Road Safety News

The big debate: is 20mph good for road safety?

Friday 5th July 2013

A debate about the merits of 20mph speed limits and zones looks set to be one of the livelier sessions at the 2013 National Road Safety Conference later this year*.

The panel for the session will comprise: Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, ACPO lead for roads policing; Trish Hirst and Tom Horner, City of York Council; Mike Natt, independent collisions investigator; Rod King MBE, founder of 20’s Plenty for Us; and Eric Bridgstock, independent road safety researcher and campaigner.

Each panellist will be given five minutes to put their case, after which the audience will be invited to ask questions.

Chief Constable Davenport (centre in pic), currently with Gloucestershire Police, started her policing career with West Mercia Police and worked in a variety of roles across the Force over a 20-year period. She was vice president of the British Association for Women in Policing for eight years and in November 2011 became the first female lead for ACPO Roads Policing.

Rod King MBE (left in pic) has been campaigning for the safety of vulnerable road users since 2000. In 2007 he set up 20’s Plenty for Us to support communities that want to lower speeds on their roads. The voluntary organisation now has 200 local campaigns and has been influential in the ‘Total 20’ policies adopted by local authorities which serve 12 million residents.

Eric Bridgstock has worked in safety engineering for more than 20 years and is currently head of engineering safety for a large UK defence and aerospace company. His current role includes identifying and assessing hazards, and associated accidents, linked to the company’s products and systems. Since 2007, he has been applying similar methods to research speed management including cameras, humps and other traffic calming measures, and lowering limits. He is a frequent contributor to discussion threads on this newsfeed.

Mike Natt (right in pic) is a former police accident investigator and now an independent collisions investigator. During his service, Mike personally investigated and reported on more than 700 fatal collisions in North Yorkshire and assisted with many more. As MD of M J Natt, his current focus is on collision investigation and reconstruction for both civil and criminal cases.

Trish Hirst and Tom Horner, road safety and transport planning officer respectively for City of York Council, will present jointly.

Click here for more information, or contact Sally Bartrum or Nick Rawlings on 01379 650112 for more information about attending, exhibiting or sponsoring the event.

*The 2013 National Road Safety Conference will take place in Harrogate (13-14 November) and is being hosted by Road Safety GB Yorkshire and Humberside Region. The event is co-sponsored by Colas, AA DriveTech and FirstCar.



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Further to last posting, as the debate is not till November, a useful exercise would be for those involved to get together a plan of an actual defined area of manageable size, of somewhere in the UK which had previously been a ‘30’ area and now ‘20’and where there had been a supposed increase in accidents, have the reported accidents plotted on the plan and go through them one by one and the panellists and audience (if practical) can decide (vote?) between them whether the prevailing speed limit would have changed anything. Alternatively, pick an area which has always been a ‘30’, look at the accidents in detail and decide whether they would not have happened if the road had been a '20'. Both methods assume strict compliance which admittedly is an ‘unknown’, but without such a detailed examination, we’re just left with emotive arguments and simply the totting up of numbers.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

Following on from Dave’s comments about 'solid stats' – isn’t that the problem? Bearing in mind the apparent level of unrecorded accidents, how reliable will ‘stats’ be in this context anyway?

Instead - and possibly the only useful analysis that can be done - rather than simply noting the total number and severity of reported accidents within a defined area, you have to work with what you’ve got and it would be more informative to extract and read the descriptions of the individual reported accidents themselves – the ‘who did what’ bit - and decide, realistically, whether they were more - or less - likely to have occurred had any of the vehicles been travelling slower – enforced or not. Even without this information, it should be apparent to anyone involved in accident prevention and investigation what sort of accidents occur in residential areas and whether the vehicle(s) speed(s) immediately prior, were relevant.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

I hope this debate will include some solid stats on the various 20mph schemes. Without reliable data it will just be opinion and there seems to be enough of that on this site as it is...
Dave, Still in Leeds

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

We are all for road safety initiatives. Before we step into yet another dimension, why are the current speed limits not enforced more efficiently? If they were efficiently monitored we would not have the need for this debate.
David Matthews Desborough Northampstonshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (5)


Personally, I am delighted to be asked to take part in this debate. Much more than simply being a forum for the invitees to present their positions, it will allow the assembled Road Safety Professionals to question the panel and understand their responses. I also feel that I will gain much from understanding the views of Road Safety Professionals that come out during the debate.
Rod King, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (17) | Disagree (2)

Far too often and at far too great expense Councils and other organisations run "trials" on these and other schemes. What do they expect to find out that is not already known, and what statistical significance do such trials have in any case bearing in mind the small numbers involved and the many confounding factors?

And when analysis is left in the hands of the planners of the scheme who are, human nature being what it is, inclined to cherry-pick favourable data but ignore the inconvenient?

As the old lady said when asked if her patent medicine was any good: "The advertisers speak highly of it."
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (10) | Disagree (13)

I have a feeling that individuals' convictions on this matter will remain the same after the debate as before. Is there much more to say on the subject anyway?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (5)

This “big debate” is an excellent idea especially because the main players, with stated positions both for and against, will be brought together in the same room. Attendees should get to see as full a discussion of the evidence as is possible within the time allotted.

I would hope that both sides will understand why 20mph should be implemented within scientific trials and indeed, if attendees notice apparent conflicting claims, the debate itself may demonstrate just how vital it is to run scientific trials for all new 20mph schemes.

I would love to have attended but, as an independent researcher, I don't have the funding to afford it. If this “big debate” were judged successful, might other “big debates” be considered to discuss other road safety interventions? Regular readers will know my area of interest!

Good luck to everyone involved on both sides.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (15) | Disagree (4)