Variable speed limits in Britain are a complete nightmare.
Although it may be an unpopular opinion, one of our favorite parts of old Top Gear was when Clarkson, May, and Hammond sat down to talk about the latest cars and complain about driving in the UK. One of the biggest hot button issues at the time was the variable speed limits of British highways during times of construction and congestion (which was basically all the time). As it turns out, these speed limits are still very much an issue, as Evo's Lee Stern reports. Even after so many years, Clarkson is still right about the silly speed limits.
In the UK, the speed limit on most highways is 70 mph. The issues arrise when the government lowers the speed limit to 50 or 60 mph due to congestion or construction. Back in 2013, 7,064 people were pulled over for speeding in a variable speed limit zone. In 2017, 72,348 people were pulled over (according to police data). Of the ticketed motorists, 67% were traveling at or below 69 mph, indicating they likely thought their speed was safe and appropriate. In response to the issue, Highways England’s chief executive, Jim O’Sullivan, said the rules have caused “dissatisfaction” among drivers. He added, "nobody has a perfect product and there is some room for improvement on how those limits are set."
O'Sullivan still says the variable speed limits are necessary because "we have to set the speed limit before the congestion appears. If you don’t set the limit before there is no point having the speed limits." Clearly some changes are needed, because motorists shouldn't be punished for driving at a safe speed when the road is open and safe. Since 2013, the number of ticket motorists had increased ten fold, indicating a need for change. Even after all these years, Clarkson's remarks on speed limits still hold true.