Lorries will soon be travelling faster on Britain’s rural roads after a government decision to raise the speed limit for heavy goods vehicles from 40mph to 50mph.

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokeswoman said the decision had been taken to cut the number of tailbacks caused by slow-moving vehicles.

The queues were causing congestion and accidents as frustrated drivers carried out dangerous overtaking manoeuvres to get past, she said.

It is also hoped the faster speeds will save haulage companies millions of pounds as they speed up deliveries.

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One DfT figure put potential savings at up to £11m/year. The move will also bring UK speed limits into line with the rest of Europe.

Meanwhile, in a separate initiative, road safety charity Brake has called for rural road speeds for cars to be reduced.

The charity has launched a summer campaign lobbying for the limit on all single carriageway rural roads to be set at 50mph.

The campaign, called Rural Roads Not Racetracks, highlights the extra risk of driving in the countryside.

It said that, per mile travelled, country roads were the most dangerous for all types of road user.

Car occupants are almost twice as likely to be killed on a country road than an urban road, motorcyclists more than twice as likely, and cyclists more than three times as likely.

In 2013, 895 people were killed on non-built up roads, an increase of 1% on 2012. In addition to the deaths, 6,554 people were seriously injured.

The campaign, also backed by a survey of 1,000 UK drivers, found:

  • One in five (19%) admit breaking speed limits on country roads in the past year
  • Three in 20 (15%) admit taking corners or brows too fast
  • One in 20 (5%) admit overtaking when it is not safe
  • Three in 10 (28%) have been a passenger with a driver who broke the limit, one in five (19%) with a driver who took corners or brows too fast, and one in 12 (8%) with a driver who overtook when it was not safe.
  • Four in five (80%) think traffic is too fast for safety on some or most rural roads.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, said: “Country roads are not empty thoroughfares for traffic, they are living environments, full of unpredictable hazards around every twist and turn.

“We are urging drivers to slow right down on country roads this summer, especially for villages, bends, brows and bad weather, to respect the countryside and other people’s right to enjoy it.”