Our Maddest Speed Limit
Safe Speed Press information

 release date: 18th April 2004 number: PR117

Our Maddest Speed Limit

News: For immediate release

Many road users don't realise, but heavy goods vehicles are subject to a national speed limit of just 40mph on single carriageway roads. On B roads and unclassified roads, this limit may sometimes be sensible, but on good quality trunk routes it has been widely, sensibly and safely ignored by our lorry drivers and the by Police.

But now we have so called "safety camera partnerships" and they are enforcing this bizarre and unnecessary speed limit with zeal in some areas. Heavy goods vehicle drivers, who naturally require their licences to earn a living, are ready to respond and reduce speed to 40mph even though 56mph may be safe and appropriate. This makes HGVs act as rolling roadblocks and causes significant frustration for following drivers, many of whom are entitled to travel at 60mph on the same routes.

Safe Speed is receiving plenty of correspondence from lorry drivers concerned about new dangers created by observence of this speed limit. For example, Alan Dodd, a professional lorry driver commented: "For many years now the Traffic Police have, in the interests of road safety, advised HGV drivers to travel up to 50mph to avoid creating a mobile traffic jam behind them. This sensible approach usually deterred impatient and frustrated drivers from attempting dangerous overtaking."

Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign said: "There are many long haul routes on single carriageway roads where it is safe and appropriate for heavy good vehicles to travel at their limited top speed of 56mph. Forcing these drivers to travel at 40mph has a very substantial economic cost, but worse than that, we believe that overall danger is increased as drivers of vehicles entitled to go faster become frustrated. Frustration is well known as a cause of accidents, and any policy that increases frustration is potentially extremely dangerous."

Paul continues: "It would be an entirely different matter if the authorities had weighed up all the consequences and decided that safety would be well served by increasing enforcement of this particular speed limit. But no such investigation has taken place, and they have no knowledge about the consequences of their actions. How dare they!"

In May 2003, Safe Speed wrote to the Minister of Transport about this matter but no reply has been received.

Paul continues: "And then there's the issue of criminalising our most highly trained civilian drivers - some are clearly losing their jobs for driving at safe and appropriate speeds. Kevin Lee killed himself recently after being flashed by a speed camera."

Unfortunately this is just one of a whole series of modern so-called road safety measures that have turned out to have deadly side effects. Not many years ago, the UK lead the World in effective road safety policy. That policy was based largely on the skills and knowledge developed within the Police driver training establishment centred at Hendon. It should come as no surprise that the only country with a "centre of driving excellence" also achieved the safest roads in the World. Now we are bumbling in the dark and our road safety is the slowest improving in Europe - just 12 years ago we were the fastest improving.


Notes for editors:

Safe Speed page on the subject (includes our letter to Mr Darling):

You may quote freely from the page in any article based on (or triggered by) this PR providing you acknowledge the source.

Link to Online Highway code confirming the 40mph national speed limit:

BBC Story about the death of Kevin Lee:

Safe Speed has been in contact with many organisations regarding this matter. The following have expressed serious concern:
RHA, IAM, RoSPA, FTA, RAC Foundation. ABD.

One problem in publicising this story is the description of the speed limit: "National speed limit for heavy goods vehicles on single carriageway roads" We use the nickname: "HGV40" If you feel you can use or establish the nickname, please go ahead.

About Safe Speed:

Since setting up Safe Speed in 2001, Paul Smith, 48, an advanced motorist and road safety enthusiast, and a professional engineer of 25 years UK experience, has carried out in excess  of 4,500 hours of research into the overall effects of speed camera policy on UK road safety. We believe that this is more work in more detail than anything carried out by any other organisation. Paul's surprising conclusion is that overall speed cameras make our roads more dangerous. Paul has identified and reported a number of major flaws and false assumptions in the claims made for speed cameras, and the whole "speed kills"  system of road safety. 

The inescapable conclusion is that we should urgently return to the excellent road safety policies that gave us in the UK the safest roads in the World in the first place.

Safe Speed does not campaign against speed limits or appropriate enforcement of motoring laws, but argues vigorously that automated speed enforcement is neither safe nor appropriate. 

Contact Safe Speed:

web: http://www.safespeed.org.uk 
email : psmith@safespeed.org.uk
telephone: 01862 832000 anytime. 
mobile: 07799 045553 
note: the mobile does not work well at our office. Always try land line first. 
Location: North Scotland 

We are available for press and media interviews.

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Created 20/04/2004. Last update 20/04/2004