There are two schools of thought when it comes to making changes to Australia’s speed limits for motorways, freeways and highways. Some want it fast, some want it slow. But which is the best way to go?

A new survey by Budget Direct Car Insurance has revealed how the average Australian surveyed feels about the current speed limits on our highways, freeways and motorways and if they consider speeding to be breaking the law or just bending it a little.

Speeding is attributed to roughly a quarter of Australian road fatalities but when asked if speed limits should be increased on Australian highways, freeways and motorways, 30% of all respondents said yes. Only 12% thought that the speed limits should be decreased on those types of roads and just over half (57%) thought the limits should stay the same.

How do you think the Australian Government should change the speed limit on Australian Highways, Freeways and Motorways?

National results

Australia’s speed limits have remained fairly consistent throughout the years and while speed limit reviews and changes do occur in each state and territory, these are usually done for individual roads or sections rather than as a general rule for all roads.

On the one hand, increases to the speed limit could potentially reduce driver fatigue and could lead to greater concentration on driving1. The current speed limits were set decades ago, and advances in car safety technology have come a long way since then, including improvements to braking, collision avoidance, air bags, seat belts and car crumple zones.

Driver fatigue is most common on longer journeys which are likely to take place on long, monotonous roads like motorways, freeways and highways. A speed limit increase to these types of roads might not affect the amount of speeding fatalities but could reduce the amount of fatigue fatalities.

Those in favour of increasing speed limits were more likely to be male.

How do you think the Australian Government should change the speed limit on Australian Highways, Freeways and Motorways?

Men were twice as likely as women to want to see increases to Australia’s speed limits on highways, freeways and motorways. They were also less likely to want to decrease the speed limit than women.

Of no particular age

There were no clear age groups that felt strongly enough one way or the other on the issue of speed limits. The age group most wanting to increase the speed limits were the 25-34 and the 55-64 year olds, demonstrating that the need for speed transcends generational boundaries.

How do you think the Australian Government should change the speed limit on Australian Highways, Freeways and Motorways?

Those that were least likely to want to see any increase to the speed limits were people over the age of 65. They also had the highest percentage of people wanting to see a decrease in the current speed limits at 13.8% of respondents.

Those that were in the decrease limits camp could be motivated by the crash statistics that have shown decreases in the road death toll and injuries since lower speed limits were enforced on all Australian roads in the 1970’s.

There is also the argument that if speed limits are reduced, the stopping times and distances of vehicles will be smaller which could result in a reduced number of crashes2, especially those that occur as a result of tailgating. A car travelling at a higher speed will have less time and distance to respond to an unexpected incident. A driver travelling 50km/h and another travelling 80km/h will have the same reaction time, but the 80km/h driver will cover more distance than the 50km/h driver in the same time frame. It also takes vehicles moving at faster speeds longer to slow down when braking.

But will reducing the speed limits even further make a difference with so many people in favour of increasing them?

A study of people who partook in speeding behaviours indicated that if they felt a speed limit was unreasonably low for the road conditions they would not adhere to the advised limit3. This indicates that even if speed limits were reduced, people would not necessarily obey the newer lower limits.

Do you consider driving over the speed limit to be breaking the law?

We asked the public for their opinion on speeding and the results revealed that as many as 37% of respondents felt as though breaking the speed limit was acceptable in certain situations and just over 10% said outright that they didn’t consider speeding to be breaking the law full stop.

Do you consider driving over the speed limit to be breaking the law?

Younger generations were less likely to answer that that they felt driving over the speed limit was breaking the law. The 25-34 age bracket had the lowest percentage of respondents in the firm ‘yes’ category at 53% and every age group above them steadily increased till the 65+ bracket of whom 70.9% felt that all speeding was breaking the law.

The younger generations (18-24 and 25-34) were also more likely to say that speeding was acceptable depending on the situation. What it is that is influencing these age groups to respond this way is unknown, but it is a strong indication that more needs to be done in terms of enforcing speed limits.

Whether there is enough support among the general public to attempt to raise or lower certain speed limits is unknown, but there are interesting debates on both sides of the fence.

Disclaimer

This survey was conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of Budget Direct in May 2018. All figures are from this research unless stated otherwise. The survey was conducted online with a total sample size of 1,000 weighted and representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+).

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