Written by Graham Cutbill-White
Speed restrictions in place during motorway roadworks are set to be scrapped on weekends during new tests by Highways England.
Drivers are currently restricted to 50mph when driving through roadworks, but Highways England is set to increase the speed limit to 60mph when workers aren’t on site – Sundays and bank holidays for example.
The tests will see whether or not varying speed limits can help to improve conditions for drivers while maintaining safety levels for both road users and road workers.
There will be a speed of limit of 60mph for areas of motorway roadworks away from where staff are working, while areas close to those working will remain at 50mph.
The move comes in an attempt to reduce frustration for motorway users, Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said:
“People understand roadworks are necessary but are also frustrated by them.
“At the same time we have to ensure as they drive through them that they, and our road workers, are safe.
“So we are always thinking of new ways to improve journeys at the same time as keeping everyone as safe as we can. That is why over the next 12 months we will test changes to the design and operation of roadworks.”
Recent statistics revealed by the government company found that 60% of drivers who drove at 60mph through a roadworks zone had a decreased average heart rate indicating a reduction in frustration.
While many drivers will see this as a positive move, one thing that certainly won’t reduce frustration nor average heart rate is the possibility of more fines as a result of the variable speed limits.
The Telegraph reported that last year more than 70,000 drivers using motorways with variable speed restrictions were fined for speeding offences – a 10% increase from 5 years ago. It’s also reported that the majority of these 70,000 were driving slower than 70mph.
While the prospect of an increase in driver fines won’t be popular with motorway users, Highways England is in a difficult position as they look to reduce driver frustration while still have an obligation to ensuring the safety and well-being of their workforce.
A recent report from the agency claimed that are nearly 300 incidents a week of drivers entering coned-off areas or subjecting road workers to physical or verbal abuse on motorways or major A roads.
Whichever side of the cones you stand on this, you’ll have a better idea of whether variable speed limits on weekends and bank holidays will reduce frustration and keep the motorways safe for everyone when the tests go live in late 2018 and early 2019.