Government's device to raise the motorway speed limit in England and Wales will only have adverse health effects, overriding any economic benefits, claims an editorial published on BMJ website.
The authors, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, criticise government proposals to raise the speed limit on all motorways in England and Wales from 70mph to 80mph by the year 2013.
The government argues that deaths on road in the United Kingdom have fallen by 75% in the past 55 years thanks to advances in car safety and see it fit to increase the speed limit as "almost half of all drivers break the current limit anyway". They add, furthermore, that since 1967 the number of serious and fatal accidents has continued to fall and as such, the UK now has one of the lowest rates of road deaths in the world.
They also identify other health related reasons for keeping the current limit, including the increase of gas emissions, air pollution and potential rise in obesity due to more people taking advantage of shorter car journeys.
The authors comment: "It is difficult to see how any benefits of an 80mph speed limit would outweigh the costs: past evidence shows that speed limit increases lead to substantial rises in road deaths, as well as other potential negative health and economic impacts."
The authors argue that this proposal appears to be a "populist gimmick" by the coalition government. Given the recent loss of life on the M5 motorway, they challenge the government to produce the evidence to justify their policy with its attendant risks to life.