10:38 10 March 2009
The national speed limit on most single-carriageways in rural areas may be slashed from 60mph down to 50mph in a government drive to cut the number of deaths on the road.
Road safety minister Jim Fitzpatrick noted that crashes were more likely on rural parts of the British road network - upon most of which the national speed limit of 60mph is enforced.
In 2007, there were 2,946 deaths and 30,000 serious injuries on the roads, with speed as a prominent factor at 29%. The once crowning road safety record of the UK compared with the rest of the world has continued to slide in recent years.
It is believed that the traditional national speed limit signs that contain a white circle with a black stripe and no numbering (above right) will not be changed, which could leave unsuspecting drivers at risk of criminal prosecution.
The scheme is expected to use average speed check cameras which measure speed over a set distance and have been proved to consistently slow motorists down for greater periods in accident hotspots.
Edmund King, the president of the AA claims that a blanket reduction of speed limits would not make roads safer, given that many accidents on rural roads involved only one car.
He stated: "It will not solve the problem you have to look at the detail a little closer. Almost every weekend we see these solo car accidents. They're nothing to do with the speed limit. They're to do with inexperienced drivers driving recklessly. For a minority of reckless drivers, the rest are punished.
"A blanket reduction could lead to some roads having a lower speed limit than necessary. That could lead to dangerous overtaking. The best speed limits are those motorists respect and accept."
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Of the general road speed proposal, a Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "This is being looked at, but no decisions have been taken."
Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "Rather than across the board reductions in the speed limit that hit the most responsible drivers, we believe a strategy to make our roads safer needs to target problem drivers."
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