Wales takes lead on reducing speed to save lives

The Welsh Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport says reducing default speed limits from 30mph to 20mph can save lives.

Jul 16, 2020
By Paul Jacques
Lee Waters

Lee Waters introduced an independent report today (July 16) recommending that Wales becomes the first nation in the world to adopt the bold new measure by 2023.

It follows the results of a year-long study by a taskforce made up of police, local authorities, public health experts and other key partners such as road safety groups.

The report makes 21 practical recommendations for implementation across Wales, and Mr Waters said: “Eighty children were killed or seriously injured in Wales in the past year for which we have figures. That’s 80 families whose lives will never be the same again.

“While we have made progress on reducing deaths on our roads in the 21 years of devolution, despite our considerable efforts, there are still 4,000 accidents which result in injuries every year in Wales.

“The evidence is clear – reducing speed reduces accidents. It saves lives.

“Slower speeds in our communities improves quality of life too.”

According to the British Crime Survey for England and Wales, speeding traffic was rated as the most serious anti-social problem.

Furthermore, Mr Waters said fear of traffic tops the list of parent worries, with children kept closer to home, reducing their independence, and leading to the vicious spiral of increased danger, as more people drive their children to school. This, in turn, amplifies health inequalities.

The report recommends turning the current Traffic Regulation Orders process “on its head”. Instead of the default speed limit being 30mph, with communities needing to make the case to go lower, the default speed limit will become 20mph, with a case needing to be made to go higher.

Crucially it will be for communities, and local authorities, to decide which roads should remain at 30mph.

Mr Waters added: “Even a 1mph drop in average speeds is likely to see a six per cent drop in casualties.

“This is as much about changing hearts and minds as it is about hard enforcement. Over time 20mph will become the norm – just like the restrictions on smoking inside businesses, the carrier bag charge and organ donation.”

The recommendations have received initial backing in the Senedd and the Welsh government said it would now consult on the plans.

A report published yesterday (July 15) by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services said between 2015 and 2018, an average of 1,610 people lost their lives each year on the roads of England and Wales. Many more were seriously injured.

The number of fixed penalty tickets issued by police forces in England and Wales for excessive speed between 2011 and 2018 increased by 41 per cent, to 2,105,409.

The report found that those over the age of 85 had the highest fatality rate of all age groups and were more likely to be killed on the roads as a pedestrian. Those in the 17 to 24-year-old age group were more likely to be killed as a car occupant.


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