There is preliminary evidence of a reduction in heavy goods vehicle (HGV) collisions estimated to be between 10% and 36% which could be due to UK speed limit increases.
The findings of the new Department for Transport (DfT) study should be taken with a pinch of salt however, as collision rates were already coming down before the speed limit increases brought in in April 2015. The evaluation is also just one year into its three-year duration.
The research is looking at the impact on road safety of the change for HGVs on single carriageway roads to 50 mph (up from 40 mph) and on dual carriageway roads to 60 mph (up from 50 mph).
So far the study has found that speeds for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes on single carriageway roads increased between 2014 and 2015 by more than 1 mph, on average, across a range of flow conditions. On dual carriageways that figure was 0.5 mph.
Commenting, RHA director of policy Jack Semple said: “The study still has some time to run, and early data should be treated with caution. However early results have not identified negative road safety impacts. Indeed the research so far confirms the industry view that modestly raising the speed limit would both improve road safety and operating efficiency.
“There have also been clear benefits in terms of increased compliance and a reduction on the pressure on drivers and operators to stay within what were unrealistic speed limits. In addition we can reasonably assume a reduced frustration for car drivers caused by HGVs moving at unreasonably slow speeds,” he said.
The research also found that all HGV drivers consulted were aware of the speed limit changes on single carriageways, but not all were aware of the changes on dual carriageways. They also noted the opinion that the ability to drive up to 50 mph on single carriageways had, or will, reduce collisions involving the overtaking of HGVs.
Six months of post-change data was available, compared with more than 10 years of collision information from January 2005 to September 2015. The DfT therefore warns that the analyses are initial findings only and should not be interpreted as robust evidence of change.
Even so, it’s great to see the Department for Transport considering all options, including raising speed limits where appropriate, to make the roads safer and more efficient.