De-restriction of motorways II

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Sir,

There is no shortage of arguments for the de-restriction of UK motorways, but your own examples (“Matters of Moment: Into Europe”, MOTOR SPORT, vol. XLIX, no. 1, January 1973, page 15) are less than satisfactory.

The second paragraph of your editorial points out that in the course of your 3,800 mile European tour “not a single accident was seen on the Continental motor roads”. This is certainly an impressive record, but it is surely not the kind of testimony that justifies your conclusion that speed limits are unnecessary on good roads. It is not even evidence that “it was quite safe” to travel at 130 m.p.h. in the BMW. How safe, and for whom? For example, motorway accident figures may have given a very different impression; it is possible that a long series of incidents, perhaps involving other BMWs, followed you across Europe, always just out of sight of the BMW’s rear-view mirror! Certainly you survived the journey (and in splendid style), but this is not proof of the safety of the road. That proof can only come from a detailed comparison of motorway accident figures, and these are not yet conclusive. Surely results rather than subjective impressions should decide the future of the 70 m.p.h. speed-limits, and until those results offer a water-tight case abolition would carry large and irreversible responsibilities.

Admittedly the question cannot be decided by statistics alone. One factor not easily quantified is the change in the structure of the motoring population. A generation of British motorists of all ages has arrived on the roads since the 70 m.p.h. limit was introduced, but how is it possible to estimate, let alone measure, their capacity for 70.-plus motoring? In some cases there will be experience of motoring on the Continent, and in others, plain speeding. By and large, however, a total de-restriction of the kind that you propose would require the new generation to adjust to completely new conditions. The prospects of this “emancipation” is not altogether happy, especially if the liberated motorist has just read that the editor of MOTOR SPORT “had blown off Porsche 911s and the very occasional Citroën SM”.

In sum, if we are to see any alteration in the traffic regulations, then the case for de-restriction needs to be argued with care and with thoroughness. At present the abolitionist lobby is in danger of being characterised by the predictable responses of the motoring organisations; as a devoted reader I hope that MOTOR SPORT will escape that danger.

Loughton.
Edwin Green.

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