Road Safety News

Brake calls for 'widespread 20mph limits'

Wednesday 18th April 2012

Brake, the road safety charity, is calling for widespread 20mph limits in residential areas in a move that it says will help save children’s lives.

The call follows a survey carried out by Brake and Churchill Car Insurance in which 90% of parents said that fast traffic poses a danger to families and children in their communities.

In the survey of 1,000 parents, 81% of respondents supported the introduction of 20mph speed limits around homes, schools and shops, and 74% said they would walk more if the safety of nearby roads was improved.

Brake is holding a ‘Beep Beep!’ road safety day in Guildford on 18 April, at which the parents of Harry Charlson, a three year-old run down and killed in Guildford, will join Brake’s call for the introduction of 20mph limits.

The Beep Beep! Day at Guildford Children’s Centre will teach young children basic road safety lessons through fun activities. It is part of a UK-wide initiative by Brake that involves hundreds of schools, nurseries and playgroups each year.

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: “Together we can all take steps to prevent more children being hurt and killed, and to make our communities more family friendly places, where children and adults can walk without fear.

“Making a commitment to driving below 20mph around homes, schools and shops is a life-saving act that all drivers can do.

“At the same time, we’re appealing to the Government and local authorities to do more to protect children, particularly investing in more 20mph limits.”

For more information contact Stephen Belfield at Brake on 01484 550057.


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For anybody with responsiblity for Council resources, the question is: "Can more be achieved with the money available by widespread lowering of the speed limit or by targetted treatment of casualties?" Each Local Authority must objectively determine this for themselves. Those who demand a 20 limit where it will change nothing deprive those who suffer higher actual risk. There is clear public support for reducing actual traffic speed but this does not equate to reducing the speed limit. The DFT Social Attitudes Survey 2010 showed 71% respondents in favour of a 20 limit but 48% also in favour of traffic calming suggesting that most don't think changing the speed limit is enough to make a difference. And a post-implementation survey on qualitative outcomes showed only 20-40% of Portsmouth respondents agreed things had improved.
Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

Reducing speed limits in some areas or in hazardous locations might be pertinent. Let's be honest, 70-80% of drivers want 20mphs outside THEIR houses or schools. If they were punished for breaking 20mph outside other schools or in other areas they would only complain of the Police targeting the innocent driver. Go outside any School on any given day and watch all those responsible parents in action. They are the worst road user because they think having a child gives them an excuse to rush to appointments etc and park irresponsibly. If research shows no safety benefit, if people wouldn't obey it and if their isn't any money to implement it, then why bother? All we need is a lot of individual responsibility (and improved driver training and child road safety education)- drive to the conditions and take responsibility for your own actions. Reducing limits across the board without evidence, explanation or site specific considerations will not help children or adults and will lead to less regard for road safety.

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

Some years ago when we asked,"can we go out and play" our parents ALAWYS informed us, "yes, BUT KEEP OFF THE ROAD" but in today's society one always has to blame others for their situations and this is known as "blame and claim". I would also ask, just who is going to enforce these 20MPH limits and at what cost to the taxpayer? One letter writer mentions democracy but in this area there was a 9,000 petition for removing "speed humps" which was rejected. At the Council meeting the Council officer claimed nothing other than speed for the refusal, no other area of safety being mentioned, but if anyone requests a camera or other unacceptable action it is passed without objection. This is democracy?
Reg Oliver, Derbyshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

As I previously stated – there is much controversy over 20 limits. One of the reasons is emotion, another is misrepresentation.

The emotion comes from knowing children and the ‘community’ at large, may suffer death or injury from an outside factor, and disregards the necessary internal factor of taking care using acquired knowledge.

The misrepresentation is in figures such as those telling of x% increase of such and such. 3mph is a 300% increase of 1mph. Should all traffic be banned on such a basis?

Every accident is unique in its cause and structure. Predominantly, there are similarities between the causes, but speed alone is not one of the highest. The argument that fewer would be killed or injured at 20mph as compared to 30mph combines emotion with statistics. The bare facts will show that impact speeds between pedestrians and moving vehicles are often far lower than either speed yet deaths and injuries still occur – why? Surely the most important road safety factor is knowledge of danger.
Derek, Salop.

Agree (8) | Disagree (3)

Perhaps I can respond on Alan Kennedy's behalf to the point made below by Eric Bridgstock. In this newsfeed we report the news, rather than make the news - and we cover stories from people and organisations with very different points of view. We do not make editorial decisions based on whether we agree with the content of a story, or like or agree with the author. We leave that to our readers, who express their views in the form of posts/comments about stories.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety GB newsfeed

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

A comment has been made about myself not commenting on Randomised Controlled Trials. The reason for no comment is that those proposing such have never explained exactly how they would set up the control areas. They fail to realise that 20mph limits are all about communities deciding to share the roads in a better and more equitable way. It is the community debate which comes from the democratic process of implementing 20mph limits that is the key to behaviour change and compliance.

It is clear that when that debate takes place in communities with their elected representatives then the idea of keeping a 75 year old limit that was imposed as being "better than no limit at all" should be left in the 20th century where it belongs.

Rod King
20's Plenty for Us
Rod King, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

Alan, where you state that "we are not tasked to implement engineering solutions or conduct research to justify or otherwise any engineering schemes" (etc)... Councillors are mostly certainly tasked with responsible jobs to try to do their utmost to improve road safety. This regularly involves employing and consulting with their road safety engineers. So how can you possibly suggest for one second that they are their only to act as 'social influencers'? How can you possibly dismiss scientific results and imply others have to chase organisations ? If decisions are being made by people because it is done on a whim of 'probably people behaviour' then that makes all those people 'unfit for purpose' and acting totally irresponsibly. And if we believe "bob Craven Lancs" then it is already a done deal so what are Brake doing stating that they are calling for it?
Claire Armstrong, Highlands

Agree (2) | Disagree (5)

This survey echoes the findings from many other surveys that around 70-80% of people questioned believe that 20mph should be the speed limit in residential roads.

This is endorsed by many organisations who are responsible for health and safety in our communities and roads. It is also common practice in many European countries where a 30km/h limit exists on such roads.

Indeed the justification is not really needed for a 20mph limit but as to why a 30mph limit that is 60% higher than 30km/h should be appropriate.

There is very little evidence of the benefits of such a high prevailing speed for sections of journeys which usually only comprise a small section of a total journey and so having a minimal effect on journey times.

It is not only Portsmouth public and councillors who are convinced of the benefits but also those in Liverpool, Warrington, York, Newcastle, Oxford, Wirral, Islington, Camden, Waltham Forest, Brighton & Hove, Lancashire, Bath & NE Somerset, Bristol, etc.

Whilst there are some who feel that speed limits should be determined by the 15% fastest drivers on our roads (the magic 85%ile), many believe that speed limits on the public spaces between houses should be primarily determined by the public who live in those houses.

Rod King
20's Plenty for Us
Rod King, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (3)

The subject of 20mph limits increasing road safety in residential areas is controversial. Where is the evidence of same, in all the reports and articles published in the press?

When such controversy arises, it is almost always due to there being no substantial evidence one way or the other that implementation will achieve the desired results.

In the case of BRAKE, their motivation is towards the children, and it is the children that are put to the fore in their publicity. How could anyone criticise their motives?

There is precious little evidence that 20mph speed limits will save anything. As people, young children are not in a position to determine and make sensible judgements on road policies, no more than we would expect them to cross major trunk roads unaccompanied. But there they are – thrust to the fore. These are appalling tactics, to cover up a lack of scruples, but more pointedly, an appalling lack of evidence to support their claims.
Derek, Salop.

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

Hey have u all forgotten that the deed is done. It's already been decided politically that all roads in all towns and villages will be subject to a 20mph limt.

Doesn't matter who should be looking into it or what evidence is required. If u are a politician and u have been signed up within Europe to reduce KSI and other related incidents then one will agree to just about anything. It doesnt need evidence, it's already a done deal.

It's to late bolting the door after the horse has ...u know what.....
bob Craven Lancs

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

I understand your point about role of road safety engineers being responsible for implementing solutions based on research.

So why do you propagate BRAKE's comments based on a survey of the general public who are not aware of most of the research and results from 20mph schemes, which generally show increases in injuries to children, pedestrians and cyclists as a result of them taking less care because they FEEL safer.

The views of an uninformed public should not be driving road safety policy.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (8) | Disagree (8)

Many local authorities seem to be been seriously misled by Portsmouth City Council's spurious claims of "encouraging signs" for their £600k 20mph scheme. The claims rely on:

1/ Ignoring the reduction in traffic volume (one of the scheme objectives) as some drivers chose to divert to avoid the area, taking their share of accidents with them.

2/ Highlighting falls in "all" casualties (in reality little different from the fall in traffic) while largely ignoring increases in serious injuries.

3/ Comparing results with previous years instead of with far better national results in the same period. (All local results should as a matter of routine of course be compared with national trends at the same time, both (as above) relative to traffic volume.)

My detailed correspondence with PCC pointing out the serious flaws in their analysis is available at complete with a spreadsheet showing for the most part worse or much worse results than national trends over the first 2 years.

Recent continental studies have also shown worse casualty trends in 20mph areas, explained by pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and riders becoming complacent and therefore less careful.
Idris Francis

Agree (6) | Disagree (3)

Hi Dave, Just to be clear on this point, the road safety 'profession' incorporates a wide array of disciplines, and I feel I must point out that Road Safety GB members are predominantly specialists in road safety education, training and publicity – not engineering. Whilst we work in conjunction with engineering colleagues, we are not tasked to implement engineering solutions or conduct research to justify or otherwise any engineering schemes; our role is to understand the human factors of how people use and interact with the highway network, to educate, train, influence the people who use or misuse them, to change attitudes and behaviour to reduce casualties. I would whole heartedly support your contention that we need evidence as to whether 20mph speed limits work – but it is road safety/highway engineers who make recommendations about installing 20mph zones, and whether or not research is applicable. The decisions are then made by our elected and democratically accountable members. Therefore the point about evidence should be addressed to road safety engineers, not road safety officers. May I suggest that your very good point is taken up with organisations such as the CIHT, ADEPT etc.
Alan Kennedy, Chairman Road Safety GB

Agree (9) | Disagree (3)

Hi Brian, my comment was posed as a question but was moderated. That's why "we" doesn't quite make sense.

I asked Rod King (20's Plenty) if he would support scientific tests for 20mph, but he wouldn't say.

Why is there such opposition to scientific tests in road safety? Surely “we” (all of us) want to know if 20mph makes roads safer or more dangerous?
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (8) | Disagree (7)

Dave mentions "we" - who are "we" and who do they represent?
Brian Road Safety GB

Agree (5) | Disagree (4)

The evidence that 20mph improves safety is very weak. There have been both increases and decreases in serious injuries where this has been tried and results seem not much different, or possibly worse, than those roads that remained at 30mph.

We would like authorities to implement scientific tests in the form of “Randomized Controlled Trials” to find out the effect of 20mph limits.
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (11) | Disagree (9)