All cars should be speed limited to 80mph
After yesterday's news of a 140mph M25 police chase, we argue that all cars in the UK should be speed restricted
By Richard Aucock
The latest turbocharged MG has the same Group 13 insurance rating as a basic MINI. 160hp family hatch, with the same ranking as a 98hp supermini. How so? Because the MG has a top speed limiter. How many know this? Not many, I’ll bet. Yet they’re paying hundreds of pounds less each month for car insurance because of it: genius.
That’s why all cars should have them.
OK, the MG’s speed limiter is still a naughty one: 120mph. It ‘aint gonna stop the risk of losing your licence and going to jail if you’re caught using it. But the principal is sound: a car’s maximum speed is a key factor in its perceived ‘risk’. If you lower it, you lessen this risk and thus lower the insurance grouping. Not to mention the fuel economy benefits that come with reduced speeds.
So here’s my proposal: cap all cars in the UK to 80mph. Still swift, still naughty, but eliminating one of the most consequence-laden risk factors on UK roads in an instant.
Legal limit + 10mph. That’s acceptable, isn’t it?
It would obviously be most noticeable on motorways. And most frustrating for those driving at 1am on a deserted M40. But motorways are rarely deserted – and it’s not speed that causes accidents, but speed differentials. Not everyone wants to drive at 110mph…
Make speeds equal and watch traffic flow
Traffic jams would lessen. We have all experienced ‘ghost’ traffic jams apparently without cause. There IS a cause – the domino effect, usually of one speeding drivers’ over-reactive braking. Make speeds more equal and watch traffic flow improve.
It would also stem the peaks of speeds on country roads. Single vehicle accidents are commonplace and caused by excessive speed for the conditions. Why not cap how excessive this can be, and give vehicle electronics a better chance of sorting the rest?
Don’t worry, capping speed is not dangerous. We don’t consider Ford Fiestas to be lethal, and basic examples of the nation’s best-selling car cannot even reach 95mph. It’s not a pipedream, either. An easy fit for new cars, it would be a simple engine management tweak for older ones. Most modern cars have diagnostic ports: the necessary coding could be installed in seconds. Checking it could be part of the MOT.
But what about motoring enthusiasts? Well, we should love it. The fun of driving is not how much speed you have, it is, ahem, what you do with it that counts. It’s like a high-end stereo: you pay extra not for the absolute, but for the quality of what’s in between.
Acceleration, response, economy, comfort would improve
Cap a car’s top speed and the focus then becomes not on extremes (and the compromises they cause elsewhere) but optimising it to work well within that range. Acceleration, response, economy, comfort, all would improve.
We could still buy powerful cars that accelerate quickly, that were still engineering for the high speeds of the test track. They just wouldn’t do 200mph in the UK.
It’s wins all round. Speed-limit cars and the interest then becomes in the range all of us use daily, rather than a peak a few of us use occasionally. With, as the insurance industry confirms, significantly less risk for everyone. Saving cash for something safer and more enjoyable: sounds good to me.
Follow Richard Aucock on Twitter @richardaucock
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