Campaigners demand cut in speed limits on rural roads to 50mph

Road safety charity Brake is calling for the speed limits on rural roads to be slashed to 50mph - and in some cases 'even lower'.

The drastic demand comes on the back of a survey by the charity which claims almost half of drivers are guilty of overtaking at 'lethal speeds' on rural roads.

It asked nearly 1,000 drivers about their driving habits and found 47 per cent admitted to exceeding 60mph on single carriageway country roads in 'the past year' with 23 per cent saying they do it 'at least once a month'.

More worrying, though, was the news that one-in-eight drivers confessed to overtaking when they couldn't see what was coming the other way!

Brake says the research suggests drivers feel a 'false sense of security' on rural roads despite evidence that proves they're more likely to die on them than any other.

'It's high time we tackle this irresponsible and downright dangerous love of speed on our roads,' said Ellen Booth, Brake's campaigns officer.

'Speeding down a country road isn't the epitome of freedom – it's the epitome of stupidity. Drivers who overtake at speed on country roads aren't just risking their own lives – they are selfishly endangering their passengers and anyone coming the other way.'

Now Brake wants the government to act to tackle 'the problem' and claims lowering speed limits on all country roads would help. It also wants limits enforced more stringently with the introduction of more average speed cameras.

But not everyone agrees with Brake. Campaign group Safe Speed says arbitrarily adding speed cameras to rural roads is the wrong thing to do – and actually claims it would make them more dangerous.

'Completing an overtake in the minimum time possible reduces the exposure to danger for everyone concerned,' said Safe Speed's Claire Armstrong. 'The conclusion drawn by Brake from this survey suggests drivers extend the time taken to overtake – that is extremely dangerous.

'Simply implying that drivers should go slower can create a bored and often frustrated motorist. Long lines of cars all with under-confident motorists too scared to overtake might exacerbate the problem and lead to more crashes, not fewer.

'When a driver is asked to concentrate on a speed alone it ignores other key road safety messages and distorts a motorist's priorities.'

The Institute of Advanced Motorists agrees that a blanket 50mph speed limit would not solve the problem.

Neil Greig, of the IAM, said: 'The majority of crashes are not caused by breaking the speed limit but by poor driver decision making of which driving too fast for the conditions is but one example.

'A blanket speed reduction to 50mph will not stop looked but failed to see, misjudged bends, emerging from junction into the path of a vehicle and the myriad of other human error contributory factors that the police record as the real reason for a crash.'

And The AA didn't think lowering limits would help either. A spokesman said: 'Rural roads are dangerous, and the most common accident causes on them – head on collisions, junction accidents, and running off the road – all have a relationship with driving too fast.

'But at the same time, the accident records and design standards of rural roads vary hugely. Because of this we would far rather see speed limits decided on a "horses for courses" basis taking into account the characteristics of the road.'

Do you think lowering the speed limit on rural roads is a good idea? Or do you think more speed cameras would solve the issue? Or are the roads better left as they are? Let us know what you think by posting your comments below.

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