Drivers want motorway speed limit cut when it rains

An RAC poll of 2,100 motorists indicated that 72% would like the standard 70mph cut in wet conditions

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Most drivers want a lower motorway speed limit in wet weather, a new survey suggests.

The RAC poll of 2,100 motorists indicated that 72% would like the standard 70mph limit cut in wet conditions to boost safety and encourage better driving habits.

A quieter than usual M4 motorway in wet conditions.
A quieter than usual M4 motorway in wet conditions.

Some 78% of respondents who supported a reduced motorway speed limit in the wet felt it would encourage some drivers to slow down, while 72% believed it was worth trying as it might save lives.

Nearly two-thirds said it could improve visibility due to less spray from moving vehicles.

Department for Transport figures show 246 people were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s motorways in 2019 when the road surface was damp, wet or flooded.

That is up from 203 two years earlier.

Separate Highways England data shows wet roads were a contributory factor in 259 crashes on England’s motorways in 2018, while someone driving too fast for the conditions was at least partly responsible for 242 collisions.

The Highway Code states that stopping distances in wet weather are at least double those on dry roads as tyres have less grip.

In France, motorway speed limits are reduced from 130km/h (80mph) to 110km/h (68mph) during inclement weather.

Of the UK drivers surveyed, 17% wanted the maximum legal speed in wet conditions cut to 65mph.

33% of drivers surveyed want the speed limit cut to 60mph in wet conditions

Source: RAC

Some 33% wanted it to be 60mph, 8% were in favour of a 55mph limit, and 9% supported a reduction to 50mph.

A further 14% would like the limit reduced but are not sure by how much.

RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Statistically the UK has some of the safest motorways in Europe but it’s also the case that there hasn’t been a reduction in casualties of all severities on these roads since 2012, so perhaps there’s an argument for looking at different measures to help bring the number of casualties down.

“Overall, our research suggests drivers are broadly supportive of lower motorway speed limits in wet conditions, as is already the case across the Channel in France.

“And, while most drivers already adjust their speed when the weather turns unpleasant, figures show that ‘driving too fast for the conditions’ and ‘slippery roads’ are still among the top 10 reasons for motorway collisions and contribute to significant numbers of serious injuries and even deaths every year.

“The overall success of any scheme would of course depend on sufficient numbers of motorists reducing their speed, but even just a proportion reducing their speed in the wet would be likely to improve the safety of the UK’s motorways.”