Accent MR Accent

Evaluating the “need for speed” and its effect


Highways England is undertaking extensive work on the network including upgrading some of the most congested sections to smart motorways as well as conducting “business as usual” repairs and maintenance. Some of these roadworks involve narrow lanes, whilst for others the lane width remains as it is during normal conditions. The maximum speed when travelling through either types has historically been 50 mph.

Highways England was considering introducing a 60 mph upper limit through certain types of roadworks but, before doing so, needed to understand the impact of faster-running speeds on customer behaviour, stress levels and overall journey experience.


We designed a programme of qualitative research taking in a number of different approaches. Participants completed two journeys (one through 50 mph roadwork conditions and the other through 60 mph roadwork conditions) during which we captured in the moment data using dash cams and heart monitors. Respondents completed a pre and post journey review diary (providing details such as their resting heart rate, journey expectations and reflection) before coming along to a group discussion with other drivers. A film was produced for each participant overlaying their journey location, speed, dash cam footage and heart rate.


The majority of participants preferred the 60 mph speed through the roadworks as it most closely met the combined customer need states of Speed, Safety and Space when driving through roadworks. Overall, there was a minimal impact on heart rate in the higher speed trial area although there were some differences seen amongst ‘Steady’ and ‘Nervous’ driver types. This work, undertaken with Atkins, has won several awards.

“The speed limits research we undertook with Accent on behalf of Highways England was a fantastic piece of work. Not only did it land really well with the client and lead to front page news in the papers in terms of potential national policy change, but it was also great to receive recognition from both the market research and transportation sectors. We were able to work in a really collaborative way, making the most of the innovative approach we had developed together. ”
John Paterson, Atkins