Speed limits on some country roads in Surrey could be cut from 60mph to 20mph under plans to tackle dangerous driving in rural areas.
Surrey County Council is to pilot new 20mph and 30mph restrictions across roughly 80 square miles south of the A25 between Guildford and Dorking.
Supporters say lanes with a legal limit of 60mph are often plagued by joyriders racing in 4x4s and on scrambler motorcycles, raising the risk of collisions with other vehicles.
But the AA questioned whether introducing a “blanket speed limit” would make country roads any safer, adding any 20mph restriction “only makes sense where there is a specific danger”.
“Speed limits work in places where they make sense to the drivers, where there is a particular hazard that requires drivers to slow down,” said the group’s Luke Bosdet.
“The problem is 20mph zones pop up all over the place and they’ve lost their meaning.”
Rural roads account for 57pc of fatalities
Rural roads are more dangerous than urban roads and motorways, according to the Department of Transport, making up 57 per cent of fatalities despite only accounting for 43 per cent of traffic.
Councillor Stuart McLachlan said rural roads in his Capel parish council in Surrey needed to be made safer urgently.
“There are scrambler bikes roaring up and down at 60mph and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. We also get joyriders in 4x4s coming at midnight, charging up and down the byways,” he told The Sunday Times.
“They come in the winter, when it’s all muddy, and after dark. They buy an old banger for £50, run it into the ground and just set fire to it.”
With Coldharbour pioneering slower speeds on its country lanes, others could follow suit.
Duncan Knox, the council official in charge of the project, has reportedly said that West Sussex had also expressed an interest in the scheme and others were expected to mirror them.
AA says bigger problems to deal with
But the AA argued that people being diverted onto country roads by their sat navs – without knowledge of the local landscape – and inexperienced drivers were bigger problems.
“The government has always said that drivers going along the road should always be able to understand why the speed limit is what it is,” said Mr Bosdet.
“If you do blanket speed limits in areas where drivers see a straight country road with no obvious dangers in front, they will think ‘I will go back up to the national speed limit for this type of road’.”
The 60mph national speed limit has been the default on most country roads since 1977.