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British Consider Limiting Top Speed of Motorcycles: Reader Responses

On March 30, 2007, we wrote an article about a committee of Members of Parliament (MPs) who were considering electronic devices to limit motorcycle maximum speeds in an effort to reduce accidents and deaths. We asked our readers to comment on this type of government intervention. Here are the many interesting responses in their unedited form:

  • Limiting motorcycles to 65mph will decrease accidents but increase suicides or emigration, because who would want to live in a place that was that frickin’ stupid?

  • I man will kill himself with a .22 cal just as easy as with a .50 cal gun. A Marine doesn’t shoot himself with either. Why? Education. I have no problem with a tiered license system. I am confident in my ability to ride. I also feel that the driver/rider education sucks in this country. Power limits don’t cure ignorance, education does.

  • http://www.destatis.de/basis/d/verk/verktab6.php – The German Autobahn is a rather safe place, concerning to statistics… safer than most Highways in the world. Top speed limiting is obviously complete nonsense and will not have the desired effects.

    In Holland there is an experimental village without any traffic restrictions, the project is extremely successful! http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,448747,00.html

  • I can see limiting speed to something less than the 186mph industry imposed limit in a world of 70mph speed zones. But to limit top speed to the max speed limit means we become at the mercy of bad rivers who won’t even go that speed.
    You can’t pass safely if you can only go the speed limit and the car in front of you is going 5 or 10mph under. I hope that the Brits have the sense to allow a cusion if they impose a limit so that their roads do not become a series of parades led by little old ladies who should not even be driving.

  • Well I agree that it is simply incorrect to do this.Why bikes??In Canada here this probably would happen with the screwed up gov’t we now enjoy.Let us ask why not large semi trucks as they certainly motor quite fast and can you stop one of thoughs quickly??Even at 65 they are going to cause more than enough chaos.Autos next,persons would be all over the mp who came up with this idea.As we most certainly realize that some bikers do cause a small amount of problems for themselves and others but for the most the steel/plastic box drivers with cell phones,makeup,and other distractions and otherwise bad driving habits do cause much more accidents/near misses than so called speedy cyclists.Absurd most certainly!!Lets idle the big boxes to say 55 eleectronically and then jack up the price for your vehicle even more.Of course cyclists are a bit better on the enviroment in terms of pollution and gas guzzling and most cyclist do not idle anywhere for long periods of time.My small rant on speed and any Gov’t.Thanks from an avid motorcycle enthusiast.

  • Limiting a top speed of a bike to 65 mph is silly and not doubt dangerous for lots of reasons. On the other hand motorcycle companies building bikes that go 170 mph or better out of the box are just asking for trouble from over zealous politicians.

  • It never ceases to be amazed that law makers in the US and UK consider speed to be such a danger while disregarding a slew of other, far more dangerous, behaviours. I used to work and drive regularly in Germany and I was able to drive on stretches of Autobahn that were without speed limit. What I found was this:

    1. German drivers are skilled and taking driving seriously. I am a WERA licensed racer and I have attended several car and motorcycle track/driving/race schools; the average German driver seems to have about my level of vehicle control.
    2. German cars and motorcycles are well maintained and safe. You will not see rust buckets, bald tyres or duct taped windscreens in Germany. Drivers do not drive faster then the speed ratings of their tyres and they actually use different and appropriate tyres for summer and winter.
    3. German drivers actually obey the rules of the road. They use blinkers when changing lanes, they pass on the left, they only use the left lane for passing and they actually seem to pay attention to other vehicles on the road.
    4. Getting a license is not easy. You must be 18 and you must actually learn how to drive.
    5. They seriously punish drivers that drink and drive.

    We have a slew of laws on the books in the US (and presumably the UK) that can actually make driving safer, but we never enforce these laws. We let every rusted car with mismatched bald tyres and a rear bumper made from a 2×4 to roll around town, but then we decide that the one person driving 85mph in a well maintained M3 or on a Sportbike is the safety problem… how misguided.

  • Food for thought about autobahn – http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0720/p01s04-woeu.htm

  • Well 65 miles an hour seems ridiculous as a maximum speed. Just see me zipping across the causeway needing to pass a truck or something and the bike tops out, trouble ……. On the other hand why would you need to go over 100 ever on our US highways. Set it at a ton. Go to the track for your thrills.

  • I love the fun and speed and skill required to ride a motorcycle, and have had a bike my whole rideable life. I could not do without, even if it was just in the garage! As for the proposed speed limit in the UK, 65 mph is not realistic or safe as you say. That being said, how will this industry protect itself against 2 issues – CO2 emmissions (where motorbikes need to show leadership, not lagging the best cars) and safety. Safety is critical as we have skyrocketing insurance risk and claims, especially as riders are either young or boomer age (old). As participants in this sport/fun activity, we have to accept that we are an increasingly visible risk – like smoking – to the non biking world out there. If we dont accept this fact – we can’t find solutions. The industry introducing Hayabusa’s or R1’s without their own speed limiter for less experienced riders, is creating the situation for governments to step in with the most ‘non biker – easy to convince the masses’ so called safety factor – speed limiters. Bottom line is – will the industry self limit itself or will the government? We all know which is better, but we as bikers need to support the industry in this direction and fast – to protect the sport we all love for the vast majority of us.

  • Such intervention is inappropriate. It may save lives due in part to fewer people buying motorcycles in the first place. Industry would suffer terribly, as would motorcycle imports. Establishing such a precedent is frightening. Now where do I volunteer for the Solient Green?

  • The idea of limiting the speed of vehicles has been tossed about for a long time. With most lawmaking, however, practicality (ultimately) rules.

    The few attempts at limiting the top speed of motorcycles (the latest ZX-14 for instance) can easily be defeated with such things as Power Commanders.
    In some cases engine limits could be eliminated by clipping a single wire.

    As a former police officer I can state (with some authority) that the majority of road accidents are caused by a) alcohol and b) gross distractions. In this country drunks kill at least half of the people who die annually on the highways. Are we doing anything about it. Absolutely not.

    Go ahead and limit speeds — imagine purchasing a Blackbird with a top speed of 65. How long do you think it would take a mechanic to “fix it” ???

  • As you said, the idea of limiting speeds is nothing new. Of course, Socialist bureaucratic microbes around the world love to control their populace “for their own good”. Spare me…

    While it is fair to say that none of us “need” to have a bike that roll off the showroom and hit 150 and up; I simply don’t like government intervention. Education, training and common sense are my preferred methods of managing the right wrist.

    As I saw on a T-shirt at Road Atlanta a few years ago “If speed kills, why am I still alive?”

    Thanks for a fine website.

  • My instincts tell me that speed is not the top factor in injuries or death. I would say that when it’s a rider’s fault, rider training / skill is the main issue. So, if they want to start making some new rules, how about mandatory rider training. And for the four wheel types, how about a few more “No Left Turns If You’re Blind As A Fu@#ing Bat” signs.

  • I don’t believe that a speed restrictor is going to be an answer for motorcycle accidents, and definitely not one with low speeds as 65 mph. Sure they throw out a number representing motorcycling deaths for a given year, but how many were from straight-line top speed runs? How many of those would most likely been avoided if they weren’t going very fast at all? When a group gets together to fight for a common cause, the numbers can be “bent” to support their point.

    If it’s not going to be the speed, those with less than average good judgment will still find ways to off themselves and worse yet, kill or injure others. This can be by ways corners (canyon carving at reckless speeds), stunting, or other ways yet to be popularized.

    I believe that a 65 mph top speed would be more dangerous than good. How many times has a car been running up on you because they’re not paying attention for one reason or another? The cell phone talking, coffee drinking, newspaper reading commuter who decides that they need to be in that supposed gap in the next lane while traveling at freeway speeds, and you’re left to try and jet out of the way only to find that your new Hayabusa is topped out. The situations are almost limitless. I guess when the cars have a top speed of 65 or less, it might work, but I bet the Z06 and Viper sales may suffer a bit.

    If it happens here, I truly have bought my last new motorcycle, or will be looking for exactly which one wire needs to be two.

  • I know it sounds like a bad idea. If they limit motorcycles shouldn’t the limit also apply to all other vehicles on the road as well?

  • Are rules are made to be broken?

  • I read your article on the possibility of the British parliament limiting the top speeds of motorcycles to perhaps 65 mph , this is totally absurd. I don’t know what the laws are in the UK but in Canada we have what is called the “charter of rights” which effectively stops discrimination against any one group of people. If they want to limit the top speed of all motor vehicles then so be it but to target only motorcycles is with out a doubt discrimination. Just because some overbearing bureaucrat comes up with an idea does it make it legal?

  • Perhaps someone would read this and propose shooting these miscreats with not enough to do.

  • Leave it to the Brits to come up with this kind of law. Has anybody ever noticed that every law that is proposed with “our safety” in mind always goes way out to the extreme? I’d really hate to be in one of those numerous situations where you need the extra speed to escape a disaster and find the bike turning off at 65. Far as Britain goes, there seems to be a movement in the parliament to do away with motorcycles all together. Not in the way of an outright ban mind you, but in a series of laws that create a web of regulations so dense that it would become impossible to legally ride. Lets hope that this one goes nowhere, or the government on this side of the pond will likely try to do likewise.

  • I don’t know about the studies….but 65mph through Atlanta, Ga. would be threatening to your life.

  • http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1998/11/02/MN65128.DTL – I remember reading this article and thought it may help spread some truth to speed limits. Also, you have a great website! Keep up the good work.

  • I always thought ‘Loud Pipes’ save lives. this world wide notion that big government knows best for all is absurd

  • As a local motorcycle officer in Las Vegas, I am concerned with these possible restrictions, even if they are in Britain. Obviously the Japanese topped the sport bikes electronically at 186mph which is adequate because they felt self-restriction is a good idea. Restricting an experienced rider’s power limit can only spell disaster. Most American sedans and sport utility vehicles are electronically governed between 99 and 120 mph so these numbers would seem more appropriate if a restriction was mandatory. For myself, I don’t even initiate a pursuit with high powered motorcycles or cars for that matter. Danger to the public far outweighs the reason for the chase. Good luck with finding more information about this issue.

  • Well so sad when it can come to this!
    My fellow riders. If you could only take it to the tracks and not on a public road and frighten the old and slow .
    The highways and byways are for everyone and there are laws. Obey and understand that the adrenalin
    and excitment can only kill our passion.
    Still riding after 42 years of speeding and getting away with it.

  • I imagine all members of parliament ride motorcycles,seeing as they are an authority on this safety issue….I didn’t know that all the other cars,trucks and such were already limited to 65mph.sic…It would be embarrasing being overtaken by a beer truck on the motorway! Their roads are so choked up already…taxation is milking them to death,, the whole country is almost like a giant parking lot …you have to pay to park darn near every time you go to the store or anywhere else, and cameras are everywhere,so what is the point…I think its time for them stodgy old twits to retire and let the younger generation try to sort out the mess ther’e in!…Ex UK citizen…..

  • If they’re going to put a speed limiting device on motorcycles, they had better put that same device on cars and trucks! In all honesty, I think this kind of government intervention is absurd. What’s next, a device to limit vehicles turning ability to only be able to turn right?

  • I live in the States, not the UK–but I’ve always felt that a national law restricting the top speed of all motor vehicles in this country (to something like 90 or 100 mph) would increase the safety of our roads. Now OBVIOUSLY this would not be a popular proposal, but in the same vein as seat belts and airbags, in time the public would accept it.

    With respect to this proposal of a 65 mph limit placed on bikes only…I don’t think it serves a lot of purpose, other than generating conversation. I think the overall safety impact to the public will be minimal. First, most UK vehicles aren’t bikes–so if the goal truly is public safety, this should apply to all vehicles, because I’m sure there are many more speed related accidents and deaths every year due to cars than bikes. Second, 65 is absurdly low—my guess is that this is essentially a negotiating starting point, knowing that 65 will never pass.

    So even though I think they’ve definately missed their mark with this particular proposal, it does raise a very good point. Many of today’s vehicles can perform well above both what our roads are designed to accomodate and the level of training most of our drivers posess. The roads are only getting more crowded and more interwoven. The average driver’s ability is not going to significantly change. So “regning in” (to some degree) the performance of the vehicles does make a certain amount of sense.

    But I would just hope that a significant “buffer” is retained when these laws are proposed. We all don’t want to be limited to four cylinder cars and 49 cc scooters.

  • Just off the top of my head, I remember seeing a few stories about highways that had speed limits increased, which resulted in a DECREASE in accident and death rates. Montana saw this happen when they temporarily got rid of the daytime speed limit a while ago. Then when the speed limit was reinstated, fatalities increased. Here are some articles
    http://www.hwysafety.com/hwy_montana_2001.htm
    http://www.motorists.org/pressreleases/montana.html

    And another interesting article about speed limits and accidents here:
    http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110008621

    There was also a stretch of highway somewhere in Texas, maybe around Dallas, where the same thing happened: the speed limit goes up, and the road becomes safer. Psychologically, this makes perfect sense – higher speeds mean more stimulation, which requires more focus, which means drivers pay more attention to driving than to their morning coffee.

    Still, for every study where speed goes up and fatalities go down, you can find another study that shows the opposite, so that shouldn’t be the only way to debate the idea of lower speed limits.

    That’s where the Autobahn is very interesting. Accident and death rates on the Autobahn are significantly lower than on highways in other European countries and way, way lower than in the US. This is because of a number of factors, including how well the Autobahn is designed, constructed, and maintained. But by far the biggest reason why the Autobahn is safer is that Germans have to undergo rigorous training and testing before they can get a driver’s license.

    The Autobahn data is very important because it makes clear that the biggest factor in reducing accident rates is improved driver training, NOT speed limits. After all, a badly trained, inattentive driver can kill himself perfectly well at 30mph, just as he can at higher speeds. Unless we all want to drive everywhere at 10mph, lower limits are not the solution.

    Lowering speed limits is an easy – and ineffective – solution to a complex problem. That’s why politicians like the idea. It’s much easier to lower speed limits than it is to do what’s really necessary, and improve the training of drivers (and riders).

  • Is the government of England going to also restrict the top speed of the V-12 Jaguars & Bentley’s too?? Hell, even the Mini Cooper can bust a ton!

  • What a joke. Just another example of a government meddling in area’s that they have no clue about. If they are going to limit motorcycle speed then they also need to limit car speed. Artificially lowering bike speed will make the riders more prone to be getting hit by car drivers who are driving much faster than the bike can go !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • The safety aspect of this idea is so silly, I won’t even bother to talk about it … With the exception of the moped crowd, I imagine very few people would be interested in a motorcycle that has a 65MPH speed limit. Unless the limiter can be defeated with simple modifications or an aftermarket black box, sales and profitability for sport bikes would take a huge dive. If I were a manufacturer, I wouldn’t bother to export high performance motorcycles to a country if they had to be equipped with an undefeatable 65 MPH speed limiter.

  • there was a thread about this last week on Speedzilla with some interesting views – http://speedzilla.com/forums/showthread.php?t=34973

  • I don’t think there should be a top speed limit on any vehicle. I do agree however that if ALL vehicles were limited to a relatively low speed like 65-75 mph, there would be less accidents…. And speeding tickets…

  • That’s hilarious. It’s easy to spot when it’s purely political and has nothing to do with reality. 65mph is obviously ridiculous when you are talking about one of the few advantages that a bike has on an
    interstate. Clearly something like 90mph or 100mph, although
    clearly unpopular, might actually be workable.

  • I hope that law does not pass in the UK because the US would likely be next. The only defenses motorcycles have against the cars is acceleration, speed and maneuverability. I use the Maneuverability to get in front of the traffic. I use the acceleration to put distance between the traffic and I. Then I use the speed to keep away from the traffic. Since the traffic never “sees” motorcyclist it is best for motorcycles to keep a distance from cars whenever possible. With the limit of 65mph, motorcycles will spend more time in traffic and that will lead to more accidents. I have more close calls in the cities with slower speed limits than I do on the highways because I have to ride with people who “can’t see me.” The reason being is because people do not know how to check blind spot or signal lane changes. If this law passes it could hurt the economy because who is going to buy a sportbike bigger than 250cc if it can only go 65mph. What is next? Do we make motorcycles with only first gear. As dumb as it sounds at least this way the top speed will be about 100 mph, they will be cheaper to build, and there will be no computer to retard my power when I need the speed to avoid an accident.

  • I wrote earlier this morning about this [MCN] article and it disappeared while I dug out the attached article. Maybe you got it too?

    Speed doesn’t kill, accidents do. and accidents are mostly caused by mistakes. Mistakes are mostly caused by not paying attention. Not paying attention is mostly caused by going so slow that you as a driver are forced to Time Share your attention with all types of diversions, -day dreaming, radio, ipod, cd’s, navigation, now DVDs!! How on earth can you expect people to drive safely when you see inthe morning commute, drivers shaving, applying eye shadow, reading the newspapaers. I once saw someone eating her morning cereal from a bowl propped up on the steering wheel!

    This attached study shows that drivers who travel at the 15% percentile of speed (faster than 85% of all other drivers on this road , speeding or otherwise) are the safest. And by definition, they must be passing! That’s the point. Slowly filtering through traffic keeps you aware, moves you out of blind spots and keeps you on your game. Tha’ts the way to drive safely and that’s how I have trained my young drivers.

    This type of hogwash comes up time and time again. I hope someone with some sanity prevails.


    The American traffic law enforcement system has so much invested in this ruse of “Speed kills” that I really don’t see a solution until computers completely take over and we drivers become passengers in our own car.

  • It’s really amazing how supposedly intellingent people ignore the facts.

    Let’s start with the popular misconception that “Speed Kills.”
    It’s just not borne out in the factsd, unless you move speed to zero and nobody ever moves!

    Last time I was in Traffic school for a speeder, I looked up the manmiles driven in Germany vs the fatalities and divided fata;ity per mile driven. Guess what? It was lower than in the US. And of course most of Germany has unlimited speedlimits.

    Speed doesn’t kill, mistakes kill.

    and in the US where the lilmits are so low, no one can really focus on driving. They are forced to time share between day dreaming to playing with te CD’s etc. This has opened up to auromakers a huge new market of “driving diversions ” designed to keep the driver occupied and not too bored.

    If you go back to an article written by the MCN, they studied a certain portion of a road, looked at all the speeds different people drove it and then compared the accident rate. They found that the safest poelpe drove at 15%

  • The definitive study is the one done a couple of decades ago by Dr. Harry Hurt. Here’s a link to a summary … http://www.clarity.net/~adam/hurt-report.html. Note items 4 and 16. If you need more info, just do a web search for “Hurt Report” or “motorcycle safety studies.” Keep up the good work.

  • i think they should put a speed limiter on motorcycles. 65 sounds good. they should do the same to cars. it’s not excessive speed that kills, it’s excessive stupidity. here are some other thoughts. i think motorcycle dealers should give byers a test to see if they can handle the bike that they are about to buy. if the buyer has been riding for less than 6 months on a 125 enduro, they shouldn’t be allowed to buy that new ZX-10. they should require all people 70 and older to take the manditory test (written and driving) every year. i think they should put devices in cars of drivers under 20 that register how many passengers are in the car, and if there is more than just the driver, the car will not start. i think they should post police at every construction merge lane, and if a driver goes to the very front of the line and pushes his/her way in, they get a $500 ticket.

  • I don’t know of any specific fats off hand…

    The reasoning is obviously faulty. If the intent is to reduce accidents and deaths by reducing the top speed then one would have to determine the speed at which all of those accidents and deaths occured. If speeds were limited to just below that at which a death has occured I think you would be around 0 mph.

    I’m sure there’s been at least a couple riders killed at stop lights or parked on the side of the road.

    The current (Japanese?) 300kph limit suggests no one dies on motorcycles that are capable of speeds of 299kph or less.

    Besides the limits to freedom I could care less if speeds were restricted to 85 or so. I can’t remember the last time I rode faster than that; I’ve never felt the need or reasoning to do so. At 65 however, I’d get ran down in the slow lane.

  • http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/newsandupdates/european_motorcycle_safety_study/

    http://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/streetsurvival/maids_motorcycle_accident_study/

    These are links talking about the Motorcycle Accident In-Depth Study performed in Europe, looking at data from 1999 and 2000. It cites that the 70 percent of the 900+ crashes happened at approximately 30 MPH. It looks like the usual here’s a solution to the problem without knowing what the problem really is, which apprears to be rider inexperience and basic ride skills. The ACEM has a plan for requiring ride experience before you can buy that 1000 CC bike that the government is so scared that you’ll wreck. They call it a Plan For Action.

    http://www.acembike.org/html/docs/ACEM%20publications/planforaction.pdf

    One of the other interesting data points is while the 18-25 inexperienced rider is the usual culprit/victim in a crash, in America there is a spike in rider accidents in the above 40 crowd. I personally think that’s due to all the “mid-life crisis on brand new cruisers” with a healthy dose of “I don’t need a course to learn to ride”; I don’t think it’s just experienced riders are getting older. I’m buying a new-bike-for-me this year and plan to take an ERC myself. Call me crazy, but I’ll be forty this year, and I’d like to see 50 through 90 if I can.

    At work so I can’t write more, and there’s plenty for me to do. You’ve got a great site and I visit it everyday. Keep up the great work!

  • I´m on shock, it´s awesome than a civilized country thinks to make such type of intervention, this could be an bad example for other goverments.

  • If they did that then they will need to do it for cagers also. 65mph is not enough room to get out of trouble, pass, or even merge onto a freeway. Why not just stop producing motorcycles and automobiles and give everyone in the world a 50cc scooter and tell them….”Go nuts buddy”. That would make more sense. Geez, more proof that stupid is spreading out of control.

  • If they are actually considering this then why start with the motorcycles I ask? They should be considering all the motor vehicles since that is the route of the majority of your accidents and deaths. There are more cars on the road than bikes. Besides that power and speed I know has saved many lives because it gives the bikers the ability to avoid a situation by accelerating past a potential problem. I know it has saved me several times.

  • I watched a special, on the Discovery channel I believe, that explained how the Autobohn has a lower percentage of accidents per miles driven than any major U.S. Highway. The most interesting point, to me, was that the lower percentage was attributed to the higher amount of training drivers must go through to get their license. Much like the graduate licensing program in the U.K.. Also, thanks for all the great articles.

  • I don’t know if you are still looking for information on the relevance of speed to motorcycle accidents and injuries, but I am attaching abstracts of several recent studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals that touch on this subject. I have highlighted the sentences with results that indicate that speed may be a factor in increased severity of injury or incidence of accident. As you can see, high speed and/or “inappropriate” speed has been statistically correlated with increased accidents and injuries in many recent studies in several countries.

    For what it’s worth, my own thoughts on this are 1) all other factors being equal, increased speed inevitably increases the damage done in a crash – energy increases exponentially with speed, with an object carrying twice the energy at 85 miles per hour as it does at 60 mph; and 2) all other actors are never equal – if you were to try to maintain a speed of 60 mph on the expressways around here (Chicago) you’d run a pretty high risk of getting rear-ended. Generally speaking, I think it is safer to go 75 or 80 on an expressway than 35 or 40 on a surface road, or 60 on an expressway where the average speed of traffic is closer to 75. Of course if everyone was limited to 60 or so on the highway, injury severity, if not the overall accident rate, would almost certainly go down for all. If the speed of motorcycles is going to be limited, maybe the speed of all vehicles should. But to limit only motorcycles would create an additional hazard to operating them.

    Just for laughs I have also included abstracts of two studies of the impact on accidents and injuries of Florida’s repeal of mandatory helmet laws that reach opposite conclusions. Without having read the full text of either study, it appears that the more recent study (2006) is the more comprehensive, and it finds an increase in injury severity related to reduced helmet use. This finding is consistent with most of the peer reviewed medical literature on this question. The previous study (2003) finds that the repeal had little influence on injury, but implies that other, unspecified, factors may be at play. In any case, it serves to demonstrate that no one study can answer all the questions. It is always a good idea to look at multiple perspectives on the same problem to gain a more complete understanding of it. There’s always something new to learn.

    If you are interested in further researching this, I suggest going to Pub Med, the portal of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the National Library of Medicine and the National institutes of Health. It provides an exhaustive, searchable, index to virtually every peer-reviewed medical journal in the world, and includes references to hundreds, if not thousands, of studies of motorcycle injuries. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=PubMed

Thanks to all the readers who took the time to respond.