Raising lorry speed limits ‘might reduce accidents’ on Northumberland road

The A697 south of the Bridge Of Aln.
The A697 south of the Bridge Of Aln.

A Northumberland county councillor and road safety campaigner has said the increase in speed limits for lorries due to come into force tomorrow might actually reduce accidents on the A697.

Glen Sanderson, ward member for Longhorsley, was commenting ahead of the Government’s plan to raise the legal ceiling for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes from 40mph to 50mph on single carriageways and from 50mph to 60mph on dual carriageways in England and Wales.

Councillor Glen Sanderson on the A697

Councillor Glen Sanderson on the A697

“Slow lorries contribute to drivers’ frustration, especially if they cause long tailbacks, so some relaxation might be welcomed and could lead to fewer accidents on the A697, which is one of the most dangerous rural A-class roads in the country,” he said.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) agrees.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the IAM, said: “Driver awareness is the key if this policy is to deliver safer roads. There is widespread ignorance about current speed limits leading to frustration and road rage as platoons build up behind lorries being driven legally. The new limits should reduce stress and ease bad overtaking. This has been proven in the first few months of higher limits on the A9 in Scotland.”

But Brake, the road safety charity, has reiterated its concern at the higher limits.

Gary Rae, campaigns manager, said: “We are disappointed that the Government has gone against the advice of road safety groups on this issue. The decision to increase HGV speed limits is short-sighted and runs against work to manage traffic speeds more effectively and reduce casualties on our roads. The relationship between speed and casualties is a proven one, so allowing the largest vehicles on our roads to reach higher speeds more often risks more deaths, serious injuries and additional cost to the taxpayer.

“The government itself has admitted that this move will likely have no economic or road safety benefit. It is a move designed to legitimise the dangerous behaviour of those who already break the speed limit while putting the safety of the law-abiding majority second. It sets a dangerous precedent that if traffic laws are persistently flouted; the government would rather change them than enforce them.”

Coun Sanderson set up the A697 Working Group, made up of a number of county councillors, to look at lowering speed limits on some sections of the A697 from 60mph to 50mph and using speed indicator signs in a number of villages.

Coun Sanderson told the Gazette that the worst section of the road for accidents was within his ward area, from Heighley Gate through to Longframlington.

A county council-commissioned report into the safety of the A697, which was published last month, recommended a series of measures, but they didn’t go far enough, according to Coun Sanderson.