Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin has revealed that the government is considering raising the speed limit on UK motorways from 70mph to 80mph, in a bid to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.

McLoughlin also said he supported plans to introduce more ‘smart motorways’. Smart motorways are designed to be responsive to the level of traffic; where vehicles can drive on the hard shoulder when roads become congested, or variable speed limits can be implemented when required.

According to the latest figures, deaths on UK motorways increased in 2013 for the first time since 2005. During 2013, there were 100 people killed on motorways, an increase of 14 percent compared with the previous year. The plans as a whole have met wide criticism from road safety groups and, according to motoring groups, the death rate could rise further if the decision is taken to open the hard shoulder to traffic.

Helen Williams, a senior road accident solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Bristol office, said: “Although motorways remain one of the safest types of roads in the UK, 100 people died on them last year and that was up from previous years. If the risk of increasing the speed limit is a further rise in deaths I would question the logic of doing so.

“Despite adamant opposition from road safety groups that there is a real risk to motorists if the hard shoulder is opened to vehicles as it exposes anyone who has broken down to fast moving traffic, the government seems determined to add that into a mix of changes to the way that we drive on motorways.

“Shaving a couple of minutes off a driver’s journey time by increasing their speed limit or by creating another lane by opening up the hard shoulder should not be a priority if there is even the slightest risk of it having a detrimental effect on motorist and passenger safety.”