November 18th 2020

Road Traffic Accidents

More 20mph zones can save lives as there is ‘no need for speed’ in our busy communities

Kent Pattinson

Kent Pattinson

Senior Solicitor, Personal Injury

More 20mph zones can save lives as there is ‘no need for speed’ in our busy communities

As a solicitor who has spent my career supporting families whose lives have been devastated by injuries suffered on the roads, I am a passionate supporter of the work done by all organisations to make them safer for all.

As a solicitor who has spent my career supporting families whose lives have been devastated by injuries suffered on the roads, I am a passionate supporter of the work done by all organisations to make them safer for all.

Our roads have become ever more congested and without doubt more dangerous given the demands and distractions associated with modern day life.

So it is with that in mind that I have been pleased to see the road safety charity Brake once again place its focus on driving speeds as part of this year’s Road Safety Week, which started on Monday and runs until Sunday, November 22

The overall message this year is that there is ‘No Need to Speed’, and I am sure that although most drivers reading this will insist they don’t speed when behind the wheel – the reality will be that, at times, they do.

Brake is aiming to make people think deeper about driving speeds as part of the week, and what may cause them to drive in what could be a dangerous manner.

It quite rightly highlights that we all know that roads have speed limits, but questions whether we truly always understand and appreciate what the appropriate speed is, what causes us to drive too fast, and what solutions could ensure more drivers adhere to safe speeds.

Statistics suggested mixed success for 20mph zones

As a resident of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, I have taken particular interest in the growing number of towns and cities in UK where a default 20mph limit has been set on the roads in recent years.

There has been much discussion and media coverage around a decision taken by Richmond council last year to introduce a 20mph speed limit across the borough, as at some significant cost all local signage, speed cameras and road markings close to schools have needed changing.

The change has been far from met with universal approval, yet when it came to those considered the most ‘vulnerable’ road users, they were overwhelmingly supportive of the proposals with 65 per cent of under 19s and 60 per cent of over 75s backing the idea during consultation.

Essentially, slower speeds make them feel safer.

Studies of such schemes have actually proved somewhat inconclusive.

Richmond council cited a study which found that a pedestrian hit at 30mph was over five times more likely to be killed than one hit at 20mph.

Similar moves in the neighbouring boroughs of Wandsworth and Hammersmith & Fulham also suggested it was a worthwhile project, as they saw the total number of road accidents fall by nine per cent after the first year of implementation.

Added to this, a scheme in Bristol found that more than four lives a year were saved over a four year period, with around 170 injuries prevented. Here, the changes contributed to a 20% increase in walking and cycling numbers, and cyclist casualty numbers fell by approximately 40%.

However, conflictingly, a report by the Department for Transport (DfT), published at the end of 2018, found that 30mph limits reduced to 20mph had little impact on safety.

It said there was little supporting evidence of improved road safety and that drivers had widely ignored the new signage, with almost half found to have routinely broken the 20mph limit on residential roads, with 35 per cent ignoring it in city centres.

Injuries suffered are evidence enough of need to reduce speeds

Despite the conflicting reports into the overall impact of 20mph zones, we at Hudgell Solicitors believe they can make a huge difference to safety in communities where there are lots of potentially vulnerable road users, such as the young and old, and of course cyclists, given the Government’s huge push to get more of us out on our bikes in the years to come.

Statistics from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) suggest a pedestrian hit by a vehicle at 20 mph has a 2.5% chance of them being fatally injured, whereas at 30 mph this figure rises to around 20%. Those are the statistics to take notice of.

As lawyers who deal first-hand with victims of road traffic accidents, and see the devastation caused to families when people are seriously injured or killed on our roads, we believe 20mph zones can only be a positive step towards improved safety, especially if these speed limits can be effectively enforced.

But the reality is we all have a role to play, and as Brake have said this week, every time we are on the road we need to consider what speed is appropriate to keep ourselves and others safe.

That means going beyond simply knowing what the actual speed limit is, but appreciating what the appropriate speed is for the current conditions, being aware of the danger we may pose to others round us, and driving in a suitable manner.

Stay safe on the roads, and keep others safe too.

 

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