Should driving speed be limited on motorways?

Group 10

In the article, the ethics of cancelling the speed limit on motorways will be discussed. As far as unlimited speed motorway is concerned, the first response coming out into most people’s mind is that it is dangerous and polluting. Whereas it can also be good news that commuting by automobiles can be efficient and fun. The debate of cancelling the speed limit on motorways has been discussed for more than a few decades.

Safety is the most important thing

Ethically, unlimited speed highways are still not incredibly supported by some people.
The first reason is definitely the safety consideration. According to the statistics from the European Commission, around 20% of European drivers prefer driving fast to compete with other drivers. Even 5% of drivers have dangerous driving in order to overtake others , which is extremely prone to cause traffic accidents. In India, more than 48,000 people died in accidents caused due to overtaking in 2014. It is obvious from the cases that unlimited speed highways have harms for humans. The duty ethics indicate that actions should be in agreement with some moral rules. Undoubtedly, unlimited speed highways, in some sense, lead to the breach of laws and principles. Since it has the possibility of causing death and it is completely not categorical imperative, it can be thought of as not good will, which violates the Kantian ethics.
According to the scientific study, people cannot react to the obstacles that are sitting hundred meters away from drivers within three seconds when they are driving at 160 km/h. If unlimited speed highways are available everywhere, some people will definitely drive to exceed 160 km/h. However, those trucks and buses obviously cannot reach that speed and have to face extreme danger on highways. Utilitarianism states briefly that the greatest happiness for the greatest number is the best choice. When those vehicles with low speed are driven on the highways, the drivers are actually taking risks. In addition, those people who do not want to take the risk of driving over 160 km/h cannot guarantee themselves to be at a controllable speed. In other words, the highways are only dedicated for those people who want to have fun driving, rather than the consideration of others’ pleasure.
The construction of unlimited speed highways should also concern the environmental effects. The unlimited speed highways certainly bring more environmental pollution due to the higher vehicle emissions while being driven at over 160 km/h. The aspirational code of conduct manifests that projects should respect the environment and minimise harm. For example, the carbon dioxide emission is proportional to the driving speed, which is apparently not consistent with the aspirational code of conduct. Besides, the noise from the high speed vehicles have negative influences on the people living at two sides of the highways. Hence, professionally, speed limits should be set on highways to protect the environment and humans alongside.

A more free and efficient way to drive

In the UK, the 70-mph speed limit was initially set in 1965, due to several car accident cases in fog. However, since the increasing development in the automobile industries, the rule enacted 53 years ago is already out of date for modern vehicles. Modern vehicles had a lot of improvements over 50 years. These improvements not only make the vehicles run faster, but also provide a huge increase in safety while driving. Based on the improvements made on automobiles, the limit should be cancelled. The laws fundamentally compel the behaviors of people are expected to do, and the ethics give suggestions of people ought to follow and help people to make decisions. Driving carefully is a decision made through ethics, however the speed limit is made by laws. Thus, if the law does not have any constriction about the speed limit, it is ethical to drive at any speed at the motorway under the safety concern of the driver. In addition, from a survey in 2013, it shows that nearly half of the drivers broke the speed limit before in the UK. The utilitarianism ethics mention that if an action can bring the majority people happiness, it should be chosen. Thus, cancelling the speed limit can be considered.
Another example is German autobahn, on most of which there is no compulsory universal speed limit.

The norm and sanction are highly related to the values. At the beginning of autobahn construction, the purpose is to improve the traffic efficiency and fewer travel times due to unnecessary road conditions. It is obvious that the traffic efficiency is placed on high value fundamentally. Also, the personnel safety is always the first to be concerned, we refer to the history of germany autobahn speed limit  and the autobahn deaths statistic in Germany which illustrate that there is not enough evidence to show that the unrestricted speed has a significant fluctuation in the accident rate and few extremely vicious speeding accidents cannot replace the mainstream trend as the basis for establishing mandatory speed limits.

Besides, the statistics also imply some potential NORMS and VALUES among drivers which promote reasonable use of the autobahn spontaneously, which implies that the duty ethics is potentially reactive among the action of  road users for equality basically.

An advisory speed limit might be imposed but no need to be compulsory. Mainly because the duty ethics, in fact, can restrain most people from doing reasonable behavior. whereas the reciprocity will consolidate this state.

As mentioned above, about the efficiency as a value-neutral concept is usually accompanied with inequality and deprivation, however that is mostly depends on individual choice and we tend to accept the presumed trade-off between efficiency and equity.[5] Just like one conservative lawmaker in Germany said that: “Whoever wants to drive 120 can drive 120, and those who want to go faster can do that too.

Obviously, all of us have general responsibilities for life, law and the public good, however with the theory of UTILITARIANISM and the basis of duty ethics as well as efficiency purpose, we believe that no compulsory speed limit on German AUtobahn seems like more flexible and practical.

Motorways should set up a speed limit at the moment, however it can be cancelled in the near future.

[1]. https://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/specialist/knowledge/speed/many_drivers_exceed_the_speed_limit/speed_choice_why_do_drivers_exceed_the_speed_limit_en

[2]. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Maximum-road-accidents-occur-when-overtaking/articleshow/48831373.cms

[3]https://www-bmj-com.sheffield.idm.oclc.org/content/bmj/344/bmj.d7790.full.pdf

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autobahn

[5]https://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/other/engineering-ethics-in-practice-full

[6]http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/duty_1.shtml[7]https://www.dw.com/en/german-government-rules-out-autobahn-speed-limit/a-47265764

1 thought on “Should driving speed be limited on motorways?

  1. I think this is a great article – a good question with excellent use of ethical reasoning for both sides of the argument.
    The case for a de-restricted motorway can be utilitarian – allowing everyone to drive at speeds that they are comfortable with surely suits all. However, this runs up against the practicality that most motorways have three lanes and can often have a high volume of cars. Similarly, the case against can be utilitarian – everyone wants to be able to use the motorway comfortably, not all fast drivers are aggressive drivers but many combine the two to make driving on motorways stressful for some.
    A side argument – and perhaps a win-win for Assignment Two is a variable speed limit linked to traffic volume.

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