Should We Have A 130KM/H Speed Limit On Freeways?

For some Aussies, the most exciting part of a trip to Europe is taking a car on the German autobahns and enjoying having no speed limits in place. But are we ready as a nation to up our freeway speed limits to 130 kilometres an hour?

Picture by Tim Keegan

TV Tonight reports that the hosts of Top Gear Australia will argue for an increase in the speed limit when the show returns to the airwaves tomorrow night, noting that roads and cars are both much improved on when those limits were set. Host Steve Pizzati mounts a more unusual case:

Things coming at you quicker actually means that you’re going to be more attentive to the road

That doesn't sound like a very convincing argument to me. After all, if it's true, wouldn't it be truer at 150? Given that your stopping distance increases the faster you're going, would we need to increase the minimum distance between vehicles? Which freeways would unquestionably qualify for this treatment? And what happens with larger or older vehicles that aren't capable of those speeds?

I'm also not sure how this request balances with Top Gear's other call, for better driver education. That sounds like a good idea, but if we're arguing that drivers don't have adequate skill bases, why do we want them driving faster?

That said, regular Lifehacker readers will know I'm not a driver myself, so my own investment in the issue is pretty minimal. Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Top Gear Australia calls for 130kph speed limits [TV Tonight]


Comments

    It depends on the car you drive. I was driving BMW 540 and felt safe going 190km/h. Other cars were overtaking me like I was standing still...

      In Aus, most accidents occur between 50-110kmh, In Europe & ME most accidents occur between 120-180+kmh, opposite trend...

    I'd have to agree with the TG guys. The highways in NT (which I drove on recently) are sign posted at 130, it's a comfortable speed, keeps you focused and awake on roads that are quite repetitive and more importantly it reduces travel time and therefore fatigue. It also enables safer overtaking of slow vehicles as your speed difference is greater.

      I'm all for higher speed limits on rural sealed highways like those throughout the NT and outback – traffic isn’t heavy enough to be much of an influencing factor in setting the speed limit for those roads. As I outlined in my comment below, in high traffic levels on the F3 just outside Sydney though – it’s a bit of a different story.

        Good luck dealing with a kangaroo jumping out in front of you when you are driving at 130+km/h. I never drove over 110km/h in the Territory because you could never be sure of the road quality of what the crazy animals or tourists are going to do.

        Everyone thinks they are a great driver, but what about all the other crazy people on the roads. You can't do anything about them except drive more cautiously and be ready for anything.

    No need to increase distance between vehicles.
    3 seconds still stands, doesn't matter how fast you are going. The faster you go the larger the gap.

      Without meaning to sound like an attack on Gus, as a non-driver; this fact may not have occurred to him

      "Given that your stopping distance increases the faster you’re going, would we need to increase the maximum distance between vehicles?"

      Is this supposed to read MINIMUM distance between vehicles?

        Yep! D'oh! Just as well I'm not on the roads, really.

    I could write a lengthy piece on this; but I’ll try and keep it short and sweet.

    I’m all in favour of higher speed limits on motorways; however I only support this in the right conditions. The issue is in Australia is generally lazy attitude to driving, and often; a selfish approach to sharing the road.

    The autobahn works because Germany, and accompanying nations, has a long established system of high quality driver training from an early age, which has also served to promote adequate road manners. People actually DO stay in the slow lane (in their case, the right line) unless over-taking – a common offense here; with countless of examples of people scooting along in the fast lane, going no faster than the general traffic flow.

    The road’s we have from most reports I have read, are certainly no worse in many cases than those throughout Europe, and I can definitely see a stronger case for faster speed limits on sealed highways that see minimal traffic out west.

    Raising motorway speed limits will only work, AFTER attitudes to use of the roads, and driver abilities are dramatically increased in Australia – something which would take a quite a length of time for newer drivers to be educated to the new standard, and existing drivers to be re-educated, or retire from driving.

      So true, I'd prefer Police to start enforcing the fines for "Keep left unless overtaking". Slow drivers in the right line grind my gears...

      I pretty much stick to the left lane these days due to all the slow people in the right lane... I am the undertaker.. hehe.

      Typically I find general traffic to be doing the speed limit or above, regardless of the lane. Especially so on highways/freeways.

      I [b]hate[/b] slow drivers in the right lane! The only thing I hate more is people driving that change lanes in front of you then drive like grannies

      The other problem is that generally we still have older cars than the Western Europeans do. But still, look at a 1990-2000 era european cars vs the same era australian cars, and they'd probably still comfortably do better than late model australian cars.

    Here's an interesting image of speed limits on motorways across Europe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Freeway_speed_limits_europe.png

    My thoughts are that the limits should be increased as allowed by increases in technology. Having said that, the skills of drivers in Australia from what I've seen are shocking. Driver skills needs to be addressed first.

    Current road design practice is governed by a design vehicle's ability to maintain adequate friction between tyre and road to not shift laterally (sideways) when turning a corner in wet weather at the design speed, usually speed limit plus 10 or 20km/h. So yes, the tightest corners on a freeway built to today's standards would allow for 120-130km/h safely, but no higher.

    The biggest issue would be a disparity between truck/bus (limited to 100) and car speeds.

    The problem is that much of Australia's urban freeways were designed and built in the 1960's and 70's to much lower standards than are considered acceptable today for new works, and would never safely cater for these speeds.

      When was the last time you actually saw a truck or bus under 120kmh on the open road? I traveled between Syd and Canberra on Saturday night and I was regularly passed by trucks at 120kmh.

      Oh and design practice here is based on building the cheapest road possible while charging the government the maximum.

      Professional drivers (such as Mark Skaife) have actually gone on the record claiming that the general quality of motorways in Australia are no worse in quality than those used in Europe - presumably built to handle the current speed limits imposed on them.

      Now I know that Skaifey isn't a civil engineer - but I do think he's more qualified than the average numpty to know when a car isn't sitting safely on a road.

      Re the comment of motorways being designed and built in the "60s and 70s" - you do raise a point (though I suspect that the 80s saw far more motorway construction than the previous decaddes); however, these roads at the time were designed for cars of that period to drive on them. I doub't anyone 30 years ago could have predicted the safety and efficiency levels exhibited by modern cars.

        Hitlers designers for the Autobahn seemed to get it right in the 1930's why cant we get it right in the 1970's - 2010's.....

          Australia has the worlds largest road network and a very low population. We use spray-seal technology instead of asphalt because it is cheap. My partner is a civil engineer and she told me that Australia had to compromise on lower quality roads so that we could afford to seal a majority of our roads.

          If we had Autobahn style freeways we would be broke.

            According to Wikipedia (that bastion of that is truthful and accurate), America has the largest road network, and we're 9th... which would stand to reason. Maybe we have some of the longest stretches, but largest overall? not a chance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_road_network_size

              First of all… With a speed limit of 130km/h or 150 or 110, doesn’t mean you have to drive that speed all the time. You should drive to the conditions, the road and put some thought into what what you are doing.
              Our roads/motorways are fine for the speed and are way less crowded than most European motorways, however the drivers really aren’t up to scratch. Most are very inconsiderate and self centred and do not have much if any consideration for others on the road.
              On top of all this the cars need some sort of regular check up to keep them road worthy…. most of the 3rd world has better standards in this matter.
              As for the speed limit, 110km/h is an arbitrary number that looked good to some old man in a office once, if it was based on some actual scientific research it wouldn’t be that. Its 110km/h cos on country roads the limit is 100km/h a nice round number, but on the motorway it has to be more, so we will add a nice round number to that and make it 110km/h.

                sorry that wasnt meant to be a reply to you

      Trucks are limited to 80km/h on the Autobahn, so it just depends on sensible truckies.

    TG has an excellent point but, as they have very well noted, the standard of driving education we have in Australia is ridiculously low. Most of our learner driver experience is based around parking strategies and low speed circumstances, with almost nothing in regards to highway/freeway manners or habits. In turn, we have absolutely no education reforms based around defensive driving.

    Far too many drivers on Australian freeways feel the need to hog right hand lanes for no apparent reason. Ever heard of keeping left guys and girls? Until drivers become somewhat aware that the right hand lane is used for overtaking and overtaking only (unless we're talking about peak hour), the concept of 130km/h limits on these roads it laughable.

    Australian roads are generally too dodgy for 130 to be safe

    130km/h seems like a fair limit for freeways. Some studies indicate that higher speeds don't actually increase the accident rate, due to increased focus and decreased fatigue.

    I'm also in favour of applying this to most rural roads, but that's less likely to get support.

    I think that on most dual carriage ways in Australia the 130km speed limit should be in place. I don't think it would be appropriate on single lanes except far out west where the roads are flat and straight.

    Just a note, only about half of Autobahn is without a speed limit, the rest is limited.

    I have driven on the Autobahn at 175km/h and it was great. The thing is I was driving a VW Golf which is a nice German car and designed to go at those speeds.

    The biggest problem I can see if having cars travelling at different speeds. Some vehicles or drivers won't go 130km/h, they will opt to stick to 100. This then creates problems when they sit in the right-hand lane.

    In Germany, if you are in the left-hand lane (fast lane) you had better be the quickest on the road otherwise you will have someone honking behind you and flashing their lights.

      One question I have wondered previously (and knowing no one who has firsthand experience on said roads doesn't allow me to ask), is how the autobahn's cope with traffic volume. Generally in Australia, most motorway traffic travels within 10-15km/h of each other, often with traffic spread out evenly throughout the multiple lanes.

      I'm well aware there are far better attitudes to staying in the slow lane unless over taking in eastern Europe, and that a wide variety of cars drive on the fast roads; with a variety of top speeds. I would imagine that creates an interesting scenario for bottle necks – say for example the car in the slow lane is doing 120km/h, and a second car is overtaking at 130kp/h; how frequent is a third lane available for another car driving at 150km/h to overtake the other two?

        They have some great tricks to help with the different speeds.

        1. When there are 3 or more lanes, trucks are only allowed in the right two lanes, never in the left "fast" lane. This is enforced strictly in France and stops them stuffing up the overtaking lane.

        2. When driving faster than the traffic in front of you in the "fast" lane you keep your indicator on so that the cars in front know you are catching them and want to pass.

        3. When the traffic slows rapidly for an accident or traffic ect. put your hazard lights on so that the cars behind know that they need to slow fast!

      The unlimited sections have a "speed advisory" of 130km/h, and the limited ones frequently refer more to conditional limits - e.g., slow in rain.

      We already have that problem - L-platers are stuck going at 80, while red and green P-platers are at 90 and 100 respectively, while the rest of us are going at 110. As well as those who like to travel well over that.

        Only in NSW mate. Move to Victoria- learners can learn to drive at 110, properly supervised, instead they only learn to drive at speeds higher than 80 when they are out on their own, and learning to drive solo.

        My mind boggles.

          Agree!

          As a NSW learner, I'm scared for when I get my P's because I'll never legally have learnt to overtake on a freeway in a safe way.

          It's a very stupid rule.

    Speed is not the cause of accidents, it is a factor in the result only.

    Travelling at 150Kmh in a 60 zone does nto casue an accident. Not being able to stop in time when required does.

    Our national focus on Speed Kills is stupid. We have stopped education of people on things that actally cause accidents and focused on the one thing we can charge for ( Fine ) in a semi automated way. tailgating, pushing in, failing to indicate are all things that lead to accidents but are hard to setup Cameras to detect and therefore also rtoo hard to automate fines for..

      Hit the nail on the head. More of an "in traffic" presence is required to police such behaviour. No Police force within Australia has the resource to provide this, so the response is to police offenses which are easily closed black and white offences (it’s far easier to prove someone was speeding, than it is that they tailgated). Because of the continuous “speed kills” mentality they've advertised, no roads authority in the country would be willing to backtrack and actually RAISE a speed limit.

      The 60km/h zones are posted for that because of the variability of the road - you're far more likely to be sharing that with pedestrians, cyclists, and people turning or pulling out of properties. Freeways are limited in that respect - entries and exits are defined.

      If you're going 150 km/h in 60 zones, it's not about "not being able to stop", it's about "not being able to react", and there's no cure for that.

        It was a purposefully exagerated example... and yes, not being able to stop is only part of the problem in this scenario....

    We need to look at how feasible it is for something like this to pass the legal processes involved.

    With such a negative connotation surrounding Australian road safety (blackspots, extra blood donations on long weekends, news stations reporting the number of crashes over holidays etc.) and the shift into a more sinister connotation recently (drug strip tests and new laser speed guns) I think that regardless of the argument presented this will take an incredibly long time to pass legal proceedings.

    The upside of that? By then however one could argue that cars would be well and truly ready, roads better provisioned and safety features further advanced.

    Just my two cents.

    I know this is a unforgivable generalisation but after living in Europe for a decade I found on my return that Australians are culturally more angry and aggressive in their driving, hence dangerous and unable to handle higher speed limits. I might add there are a few European countries that are the same. German speed limits work only when you drive like Germans. BTW driving at 130, seems to me, more economical in modern cars.

      Agreed, and I only moved from NZ. Forgive me, but I do think Australia has a more aggressive culture on the road.

      I think you touched on it when you said German speed limits only work when you drive like Germans; If Australia had a better culture on the roads, i.e. more understanding of keeping left, tailgating, pushing in etc, then the roads would be safer already. Instead, everyone drives in their own style, and you have slow, 'granny drivers' (apologies to any competent 70+ drivers), mixed in with people quite capable of safely operating a motor vehicle at speeds of 150+, and who do drive a bit quicker anyway. Of course, this is all coming back to driver education, which is not very high in Australia.

      In NZ it is possible to be legally driving, unrestricted at the age of 16 years, 6 months, (you can get your learners at 15). Now I don't know if that is sensible, but one thing I do know is, I was a much more competent driver at 19, than any Australian P-Plater who got their red P's at 18. I'm sure there are some statistics that could be compared to see whether or not this has much of an effect on driver competency and accident rates. Anyway, in NZ, to shorten the timeframe of the Restricted licence (similar to P's), you can take a defensive driving course and takes 6 months off - down to 12 months on Restricted before you can go for your Full. 6 month L's period: 1 and a half years from beginner to fully licensed driver.

      Naturally most people do this, for the sole purpose of getting a full licence faster, but I think the idea has merit: many people actually undertake a defensive driving course. Unfortunately the one I took was theory only, I know there are practical ones available, in which you are taught how to drive out of a skid, stop safely, etc.

      I think that would be a small, but effective start for Australia if they intend to up the speed limits to 130kph, which I am all for in the right circumstances.

      100% Australian and 100% agree, though I think it is mainly due to poor road and traffic management than anything more sinister.

      Population explosions in areas with lacking or non-existent road infrastructure with knee-jerk road building bonanzas just cause such terrible strife in Sydney, it cant help but foster such a poor, angry attitude towards roads and driving.

      Take the outer Western Sydney, it has been the biggest growth area for the last 20 years (I'm generalising) but the only major highway (until the M7 a few years ago) that they had implemented has been under constant construction since its first opening. If you had to travel from say Campbelltown to the end of the M5, and now the City, there has not been one time in its entire life that you wouldn't have to go through some sort of road works.

      I've lived in a couple of other states and they are all like that to some degree but the pure anger in Sydney is just so over the top and yet so justified.

    I absolutely think we should up/remove the limit.
    Speed signs should be guidelines not strict rules.
    People should be fined for driving dangerously not speeding (different vehicles definitely have different safe limits, and the weather makes a huge difference.
    Signs babying people only cause them to assume what the sign says is safe even if the conditions say otherwise.

    I've cruised down the freeway at 130 before, it was basically empty at the time and I certainly wasn't putting anyone in danger.
    No way I would've done it if it was wet and busy, but I stand by the fact that when I did it it was perfectly straight (yet if caught I would've had no license for 5 months).

    Speed limits should be the upper limit of what is safe in optimal conditions, not what you're expected to drive at all the time.

      This is silly, if you have a "guideline" speed of 130km/h and some guy drives down it at 200km/h, how is that not driving dangerously? speed limits are not "guidelines" for a reason. Speed limits are also there to tell the less intelligent of the human race that this is the maximum safe limit for this road under normal conditions, many people dont know that and think the limit is just there to piss them off because its slower than what they want.

        I think that was the point he was making, you should be fined for dangerous driving, not necessarily for driving over a set arbitrary speed.

        I think the only problem in this scenario is the police and pollies getting behind it. They already blatantly scam revenue from motorists with their tactics I think having a judgement call put back into the hands of a police officer with a quota to fill would quickly spiral out of control.

    Simple fix:

    Cars made pre-2003 = 110 km/h max.

    Cars made 2003 onward = 130 km/h max.

    As an added bonus, it would provide an incentive for people driving older, less efficient (less-green) cars to upgrade to something newer.

      Just curious - why pre 2003 in particular?

        ....because my car is 2004 :) lol

          Solid gold! ha ha had me laugh out loud...

    Maybe someone that drives, has had driver training, and maybe has experience on a motorcycle could write an article about this. Otherwise it's completely ridiculous.

    Anyone that has had proper driver training, racing experience, and has driven/ridden multiple classes of vehicles would laugh at the idea there is a contradiction in saying; 'more driving training and higher speed limits are a good thing'.

      Sure, better-trained drivers should handle higher speeds better, but not everyone will be better trained.

      I can imagine that higher speed limits might make sense if everyone has had a compulsory amount of training -- but I can't ever imagine that existing drivers will be forced to re-qualify. The rules for getting a licence have gotten tougher for new drivers, but a lifted speed limit would apply to everyone.

    ok country road traffic bunches up at 100kmh behind a truck or an old granddad i think at 130 you would have a safe speed to over take. the bunching affect is dangerous people get frustrated and do silly things

    Big fail!!! It's not a matter of the type of car driven, it's a fact that Australian roads suck they are poorly made, as well as if they were to increase the speed limit, the width of the road would need to be increase as your perception of the road becomes narrower the faster you drive. Followed by less cracks, pot holes and the 99% of imperfect roads we have!

    I think on some sections of some roads it could be done. It's all about the overall safety of travelling at that speed on that road in cars that normally travel, not only along that road, but also at it's current maximum speed limit. Once you factor these kind of things into account you can then determine if a section of road is suitable for that increased speed limit. I think with each year that goes by, with each new section of road, and each advancement in new car safety features we further progress to a situation where it is safe to increase the speed limits.

    Im not entirely sure what i think about this really, i think some people may be more attentive at higher speeds, but you will always get the people who chat on their mobile (i dont mean hands free here) or put cruise control on and not pay attention, i see it most days driving around and i live in a small city. I think on major highways there is no harm in increasing the speed limit a little, though i think research and such should be done before a decision like this is made. Certainly the speed limits in residential areas and such should stay the same though.

    Driver education is what's needed. I do a lot of klicks and the things I see! Basic main points, lack of awareness, not merging at traffic speed, not allowing for merging traffic, lack of courtesy and lack of confidence.

    Don't think this would work in Qld, we have some shocking roads here. Only in the last few years have they upgraded the Brissy to Toowoomba highway to dual lane, and within six months they had to go back and repair the bloody thing because it fell apart! #}

    Have it set by time. Between 8:00pm-5:00am - 130kmh. 5:00am-8:00pm - 110khm. Aussies (QLDers anyway, haven't seen them elsewhere) are truly shocking, rude, aggressive drivers. Don't want them around at 130kmh in busy periods.

    150km/hr please :)

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