Motorway at nightNearly half of cars, motorbikes and vans broke the 70mph UK motorway speed limit in 2013, according to official Department for Transport statistics.

This means the effective default speed limit on Britain’s motorways is now 80mph says the AA – because motorists know they won’t be prosecuted for it.

“One is rarely if ever stopped by the police and prosecuted [for driving at 80mph]”, AA President Edmund King told the Daily Mail. “Therefore it is almost accepted as the common law speed limit.”

There are, however, concerns that because drivers are not being prosecuted for speeding on motorways, they are more willing to break the 30mph speed limit in residential areas – something that is statistically much more dangerous.

“If drivers are of the opinion that there is some flexibility around speed limits, the danger is that when it comes to lower speed limits [motorists will think they can also break that speed limit]… we don’t want drivers to have that same flexibility.”

Lorry speeding leads to limit increase

The government has recently revealed plans to increase the speed limit for HGVs on single carriageway roads from 40mph to 50mph. This follows stats that revealed 73% of lorries broke the current speed limit – compared to 26% for buses and coaches and just 7% for cars.

“The lower level of compliance with [the speed limits] is symptomatic of their being set at the wrong level compared to other limits,” said transport minister Baroness Kramer.

However, despite statistics that show nearly half of motorists speed on motorways, there are no plans to change any other British speed limits: the government’s proposal to increase the motorway speed limit to 80mph will remain shelved.