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

    For mine, the argument over speed shouldn't happen until driving standards improve.

    Speed restrictions on L and P platers need to be abolished, basic driving skills should become part of the school curriculum and an advanced driving course be compulsory prior to gaining one's unrestricted licence.

    Here in WA the freeway is limited to 100k/hour. Then you turn off onto a twisty country road and it goes UP to 110. It's a bit silly,

    +1 for 130Km...
    Even in a Toyota Echo that is an acceptable speed. When I am driving the "nice" car it doesn't even seem like it is moving at 130km.

    Even more important is getting those <100km/hr people out of the outside lane on the F3.

      I actually drive slower on the country roads.
      THEY are not safe.

    Most people cant handle driving at 110 let alone any faster. Having driven on the Autobahn myself, it takes a very high level of driver concentration and a commitment to owning and maintaining a decent car which simply doesn't exist in Australia. I drove a BMW M5 over there and it was perfectly safe at over 200km/h. I drive an Audi S8 here, a 300km/h car, and 110 is painful, but I wouldn't dare drive faster around people who cant merge, cant indicate, cant drive straight or even keep their eyes on the road, let alone maintain tire pressures, brakes, suspension etc to a level required to drive over 110. Then there's our roads. The Autobahn is like an airport runway, perfect; I've broken suspension here on Australian Highways due to potholes. I don't think we have the population and money to justify maintaining highways to the level required to drive faster. Most drivers seem to think driving is a right instead of a privilege, and their attitude shows in the way they maintain their cars, drive and treat other's lives around them on the road. Without some serious tightening of safety and training, I think any increase in limit is asking for trouble.

    People who are saying it should only be newer cars that can go 130...my old 1969 Mercedes would handle 130+ much much better than most new cars ;) I'm not saying that only expensive cars should be allowed or anything like that, but it will take a high level of driver maturity to understand their driving ability and car's performance, and limit themselves when it isn't safe.

    Angus Kidman, you state that you are not a driver yourself, so what the hell would you know about the subject? Answer? Sweet FA.

    If you had any real world driving education, experience or even a bit commonsense you would know that:

    1. Any impact over about 80kmh is probably going to kill you. This means that if you hit any car head on the collision will usually be fatal unless the average speed of both vehicles is less than 40kmh.

    In other words, unless the speed limit is 40kmh most head-on collisions will be fatal.
    Clearly a 40kmh speed limit is ludicrous, so we currently have speed limits of 100 to 110 around Australia.
    A study conducted years ago by one of Australia's road authorities correctly concluded that raising the open highway speed limit to 130 would have virtually no impact whatsoever on the road toll. In fact, it was possible the number of accidents on open country roads and good freeways would reduce, because travelling time is reduced, frustration is reduced (= less road rage) and 130kmh is also a bit more interesting speed to drive at. The study recognised that driving at 100 or 110 is mind numbingly boring (especially in this large country) and boredom leads to people nodding off at the wheel, which is a leading cause of head on collisions and single vehicle accidents.

    A 130 kmh limit would also increase national productivity through increased transport efficiency.

    Conveniently, politicians ignored this study because they didn't like the answers. The pollies don't know how to deal with the hysterical minority (e.g. CARS) people who milk media sensationalism for all their worth.
    A 130 kmh limit might also mean less speed camera revenue and we couldn't have that could we?

    There are evidence based studies from both Australia and around the world to support a higher speed limit.
    Top Gear may be a good TV show, but it is hardly an authoritative source of information.

      I raised the topic to gather opinions on it, and made it very clear that I'm not directly involved in driving. I don't see how that justifies this particular personal attack. Most everyone else managed to offer comments without having to act unpleasantly.

        Don't feed the trolls Angus. This Poindexter looks like it lives under a freeway overpass. LOL!

        See, this is why we need a proper sign in for the forum! Trolls like this would only get one chance! Over on Giz on the weekend I had some tool sign in with my name, it's time for a change mate!

    Completely agree. Anyone here driven from Melbourne to Sydney along the Hume? It's a disgrace to be going so slow, a higher limit would greatly reduce the time frame you are on the road and thus drop the amount of sleep related crashes. same as the Western freeway. I drive from Melbourne to Ballarat every week and feel i would be safe going much faster on it, most drivers already do go faster.

    What I find ludicrous is the 100km/h speed limit on the brand new freeway in Melbourne: Eastlink. 3 lanes, perfect surface and dead straight. It is mind numbingly boring to travel along this road at 100km/h when the road is empty (often.) There are plenty of hidden cameras on the road so attempting to go at a "reasonable" speed is not worth the financial risk.

      Absolutely agree. Eastlink would be a prime candidate for 130km/h. It's so mind numbing that you end up going faster without realising it: then you get a letter in the mail.

      Have to agree with you there.

      There's no reason a higher speed limit couldn't be enacted on newer, safer roads like the Eastlink.

      But, as many others have pointed out, driver education is a must before this should come into affect.

    It's inappropriate in Aus, unless we rebuild 90% of the roads. Most roads are made of tar, which is not designed for high speeds due to the material tends to get soft at high heat/speeds. (don't believe me? be on the lookout for main roads with lots of truck traffic and made of tar, you'll see 2 dips on the road that look like car tracks) Reason we use it is because it's cheap, and weight isn't an issue on flat ground. Bridges use concrete because it acts both as a surface and support, so unless we all travel at 130 km/h on bridges ONLY, this doesn't look very feasible for the foreseeable... 100 years =P

    Faster Speed = getting to destination quicker which means Less Fatigue which is the main cause of accidents on our highways "Proven"

    As a regular highway driver in NSW and VIC, I would estimate that over 90% of the cars on an 110 posted highway are cruising at around 120/125 anyway, let's stop pissing around and make it legal.

    I agree with Steve, at 130 I feel significantly more attentive and aware of my surroundings as I drive as compared to 110, and it doesn't lessen over time during the drive.

    The only thing changing the speed limit would do is lower the income for the various councils from traffic infringement fines.
    People already regularly travel at 120-130km/h on freeways, have been doing for years.
    also its complete crap that Aus cars (or Jap) can't do high speeds becaus they're not designed for it where European cars are
    Aus cars can do the same speeds just as safely

    I lived in the Territory a few years back before they introduced the speed limits. Open road speed limits were AMAZING!

    I'm all for 130km. Lots of people speed anyway.

    There is also the case that some roads had higher speed limits but due to the number of accidents the limit was reduced.

    Fatigue and comfort is the biggest problems.
    As indicated in another post, " it did not feel like we were going that fast." Just indicates that you could be driving at an un safe speed and not be aware of it.

    If Top Gear shows us anything is that even a reasonably priced car can be driven so differently around a track with instruction prior on how best to do so, that on regular roads we are stuck with what is safe for the majority which included first time drivers.

    The funniest but scariest thing was when I was being driven around in India that the driver thought that at 60km/h it is safe without a seat belt but faster then this they would put the seat belt on but take off again when they slowed down. I can not explain why he did this but when given the choice for safety not everyone picks the same thing.

    So tho I disagree with the speed limits in some situations most of the time they are not far off the safe speed for the majority.

    I'm not sure Australia has the driving discipline to bump the speed limits up any higher. Coming from the uk (yeah, I know) it's very obvious that the roads are more chaotic. Some of this it probably 'imported' driving culture, but once you get that sort of behaviour on the roads at all, everyone else just follows suit. The things that make it so dangerous here (I'm a biker, so I really notice this stuff due to the constant threat of death):

    - driving slowly in the fast lane
    - changing lanes *then* indicating
    - changing lanes without a shoulder check (just mirrors)
    - the 'every man for himself' when a lane frees up (in Europe they wait for cars in front to go)
    - insane tailgating

    - all of this makes it much more stressful driving here. Having said that, it's less obvious on the freeways.

    The autobahn has variable speed limits (ala M7 in NSW) pretty much signed everywhere. Curvy bit? do 100. Long straight, good weather? go for gold. They change with conditions.

    Which, by the way, they're trained to do.

    In Australia we're trained to stick to the speed limit, and to most importantly pass our driving test. Understeer? Oversteer? most people don't even understand the concept. Dry and wet grip, emergency braking, how ABS works, we're not taught these things outside of advanced courses.
    What's considered a basic course in a lot of EU countries we call advanced training that costs hundreds, if not thousands.

    Our drivers are aggressive, rude, and hog overtaking lanes. On the Autobahn the left lane is for the speed limit. Middle for "cruising around 180-200", and if you're in the right lane be prepared for very fast cars coming up behind you at a rather good pace.

    Over here, it causes panic reflexes. Or for the rude hand gesture. Hell, I've recieved nasty looks and been flipped the bird for accelerating to the speed limit quickly. It's a crime in Vic and Qld, as well. (2 demerits and 3 penalty units or something. "Excessive acceleration". Wheelspin or not)

    The Hume Highway can easily wear 150k/h all the way through. Multiple of the sections between ACT and Vic are straight and wide enough to land a commercial plane on.

    Ignoring the training, then you have to look at the monetary factors. We lose revenue. All those speeding fines handed out on the highway? They'd drastically reduce. Motorists are a revenue stream to state governments. The Vic and NSW budget even forecast REVENUE from speeding fines. Safety? I highly doubt that.

    Finally, go for a drive. How many pre-1990 cars do you see that would be incapable of doing 130k/h safely? How many with expired rego, sub-par safety ratings, no cruise control (which has been a basic feature for years now), bald tires, so on.

    Having said all that - I've happily driven at 160 for an overnight trip in the middle of nowhere, just to get there faster and I can say for sure I was more awake.

    New Idea: Anyone breaking road rules (speeding, not indicating, running a red, tailgating, causing an accident etc.) should have their license suspended for 10 years.

    That'll keep the ruffins off our roads, and then we can open up the speed limits to the rest of us.

    The 110 rule is a joke, almost any car from the last 15 years would do 130km comfortabley,
    problems being "granny" drivers, idiots whom dont understand left lane is the slow lane and restricted liscences (p's and l's)
    allow P's and L's full speed on motorways and a minimum 100 to merge onto motorway and 130 would be a much more comfortable speed

    My friend doing engineering at uni did a report on australian roads, one of his points was the hume highway. the road is designed for much higher speeds around 150km, similar to the autobarns in europe. they have on and offramps that allow a safe distance to slow and pick up speed to merge safely.

    I drive daily on a stretch of highway that is dual laned and has at most 2 corners i wouldnt take at 150. this 70km stretch (between newcastle and buladelah) would be an ideal place to atleast trial a raised speed limit, the road is very new 10<years concrete and is very straight.
    this will not happen as australia is an overuled nanny country.

      Couldn't have said it better myself.

    If you haven't figured out by now that all governments (state, local and federal) are corrupt parasitic businesses controlled by offshore vested interests (Descredited UN, Al Gore, Rothschild carbon tax scam for the privilege of breathing out anyone?) without regard for the people and that speeding fines are great earners for them then you are naive and ignorant and need to do your homework about real freedom, governments, orwellian reality as distinct from lying tv propaganda from the presstitutes laughingly called news in the lamestream media. Pollies will bleat democracy and imply freedom but the reality is that we are played for chumps daily by their actions which are completly opposite to their high sounding rhetoric. (Yes we can anyone?) There is no incentive therefore to improve driver training unless a very obvious case makes the headlines and a polly may be like a deer caught in the headlights for one day here or there in front of the news pack. Since there are rich opportunities for Pollies to pick your pockets (fines) expect to see the status quo. We have gone from (if we ever were) the clever country to the stupid country more and more every single day. I don't see the carbon high priest PM Bob brown saying anything. Wouldn't driving faster without stopping and starting be better for their oxymoronic belief system of carbon emissions?

    It's actually a joke that we can't go more than 100-110 kmh.

    Our roads on freeways are completely suitable to those speed limits, fact is, we live in a nanny state, where people don't actually know how to drive and have no regard for someone coming along faster in the right lane.

    They have the mentality of, "Well, im going the speed limit so I am not going to move out of the way".

    Completely pathetic.

    As for the truck drivers... They should be firmly cemented in the left hand lane where they belong so their amphetamine rage doesn't spill out onto other parts of the road. But thats right... Their employers impose unrealistic deadlines so they are smacking speed and pissing everyone off to reach their destination.

    We need a massive overhaul, and I would be more than happy to discuss this further seeing as I have just spent the last 4 months driving all over europe.

    Also, Aussie's we really need to learn how to drive manual. Automatic is lazy and teaches you nothing about how to control and 'feel' a car.

    Top Gear Australia is the worst show ever invented. The hosts are extremely annoying and there comments are rediculus.

      I completely agree. They were claiming that the current learner tests were too easy, yet I'd like to see them pass the test + do 100hrs of supervised driving. It's easy to talk the talk without walking the walk.

    I'm against the 130km/hr speed limit idea. After doing "highway practice" on Ls with a maximum speed limit of 80km/hr (30 below the speed limit) i'm honestly surprised i'm still alive.

    If you don't believe me, slow to 80km/hr on highways and wait until people narrowly avoid you. That's exactly what will happen with trucks that can't go faster than 100km/hr.

    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.

    Driving faster makes you more alert!?!

    so you are on a freeway (driving a long distance between places with limited interruption) and you keep your adrenaline ramped up because you are going "fast" ... surely this will just tire you out more quickly and make you more dangerous on the road.

    as homer Simpson said "sure, we may save countless lives, but millions will be LATE!"

    It all boils down to safety versus speed relationship for a particular road/weather conditions/vehicle. I have read about a
    quarter of the comments above, and apart from the comments of the comparing the standard of our roads to that of Europe,
    there does not seem to be any mention of divided roads/dual carriage ways. Considering the number of idiots on the road
    and that most drivers are really inexperienced at highway driving and do well and truly overestimate their driving skills
    a 130km/h speed limit is absurd unless its on a divided road build to a reasonable standard. I would hate to be in the NT
    driving at 130km/h on a two lane highway where the combined speed of two approaching vehicles is 260km/h. Its scary enough at 100km/h.
    Studies since the 1980's on the relationship between speed and probability of having an accident have shown that you need to be traveling about 10% higher than the posted speed limit. This is fact. The reason? Its a simple matter of traffic flow.
    Generally most drivers travel faster than the posted speed limit. To reduce your probability of an accident you need to 'go
    with the flow' of the surrounding traffic. Having someone on the speed limit when everyone is slightly over causes frustration, annoyance and rash decisions leading to accidents.
    The solution? This has to be factored in posted speed limits. Its really ridiculous that doing 1km/h over the speed limit
    equates to a fine. It not humanly possible to be on the limit without going over and under for that matter. The intelligent action that our relevant governing bodies is to spell out allowable tolerance for posted speed limits. For example, if this should be
    set to 10%, then a posted speed limit of 60km/h would have an upper limit of 66km/h etc. without you copping a fine. This would be a positive move in the right direction. We desperately need some clever people to look into the all important factors causing accidents, not just the single one I pointed out above, and implement changes before we even think of increasing the speed limits. So its not a simple matter of posting new speed limits, its a lot more. But the politicians and the decision makers do NOTHING. They just look at the stats and say 'oh.. looks like another bad year for the road toll, we need to increase the penalties'. Well guess what, that has not worked for the last 50 years. They are really slow learners. There is a lot more politicians can do, but its in the too hard basket. They are waiting for retirement to receive their massive payouts and benefits for the rest of their lives. Which is all sorted out of course.

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