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  The  European  Commission believes that legally enforceable  speed  limits
  should   be   introduced  throughout  the  European  Community,   with   a
  harmonisation of the differing national speed limits so they can be  based
  on common criteria.  It has adopted a Communication(1) for the Council  of
  Ministers  which sets out the arguments for the introduction of  Community
  limits.  Detailed legislative proposals will follow later.
  Introducing  the Communication, Mr. Stanley Clinton Davis, member  of  the
  European  Commission  responsible  for  both  transport  policy  and   the
  environment, said that there were compelling reasons for Community limits.
  "Stricter limits would save lives and reduce the burden of pollution.  The
  ideas  put  forward  in our Communication are a  balanced  approach  to  a
  difficult problem which needs to be dealt with at a Community level."
  Fixing Community limits
  The  Commission sets out the main elements which it sees as the basis  for
  Community rules:
  - Speed limits should apply on all roads in the Community and to all types
    of traffic.
  - A "normal limit" of 120km/hr for cars and motorcycles could be fixed for
    motorways,   but  this  might  be  modified  to  take  account  of   the
    construction of the motorway, the volume of traffic, pollution emissions
    and  noise.  On  motorways which are well clear of urban areas,  do  not
    carry  large  volumes  of traffic and have a  good  safety  record,  the
    legally-enforceable limit might be higher than the normal limit.
    On the other hand, those motorways which carry large volumes of traffic,
    are  close  to  or run through urban areas, are  constructed  with  many
    access points or run through areas which require increased environmental
    protection, could be subject to maximum speeds below the normal limit.
  (1) COM (86) 735
                                     - 2 -
  - Limits on all other non-urban roads should be fixed at levels lower than
    the  normal  limit  on  motorways.  This would help in  two  ways  -  by
    encouraging traffic to use motorways, where safety standards are higher,
    and by reducing polluting exhaust emissions significantly on roads other
    than motorways.  The Commission notes that the existing differential  in
    speeds  between  motorways and other non-urban roads is 30km/hr  in  the
    majority of Member States.
  - Coaches  and heavy lorries should be subject to speed limits  which  are
    significantly  lower  than  for cars  and  motorcycles,  reflecting  the
    increased impact energy and braking energy of heavier vehicles and  also
    their reduced manoeuvrability - critical factors for road safety.
  - Limits  in  urban  areas,  where  there is  already  a  wide  degree  of
    harmonisation, should be maintained.
  The present situation
  Speed  limits  for  cars in the Community range from 100  to  140km/hr  on
  motorways,  from 80 to 110 on other non-urban roads and from 48 to  60  in
  urban areas.  Legally-enforceable limits apply everywhere except on German
  motorways, where there is a recommended maximum speed of 130km/hr for cars
  and  motorcycles.  Buses and heavy goods vehicles have lower  limits  than
  cars  outside  built up areas, ranging from 60 to 100km/hr in  all  Member
  States but the United Kingdom, where the limit on motorways is 112km/hr.
  Safety, pollution and energy saving
  Speed  has  a  significant effect on  accidents  and  their  consequences,
  because  reaction  and  braking  time  are  shorter  as  speed  increases.
  Furthermore,  the  greater the speed differential  between  two  colliding
  vehicles, the greater the impact.  Research results show that for every  1
  per cent reduction in average speed, fatal accidents would be reduced by 4
  per  cent, personal injury by 3 per cent and all other accidents by 2  per
  cent.  However,  the  Commission reports that motorways have four  to  six
  times fewer fatal or injury accidents than other roads.
  Lower   speeds  outside  urban  areas  would  reduce  vehicle   emissions,
  especially  of  nitrogen  oxides (NOX), which  are  among  the  substances
  responsible for acid deposition and forest die-back.  Studies show that  a
  reduction  of  average speeds to 100km/hr would reduce  NOX  emissions  by
  300,000  tonnes - equivalent to 10 per cent of car emissions and  about  3
  per cent of total NOX emissions.  Some German tests indicate that a  limit
  of 120km/hr would reduce emissions by 7 per cent.
  The economic effects of new speed limits are not easy to assess. As far as
  high  performance  cars are concerned, one view is that low  speed  limits
  will  reduce  the home market.  However, the Commission  notes  that  high
  performance  cars have been selling well in markets with low speed  limits
  such as the United States.

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