Is 70 MPH Too Slow A Speed Limit For British Motorways?


Back in 1967, it was announced that the speed limit on British motorways was to be set at a maximum of 70 mph for cars. This was to become a permanent maximum speed 11 years later, in 1978.

Speed Limit For British Motorways Speed Limit For British Motorways

46 years later from its original inception and the maximum speed limit is still set to 70 mph. There have been calls to increase the speed limit to a more realistic one for UK motorways, and this is something I agree with. Here’s why:


Braking systems have come a long way

As I mentioned a moment ago, the 70 mph maximum speed limit for cars on motorways was set over 46 years ago. Back in those days, many cars had drum brakes rather than disc braking systems like all modern cars have today.

If you have ever driven an old car with drum brakes all around, you will know that it was certainly “interesting” if you ever tried to brake suddenly or during wet weather. Back in those days, braking technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today, and very few people dared to drive their cars at really high speeds on the motorway, especially in wet and windy conditions (not that many average road cars those days could attain high speeds in the first place).

In today’s modern car, vehicle manufacturers employ a number of safety systems which are designed to boost braking efficiency – the most common one being ABS (anti-lock braking systems), a welcome safety feature in cars that enable us to stop quickly and safely on slippery road conditions such as rain or ice.

Tyre technology has evolved

As with braking systems, tyre technology has also evolved a lot since the 1960s. Tyres are stronger, firmer and more resilient these days, and are designed to take all sorts of abuse, especially high speeds.

If a car has been correctly maintained and all tyres have a good tread depth (new tyres have a tread depth of 8 mm, and the legal minimum is 1.6 mm), there is no reason why it cannot travel at speeds of more than 70 mph for long periods of time. All new tyre designs are stress tested to ensure that they won’t randomly blow when you are driving.

Most drivers exceed the speed limit anyway

Whether people like to admit it or not, you will find that the majority of people will travel on the motorways of Britain doing an indicated 80 mph. One thing you should bear in mind is that the faster you drive, the slower your actual speed is compared to what is indicated on your speedometer.

An easy way to confirm this for yourself is by looking at the speed your are doing from your sat-nav device, as this uses GPS to track your speed rather than any instruments on your car.

The speedometer uses a reading from your driveshaft or transmission to work out how fast you are travelling, but due to EU regulations it will always show a speed higher than what you are really doing.

So if your speedometer indicates that you are travelling at 80 mph, you are really only doing around 74 mph, for example, although your sat-nav device will be able to give you a more definitive speed reading!