Leading article: Faster, slower – and safer

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The Independent Online

Hammering out policy has been a fractious business for the Coalition. The radically different traditions and concerns of the two parties have led to spectacular bust-ups, notably over university fees and health service reform. So it is gratifying to see in the proposed consultation of changes to road speed limits a graceful example of compromise and commitment to core values by both.

The increase in the maximum motorway speed from 70mph to 80mph will be presented to Conservatives as a turbo-charged boon to the economy, offering faster delivery times and commuter journeys. It has also, surely not by chance, a visceral appeal to the inner Jeremy Clarkson often found in members of the Tory voter base, and indeed beyond.

As every motorist knows, 80mph has long been the unspoken limit, with the authorities largely turning a blind eye to infractions. Regularising this (which brings us into line with much of Europe) and then properly enforcing it sensibly acknowledges the considerable technical improvements in vehicles and road safety since the 70mph limit was first imposed in 1965.

But the Liberal Democrats, too, hope to achieve one of their long-cherished desires: the significant extension of 20mph zones in cities and towns, which have contributed substantially to the reduction in death and serious injury, especially among children and cyclists. Britain's roads and motorways are already among the safest in the world. These changes would help make them safer.