Roads are safer than before, but tailgating needs to be stopped

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Over recent decades there has been a gradual clampdown on speeding on our roads.

Speed cameras and other such traps rarely have the affection of motorists.

But they have made drivers more conscious of their overall speed and have helped to cut death tolls.

Many critics of speed cameras say that speeding is responsible for only a small minority of accidents, but in fact it is a major aggravating secondary factor in many accidents in which it is the principal cause. If an accident is caused by inattention, the consequences are all the greater if the motorist has been speeding.

The increased vigilance of speed is one of the core reasons why road deaths have fallen sharply over the last half century, here in Northern Ireland and across the western world.

Other factors in the decline include compulsory seatbelts, and better designed cars and better training and driver awareness of risk.

But there is, amid all those improvements, a powerful case to be made for increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph from the current 70mph. Such a move would reflect the fact that motorways are the safest roads to drive on. It would also be a reward for the fact that motorists are now so careful about their speed overall.

But if it happened it would have to be rigidly enforced, as in France, where an 80mph autoroute speed limit is enforced by average speed cameras, so that 80 means 80, and not 90.

It would also have to be accompanied by a clampdown on tailgating. This practice, of following right behind the car in front, is driven by impatience . One in eight casualties on England’s motorways and major A-roads are caused by it, according to new analysis.

Highways England said more than 100 people are killed or seriously injured each year in accidents where a vehicle has tailgated. Stopping this is the next needed safety campaign on our roads.