Seven-in-10 drivers want motorway speed limits lowered in wet weather

Published 30 July 2021

Nearly three-quarters of drivers (72 per cent) would like to see the standard 70mph speed limit on motorways reduced in wet weather to improve road safety and encourage better driving habits, RAC research has found.

Of 2100 drivers surveyed, a third (33 per cent) said the limit should be reduced to 60mph in the wet, while seven per cent think it should be cut to 65mph. Seventeen per cent of drivers would like an even lower limit of 55mph or even 50mph, while 14 per cent would like to see the limit cut but aren’t sure by how much.

Some 806 people were killed or seriously injured on motorways in Great Britain in 2019, with around 30 per cent of these casualties (246) occurring when the road surface was damp, wet or flooded – a figure higher than four years earlier (208). Official figures also show that wet roads and drivers travelling too fast for the conditions were respectively the cause of some 259 and 242 motorway collisions in 2018.

The RAC says France is currently the only European country to reduce speed limits during inclement weather, with the 130km/h (80mph) limit reduced to 110km/h (68mph).

Rain (1)

Among the fifth of drivers (21 per cent) who are against the idea of a lower motorway speed limit in bad weather, a majority said it was because most drivers already adjust their speed to the conditions (54 per cent), or because there would be difficulty in defining when the new limit should apply (60 per cent) – for instance, whether it would apply whenever the road surface was damp or only while the rain was actually falling.

Four-in-10 (42 per cent) said many drivers choose to ignore existing speed limits anyway and a similar proportion (41 per cent) thought drivers wouldn’t obey a lower motorway limit.

Of the reasons given by drivers who advocate lower motorway speed limits in the wet, 78 per cent said they felt lower limits would encourage some drivers to slow down, while 72 per cent believed it might save lives, so is worth trying. Two-thirds (65 per cent) said slower speeds might improve visibility with less spray from moving vehicles, and half (53 per cent) felt it would reduce overall vehicle speeds, even if some people ignored the lower limit.

RAC data insight spokesman Rod Dennis said: “The overall success of any scheme would of course depend on sufficient numbers of motorists reducing their speed, but even just a proportion reducing their speed in the wet would be likely to improve the safety of the UK’s motorways.

Smart -motorway

“There would also be a number of practical hurdles to be overcome such as deciding what that lower limit would be, updating the Highway Code and fitting roadside signage to inform drivers of the new limits.

“Finally, it’s worth remembering that an increasing number of stretches of motorway no longer have permanent 70mph limits, as all smart motorways feature speed limits which are automatically adjusted to ease congestion based on traffic flow. With digital signs now so commonplace, arguably the means exist to conduct a trial to see whether there are safety benefits of setting different speed limits in inclement weather.”

Highway Code Rule 227 states that stopping distances in wet weather are at least double those required for stopping on dry roads. This means the typical stopping distance at 70mph in dry conditions of 96 metres (315 feet) is extended to at least 192 metres (630 feet) in the wet, the equivalent of 48 car lengths.


conman    on 31 July 2021

It works abroad when they have the two speed limits displayed clearly on signs. The advantage abroad is that
A.they actually have POLICE that enforce these speed limits. Unlike this country that first of all have removed 80% of traffic police and
B. think that SMART motorways are safe.
In Europe when driving you have to have your vehicle documents on you, you are required to have reflective coats for all occupants and also carry reflecting safety triangles.
Now wouldn't that be a common sense move to enforce on these i****ic SMART motorways.
But what can you expect from someone educated in a Public School and who in their right mind would consider building the new Tesla factory in Somerset!!!!!

Watching the real Police TV programmes it makes me cringe that when the criminals are caught the Law is a joke with fines like £35 or community working but what else can you expect from i****s, your honor.

hissingsid    on 1 August 2021

A good idea in principle but not in practice while, as conman says, there is little or no police enforcement.
In my experience the only motorway speed limits which are widely observed are those monitored by average speed cameras, and these are only temporary structures used during major road works.

Steven Campbell    on 3 August 2021

Here's a novel idea, rather than enforcing it upon people why not let them use their common sense and SLOW DOWN! Clearly that mustn't be working if folk want it enforced upon themselves though!

Andyvtr    on 9 August 2021

Perhaps this conundrum should be considered from another view point. Why not ban the sale of tyres that cannot achieve a minimum wet grip rating of 'C', then at least vehicles have a reasonable chance of stopping in the wet!

jchinuk    on 14 August 2021

While a nice idea, in practice it's just unenforcable.

What is the definition of "wet", for some it's torrential rain, for others it's a light drizzle.

Surely a better solution would be a campaign to encourage drivers to drive to suit the conditions, be that fog, rain or indeed a low sun.

conman    on 21 August 2021

Another point to raise is in France they have common sense speed limits 80mph on motorways so of course they can easily reduce it in the wet. Driving in the wet in France means that if the road surface is wet even after a light shower you will still get fined if you do not reduce your speed. As I said earlier in France they have Police!! unlike stupid Governments here that put a few pounds saving before human lives.

Edited by conman on 21/08/2021 at 10:25

The Duffster    on 22 August 2021

When I emigrated to Canada in the 1960s, the Province of Alberta had different daytime and nightime speed limits on the highways, with the nighttime one 10 mph slower than daytime. Rain or shine, sun or snow, two different legal speed limits on the same highways. Took me a while (and a speeding ticket) to get used to...

Oldboy    on 23 August 2021

If the limit were to be 80 in the dry, and 70 in the wet, that might be good.

Very similar of course to France where this has been the rule for decades.

A reduction to 60 in the wet would I think be liable to lead to “Bunching” - 60 mph convoys of closely spaced cars ‘though with greatly increased braking distances, what could possibly go wrong there ?

IF this was to be introduced it would doubtless need lots of visible Police Cars as “pace cars”; anyone overtaking a Police Pace Car being nicked not for speeding but for Dangerous Driving !

(If you cannot see a Police Pace car you are either too blind to be driving, or going to fast to see it in time, neither such driver should be on the roads in wet or dry !)

   on 28 August 2021

How about just drive slower according to road traffic & weather conditions???

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