Are There Good Reasons For Imposing A 20mph Speed Limit?

Open road

Open roadAs a leading road safety charity in the UK has renewed its calls for 20mph to be made the standard speed limit in built-up areas, what are the arguments for making this change,

and is it likely that they will lead to a major change in our travelling habits, as is being claimed by the World Health Organisation?

As the UK became embroiled in General Election fever, there was a danger of an important initiative designed to draw attention to the dangers on children on and around the roads could be missed in the excitement.

The charity, Brake, put demands for every party to commit itself to the introduction of a default 20mph (32kmh) speed limit at the centre of its own lobbying in the run-up to the polls, on 7 May.

Parents want a limit
Brake has conducted research in conjunction with tyre manufacturer Bridgestone which has suggested that there is widespread support among parents for 20mph to be made the standard speed limit in busy areas.

Some areas have already seen their local authorities introduce such limits, and where this has happened, Brake claimed that almost eight out of 10 of the parents it questioned wanted to see the 20mph maximum applied as a default.
Even where this is not already standard, there is only a slightly smaller level of support of 20mph, with 72 per cent saying they would back its imposition.

And where 20 is already the standard limit, almost twice as many parents (42 per cent, compared with 22 per cent) say they are ‘strongly’ in favour of a reduction in the standard limit from 30mph (48kmh) to 20.

The figures behind the push for 20
In the UK alone, 500 children are killed or seriously hurt on the roads. And there is extra impetus behind the campaign, in figures which show that, in the year to September 2014, there was the first year-on-year increase in child casualties on the roads in 20 years.

Sticking to a 20mph limit gives drivers twice as much time to reach in an emergency as they would have if having to stop from 30.

An estimated 14 million UK residents now live in areas covered by a 20mph limit. And Brake wants parents to promise to stick to 20mph or below around schools, shops and residential areas.

Safer cars may encourage complacency
One major obstacle facing Brake and its supporters is that the marketing of all new vehicles places a great deal of emphasis on their safety.

There is a school of thought which believes this leads drivers – and pedestrians to some degree – to be more complacent on our roads, in the belief that the safety equipment fitted to a car can, in itself prevent accidents.

But the surest way of doing so may be to instil in all drivers the idea that they should treat their vehicles as if they were new, bought from a long-standing and trustworthy dealer such as Cooper MINI. This would then lead people to truly appreciate the value of their vehicles, and so set higher standards for their own driving.

A 20mph limit may seem draconian – but there is no reason to suspect that driving at this speed does any more long-term damage to today’s more efficient car engines than adhering to a higher speed limit.

So it’s in everyone’s interest, at least when in a built-up area, to at least consider slowing down to 20. That way, if the reduction in the speed limit does become a general one, all drivers can be more likely to be better prepared.

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