Motoring groups have backed a Danish report which claims that increasing speed limits is safer – but there are question marks over whether it could be easily implemented in the UK.
The study, carried out over two years by the Danish Road Directorate, looked at how driver behaviour and accident rates changed when speed limits were raised on single-carriageway rural roads and motorways.
One of the key findings was that after raising limits on two-way rural roads from 50mph to 56mph, accidents fell, due to a drop in the speed differential between the fastest and the slowest drivers, resulting in less overtaking.
While the slowest drivers increased speeds, the fastest 15 per cent were found to be driving 1mph slower on average.
On sections of motorways where the limit was raised from 68mph to 80mph nine years ago, fatalaties also fell.
A spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers told us: “The research would seem to suggest that we are going the wrong way in the UK. This has proven that deaths and accidents have fallen despite limits increasing.”
A Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) spokesman said the research raised interesting questions. “A key element isn’t just the risk of the crash that is proportional to travelling speed for a given road, but the risk of injury should a collision occur.”
“We would be interested to see how the Danish study has handled confounding factors. This would all influence the applicability of this scheme to other countries or road networks," he added.
The Association of Chief Police Officers would not comment.