorries to drag a brake downhill is bad practice. If this stupid idea of a 50 mph motorway speed limit catches on, think how much longer journey times would be increased by if this limit was applied throughout the UK motorway network. Of course this would increase costs to everyone and I do not believe that there would be any increase in safety or a reduction in accidents.
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