Time has run out to approve a change to national speed limits and it seems the headline making plans have been quietly dropped by the government.
Two years ago President Rajoy’s government announced it was planning to change limits on roads. Most secondary roads would see the limit drop, from 100 kph to 90, 70 or 50 kph depending on road width, but some stretches of motorway and tollroads would see the limit increase to 130 kph.
The regulations were supposed to have been approved last February, but the proposal was delayed. Now that the central government has been dissolved ahead of general elections, it seems almost certain that the law will not be a priority in the next parliament and is expected to be dropped.
The project was always contentious, with the rise in motorway limits being denounced by motorist groups as a “bribe”. Opposition party IU suggested that the rise was a “cynical move to attract more traffic to toll roads” as these would be some of the few roads to benefit from the change.
Spain has one of the highest speed limits on secondary roads in Europe, with the default limit being set at 100 kph. Most EU countries have limits of 80 or 90 kph. Only Germany and Austria share Spain’s high limit, although the UK’s limit in miles translates to 96 kph.
The Spanish traffic department (DGT) suggests 200 lives a year would be saved by dropping the limit on secondary roads to 90 kph. In 2013, 862 road deaths happened on these roads out of the 1.134 deaths overall. In 2014, this increased by 13%, and so far this year deaths on roads have increased by 1% overall.
Maria Segui, director general of the DGT, is still determined to reduce speed limits across Spain. “It’s the single safest way of reducing the yearly death toll on our roads” she explained. “With an ageing vehicle fleet and increasing amount of traffic on our roads we must ensure drivers are prudent”.
Her predecessor, Ramon Ledesma who is now a government authority on traffic, agrees. “The high limit is a left-over from the 1990’s, before we built the motorways, and it seemed increasing limits was the only way to reduce traffic time from region to region” he explained.