According to GOV.UK, the transport sector is the UK’s largest producer of emissions accounting for 34% of the UK’s total carbon emissions in 2019.
The UK has set itself an ambitious target to become a zero-carbon country by 2050, so Highways England are trialling 60mph speed limits on sections of our road network over a 12 month period to reduce emissions and improve air quality.
To save any confusion, the 60mph speed limits will be clearly displayed on red roundel roadside signs and will apply to all vehicles, including electric cars which have zero emissions.
For speed limit compliance and road safety, it is considered that seeing similar vehicles driving at higher speeds is likely to undermine compliance amongst drivers of petrol and diesel engine vehicles. It will not impact on HGVs as their legal maximum is already below 60mph.
The lower speed limit will be in place for 24 hours a day, the penalty for non-compliance will be the same penalty for breaking any other speed limit, with enforcement a matter for the police.
Any driver convictions or penalty points will almost certainly have an impact on individual motor insurance policy premiums.
Highways England have been investigating the effects that different driving styles and speeds have on emissions across a range of models manufactured by the motor trade industry.
Initial assessments show that managing speed at 60mph resulted in an average reduction in emissions of 17%. The reduced speed limits should have a negligible impact on journeys as the distance covered by the new enforced limit will be under 5 miles, so additional time on journeys should be minimal.
The new speed limit will be put in place on four stretches of motorway around Sheffield, Manchester, and Birmingham, these will include:
- M6 junctions 6 to 7 (Witton)
- M1 junctions 34 to 33 (Rotherham)
- M602 junctions 1 to 3 (Eccles)
- M5 junctions 1 to 2 (Oldbury)
In 2018 several stretches of road in Wales; which included part of the M4, had speed limits cut to 50mph due to high emissions in these areas, all the trials were successful as emissions fell and the new speed limits in those areas became permanent in 2019.
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Ivan Le Fevre, Head of Environment Highways England said, “Ultimately the air quality challenge will be solved ‘at the tailpipe’ by vehicle manufacturers and changes in vehicle use. Until this happens, we will continue our extensive programme of pioneering research and solutions.”
All motorists can help to further reduce emissions by servicing their vehicles regularly with a garage mechanic, as their motor trade insurance allows them to drive any vehicle to carry out tests.
It’s important to ensure before each journey all vehicle tyres are inflated to their correct pressure, removing any excess vehicle weight, maintaining a steady speed to avoid excessive acceleration and braking, and stopping the engine whilst in traffic for any extended period of time.
Reducing vehicle speed is one way we can all reduce air pollution, as burning less fuel improves the overall fuel economy, whilst braking less reduces brake-dust particles which means fewer emissions.