The 20mph Speed Limit – Will it become universal?

The 20mph Speed Limit – Will it become universal?

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Perhaps the biggest motoring debate to occur in the last five years or so, the 20mph question has been pushed further into the public eye due to the recent pitching to parliament by the road safety group Brake.

Where is the controversy coming from?

A number of local councils around Britain have decided to implement a blanket speed limit of 20mph in built-up and residential areas. Though some campaigners have welcomed the news, a number of motorists have questioned whether it is necessary.

Why are campaigners seeking the 20mph limit?

There are a few reasons why 20mph is the chosen speed for campaigners. More than half of the road deaths that take place on the streets of Britain occur on 30mph limit roads. In addition to this, Britain also has the highest number of pedestrian road fatalities in Europe, at 22.5 per cent overall. The website details in more depth the reasons for favouring 20mph.

Who is in favour of the move?

Brake, the renowned road safety campaigners, is the main driving force behind the attempted change. What’s more, their statistics indicate that the vast majority of Britain’s general public agrees, with eight out of ten people surveyed backing the national integration of the lower speed limit. Many of those surveyed considered faster traffic on their roads to be a legitimate menace to their local neighbourhood.

Most of those in favour of a blanket introduction of the laws believed that it should be the norm around any areas of residential build-up, including those spaces around schools, small villages and city centres.

Who is arguing against the move?

Interestingly, some of the most ardent opposition has come from breakdown firm AA, who’ve argued that the introduction of limits ‘by diktat’ is wrong, and that the law should only be introduced into areas where there is obvious and clear public support for the change.

As part of their argument, the AA released that their own survey findings, which showed that seven out of ten people believed that a local consultation should be carried out prior to any limits being introduced. Only one in twenty of those surveyed by the AA were in favour of a limit being introduced without the local residents being consulted on the matter.

AA president Edmund King said:

“The message is loud and clear – residents want to be asked first before the speed limit is changed on their streets. It doesn’t mean they will say no to a 20mph speed limit, it means they want a say rather than being issued with a decree that ignores local democracy.”

Is the rule enforceable?

The other main criticism of the 20mph law is how tough it could be to enforce. Cllr Val Slater, executive member of transport for the Bradford Council, highlighted the point:

“20mph zones are something that we are looking at on a case-by-case basis. I recognise that especially around schools a reduction in the speed limit does save lives.”

“However, the driving public don’t always accede to the speed limit in these zones.”

Does it work?

Two UK regions in particular have already released figures indicating that the reduction could be a success. Portsmouth have recorded a 22 per cent dip in casualty rates since the law came in, and Camden saw even more impressive results: a reduction of 54 per cent. With cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh set to introduce the law soon, it may be only months before a blanket law is brought in.

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