Are our roadworks speed limits too low?

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A UK survey has found that most motorists believe roadworks speed limits are too low. It’s a bugbear of many drivers in Australia, but the difference in the law in the two countries is vast.

In a situation Australian drivers can only dream about, UK motorists are required to slow to 80km/h (50mph) when travelling through roadworks on motorways. In the majority of Australia, even where the speed limit is 100 or 110km/h, roadworks speed limits are mostly set at 40km/h or, in some states, 25km/h.

The UK survey of 1024 people found the majority (52.6 per cent) of motorists back a move by the UK Highways Agency to increase speed limits through motorway road works to 97km/h (60mph), according to a new poll by Motorpoint, the UK’s largest independent car retailer.

The Highways Agency recently conducted a series of trials on the M1, M4 and M6 motorways allowing cars to travel at 60mph through eight different sets of roadworks to measure journey times as well as safety levels. Under the new rules, speed limits will be classed as either ‘permanent’, which allows for driving at 60mph at all times, ‘contraflow’, which allows for driving at 60mph where construction activity isn’t taking place and ‘dynamic’, which lifts the limit from 50 to 60mph only on non-working days.

Mark Carpenter, chief executive officer of Motorpoint, said: “The results of our poll clearly echo the frustration of so many drivers over the years who have spent countless hours crawling through motorway roadworks in their cars.

“It’s refreshing to see the Highways Agency ‘challenging the norm’ as they say and recognising that increasing the speed limit through roadworks does help reduce journey times, especially at a time when we need to get Britain moving again, but doesn’t compromise people’s safety in the process.”

Similar changes to Australian rules could reduce frustration and travel times.

Even more tellingly, removing roadworks speed limits when work is not being carried out would also have a significant effect, but despite promises by various governments to fine operators who leave out peed limit signs, nothing has happened. We have been unable to find a single instance of an operator being fined, and as readers would be well aware, speed restrictions remain in place when there is absolutely no reason for them.

Previous attempts to raise roadworks speed limits (most recently in SA where the limit is 25km/h) have been vehemently opposed by unions and safety authorities.

Paul Murrell is a motoring writer and creator of, which specialises in “car advice for people whose age and IQ are both over 50”. This article first appeared on

Have you had occasion to drive through roadworks sections but found absolutely no activity and no-one in attendance? Have you seen roadworks signs left out on weekends? Would a system similar to that in the UK make more sense? 

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