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Motor safety experts denounce plans to limit 20 mph UK rollout

With road fatalities on the rise, the introduction of 20mph roads across the UK could save hundreds of lives a year.

Motoring safety experts at Road Angel have criticised the expected government announcement to curb council powers to implement 20 mph speed restrictions across the UK.

Pedestrians have a much higher chance of survival if hit at 20mph with a 2.5% chance of death, compared to 20% when travelling at 30mph.

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According to new data, speed was a factor in 48% of fatal collisions in London in 2020.

The lower speed limits play a critical role in the Mayor’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate deaths and serious injury on on our roads by 2041.

The World Health Organisation and the UN General Assembly also support the transition to 20mph streets, calling on policymakers to act for low-speed streets worldwide, agreeing it is the right speed limit for people and traffic to mix safely.  

It is hoped that introducing the default speed limit on residential roads and busy pedestrian roads will reduce collisions between vehicles and vulnerable road users, and make them safer for playing, walking and cycling. 

In 2021, Spain rolled out a national 30km/h (18mph) speed limit on most urban streets after the percentage of vulnerable road traffic victims exceeded the percentage of people killed while in vehicles. 

The change led to a 20 percent reduction in mortality rate, and there was a significant decrease in pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists killed. 

The latest government figures show that for the year ending June 2022, 29,742 people were reported killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads,  an increase of more than 2,000 from the previous year. 

There were 1,695 deaths on British roads last year, which was an 8.7% increase from the year previous.

Gary Digva, founder of Road Angel, said: “The introduction of more 20mph roads will help to reduce road accidents and fatalities in the capital. 

Collisions are more likely to occur when a car is moving fast, so the decision is great news for vulnerable road users, especially since speed is such a contributing factor to deaths in the capital. 

Road safety should be the top priority with the high rate of deaths and serious injuries on Britain’s roads. 

So the expected government announcement to curb council powers to implement 20 mph speed limits isn’t a welcome one.

Spain saw a 20 percent mortality rate decrease after implementing the lower speed policies, so there is substantial evidence that this will work to make our roads safer, and potentially save hundreds of lives a year. 

Lowering the speed limit in areas where there are a lot of vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, makes sense as it reduces the risk of fatalities should there be a collision.

Not only does lowering the speed limit reduce the force and impact of a vehicle, but it also dictates if a driver is able to stop in time to avoid a crash. 

Although they may seem inconvenient to people in a rush, these policies will ultimately save lives, and should be considered across the whole of Britain.”