Should motorways be 80mph?

The speed limit for cars on UK motorways is currently 70mph but that might be about to change. The increase in electric vehicles on our roads means that higher speeds no longer equal extra pollution. However, the same safety concerns attached to an increased speed limit persist.

Unfortunately, many of us have had a rather heavy right foot on one occasion or another. If you’re caught speeding and receive a driving conviction, you could face a fine, points or even a driving ban not to mention the added stress that brings.

Insurance Factory is all about second chances. We understand that people make mistakes, which is why we offer competitive insurance for convicted drivers.

Let’s take a look at the 80mph speed limit debate and consider the impact such a change could have, improving our knowledge as drivers along the way.

Why is the 80mph speed limit debate back on the table?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps believes it’s time to revisit the speed debate – raising motorway speeds to 80mph and lowering limits to 20mph around schools.

The rise of the electric vehicle

The 80mph idea was last raised in 2011, but was scrapped after research suggested this would add a whopping 2.2m tonnes to our yearly CO2 output.

As we become more informed about green alternatives, many of us are starting to opt for the eco-friendly choice: electric vehicles.

Unlike regular petrol and diesel vehicles, entirely electric vehicles emit zero emissions. More and more drivers are purchasing these greener vehicles, often for environmental or economic reasons – electric cars help you save money, as well as the environment!

Registration of battery electric vehicles (BEV) soared by 151.8% between October 2018-19, so, it’s clear: a lower CO2 output is an achievable goal. This means concerns linked to the environmental impact of increased speed limits would no longer carry as much weight, as electric vehicles emit zero emissions no matter what speed they’re driven at.

On the other hand, 34,666 diesel vehicles and 89,371 petrol vehicles were registered by October this year, compared with 3,162 electric vehicles, so we’re a while away from fully electric roads. For now, the environmental impact of a higher speed limit would still be significant.

Green measures are beginning to be rolled out on a global scale, with many nations planning on introducing laws that enforce eco-friendly driving practices; Norway is aiming to sell emission-free vehicles only by the 2025 mark, while countries such as China are considering all-out bans on regular diesel and petrol vehicles.
The UK is following suit: by 2040 at the latest, the government has proposed banning sales of both diesel and petrol cars.

This sea change means, going forward, vehicle manufacturers will have little choice but to embrace emission-free vehicles.


A key argument for raising the motorway speed limit is the positive impact it will have on the productivity of the haulage industry, amongst others.

Drivers can get from A to B at a faster rate, saving businesses time and money. A 2019 report released by the Department for Transport demonstrated this. It examined the effects of raising the speed limit from 40mph to 50mph on single carriageways for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). The findings showed a financial net benefit of roughly £65.8m-229.4m.

Safer driving?

Since 1965, the speed limit on motorways has been capped at 70mph. However, many drivers default to speeds closer to 80mph, lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that relatively few drivers caught driving between 70-80mph are prosecuted. 

If you have ever received a driving conviction for exceeding the speed limit, you’ll know what a stressful experience this can be. Securing convicted driver insurance can help you get back on the road with as little hassle as possible.

The ‘default’ 80mph speed many drivers reach on motorways has given rise to concern that an 80mph speed limit would increase the ‘default’ speed to 90mph. The Department for Transport reported that, in 2018, 46% of cars broke the speed limit when driving on motorways – a telling statistic.

Even more concerningly, higher speed limits mean increased stopping distances, having a significant impact on the severity of vehicle collisions.

Figures published by Brake, the road safety charity, show the following:
  • A 20mph stopping distance is 12 metres, or 3 car lengths
  • A 50mph stopping distance is 53 metres, or 13 car lengths
  • A 70mph stopping distance of 96 metres, or twenty-four car lengths
Driving faster doesn’t simply increase a driver’s chance of hitting pedestrians; if they can’t come to a stop in time, the speed at which they were driving also increases impact upon contact, heightening the chance of causing serious injury or even death.

Stay safe on the road

While it’s crucial to stay informed regarding current speed limits and rules of the road, you also need to protect yourself with convicted driver insurance cover – this will always remain the case, no matter what kind of vehicles we drive or speed limits we impose.

We face a number of risks every time we get behind the wheel, so insurance cover is an essential safeguard all drivers need to take.

Many of us depend on our vehicles to get us from place to place. As a result, a driving conviction can put a real spanner in the works, causing considerable distress and concern. It can even affect your chances of getting a job in the future, especially if you drive for a living.

Insurance Factory believes in second chances – with the right knowledge and experience, a great driver can emerge, no matter what happened in the past.

We offer fair and straightforward convicted driver insurance, considering convictions such as:
  • Driving at a dangerous speed
  • Exceeding motorway speed limits
  • Driving in a dangerous manner
  • Driving without insurance
  • Driving with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit
  • Non-motoring convictions
A driving conviction doesn’t mean your life behind the wheel is over: far from it. We’ll look at your unique circumstances, finding you cover tailored to your specific needs.

Don’t drive without insurance – get a quote today.