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Mark Drakeford makes robust defence of controversial 20mph speed limit

07 Sep 2023 5 minute read
First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford. Photo Picture by Peter Byrne / PA

A controversial new law which will see many roads in Wales switching to 20mph speed limits has been defended by First Minister Mark Drakeford.

Wales will become the first part of the UK to introduce a nationwide 20mph speed limit as most residential roads, which currently have a 30mph speed limit, switch to 20mph on Sunday, September 17.

Speaking to Dot Davies on the BBC Radio Wales Breakfast Show, Mr Drakeford was asked why he thought a significant proportion of the Welsh public were so dead set against it?

“Because I think change is difficult and where people are used to one set of circumstances persuading them to adopt something different will always take time,” he said. “I’m the only person in this room old enough to remember the introduction of the breathalyser, and the seatbelt law.

“Both of them were highly controversial at the time, opposed by people who didn’t want to see change. 20 mile per hour limits in urban areas will lead to fewer deaths, fewer accidents, and it’s a small price to pay in order to make sure that people are safe on the streets on the roads. Wales will lead the way.”

The First Minister was also pressed on the £32 million cost of introducing 20mph speed limits, at a time when the Welsh government was facing a £900 million hole in its budget.

“32 million is a one off cost and it will save the health service £92 million pounds every single year,” he said. “So sometimes you do have to spend money in order to save money. And this will undoubtedly reduce costs, on emergency services and on other aspects of the health service because they will have over 10 years thousands fewer casualties to deal with.

“In Spain where this law was introduced. In 2019, two years later, urban deaths were reduced by 20%, 34% fewer deaths among cyclists. This is a move that will save people’s lives at a very small cost to people who are being asked to drive a little more slowly in those urban areas.”

First Minister, Mark Drakeford

The First Minister today visited one of the first areas in Wales to trial the new 20mph limit to learn more about the impact of the “biggest step-change in community safety in a generation.”

With just 10 days to go before the default 20mph speed limit will be introduced across Wales, the First Minister met business owners, parents and school children in St Brides Major, in the Vale of Glamorgan.

St Brides Major was one of the first trial sites for the 20mph speed limit.

While visiting the village, the First Minister met with B&B owners Chris and Julie Davies who are happy with the slower speeds and said they make a positive difference to St Brides.

Local community members who were successful in campaigning for safer streets through the group Safer St Brides were also keen to share their stories during the First Minister’s visit.

Safer

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Reducing speeds not only saves lives, it helps build safer communities for everyone, including motorists – better places to live our lives.

“It will help make our streets quieter, reducing noise pollution, and slower speeds will give more people the confidence to cycle and walk around their local areas and encourage children to play outdoors.

“Evidence from around the world is clear – reducing speed limits reduces collisions and saves lives.”

The Welsh Government estimates that over the first decade, the new default speed limit will save up to 100 lives and 20,000 casualties.

The change comes after four years of work with local authorities, police, and road safety experts to design a change in the law.

Local owner of St Bridget’s Farm B&B, Chris Davies said: “The people of St Brides have worked hard to get speeds lowered, and since the introduction of 20mph I’m pleased to say we’ve seen a noticeable difference in people travelling slower through the village and a lot less noise from speeding cars as a result.

“It now feels much safer for local people, especially children, and it’s lovely for guests at our B&B to be able to enjoy being out and about in the village.”

One of the campaigners for Safer St Brides, Nia Lloyd-Knott added: “The rollout of 20mph in St Brides Major has been fantastic.

“As a village we campaigned for slower speeds for a long time, so we were delighted to be chosen as one of the early adopters of 20mph.

“The village has a lot of families who are very keen walkers and cyclists, so the introduction of slower speeds has had a huge impact for the whole village, with many more parents feeling comfortable to let their children travel to the local school independently.”

For more information visit gov.wales/introducing-default-20mph-speed-limits


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Richard
Richard
7 months ago

However well intentioned ✔️

However evidence based ✔️

However keen to make a difference ✔️

Welsh Gvt should –

Observe , Listen and if needed ajust ✅

Stop Top Down Mark knows best policies ✅

David
David
7 months ago

In Spain the residential speed limit is 20km/h, which equates to 12.43mph. (i.e. 7.67mph lower in Spain).
Residential areas20km/h – In built-up areas50km/h – Outside built-up areas90km/h – 100km/h (according to local signs) – Motorways120km/h

CapM
CapM
7 months ago
Reply to  David

A leaflet came through the letterbox this week with info on the 20mph default limit. The striking fact for me was that at the point in the road where a car breaking from 20mph comes to a halt a car braking from 30mph will be travelling at 24mph! Tory supporters in Cymru seem to imagine that the 20mph limit will be their ULEX. I think they’re going to be disappointed. Voters including those motorists unsupportive of 20mph limits aren’t able to dismiss or ignore road casualties caused by vehicles in a way Tory supporters might like them to dismiss or… Read more »

Geraint
Geraint
7 months ago
Reply to  CapM

The Tories are on the wrong side of history on speed limits.
In Scotland support for a 20 mph limit in residential areas was 22% in 1991. By 20210 support had risen to 86%.
A recent report on traffic speeds in Bristol by the UWE showed that people like to see cars slow down where they live.
Even the DfT in England recognise that the appropriate speed for residential areas is 20 mph.
The Tories have U turned on this proposal once and I guess in a few years time when we are used to it they will flip again.

Lenny88
Lenny88
7 months ago
Reply to  CapM

Emissions have got nothing to do with it. In fact a car in low gear traveling at 20mph will output more emissions than a car at 30mph in a higher gear at lower revs, fact!!

Iago
Iago
7 months ago
Reply to  Lenny88

That may be true for older less efficient cars but more modern cars can maintain 20 comfortably at 3rd or even 4th gear.

The stop start nature of urban driving causes more emissions and a study by Future Transport shows fuel efficiency peaks with speed capped at 20mph. Drivers benefit from up to 10p per mile in fuel savings without trips taking longer. That’s a 30 per cent saving in urban fuel costs. Its accelerating up to the speed limit after slowing or stopping that uses more fuel and creates more emissions. Now those are facts.

simon m hughes
simon m hughes
7 months ago
Reply to  Iago

Wrong if you maintain a lower gear I.e. 2nd gear for longer than is necessary then you increase fuel, wear and tear of your clutch and of your engine spitting out higher emmissions, thats physics! That applies to cars and lorries and busses which I note no other expert has considered?

simon m hughes
simon m hughes
7 months ago
Reply to  CapM

I have voted Labour all my life but this is a ludicrous policy. You and they have not taken into account the unittended consequences. What do I mean, food prices to permanently increase as haulage firms increase in fuel required and hours of the drivers of the lorry. Emergency services will be adversely affected. Your daily commute to work will cost more fuel time and wellbeing due to another layer of stress. Not everyone lives on the flat and within five minutes of work. Most now take over an hour to get to work and the same to get home.… Read more »

CapM
CapM
7 months ago
Reply to  simon m hughes

Cymru is hardly a trail blazer regarding lowering speed limits
Spain reduced limits to 30 and 20 Kilometers per hour.
New York has had a default limit of 25mph for years
Other examples in in the EU if you just take the trouble to look.

There are many reasons to regret voting Labour for a lifetime.
This isn’t really one of them.

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
7 months ago

Very nice for St.Brides, a local decision. Why not let localities take this decision? The problem is that the Labour-knows-best approach on 20mph limits will meand authoritarianism on other things. Lockdown the worst example so far. Whatever the polls say/said we now know it was unscientific and socially damaging

Geraint
Geraint
7 months ago

I want to see consistency. In my opinion there is nothing worse than driving in an urban setting and seeing variable speed limits. The chopping and changing of speed limits, often over very short distances only causes problems for all road users. Keeping it simple will help everyone.

Annewithane
Annewithane
7 months ago

Utter poppycock. Lives lost on residential roads miniscule compared to stabbings in South Wales and alcohol/drugs abuse.

Iago
Iago
7 months ago
Reply to  Annewithane

So……..?

Annewithane
Annewithane
7 months ago
Reply to  Iago

So, as usual, focus on wrong subject. Probably because he has to go out with a bang and speed limits a quicker implementation period than tackling thug mentality.

John
John
7 months ago

Just hope you don’t need emergency services because there. Are retained fireman/women who will have to go to the fire stationin their own vehicles and be expected to comply with speed limits Also if life boats are needed. In emergency at sea or Bristol channel they will be expected to comply .so just think these. Labour councilors in the Bay who think 20mph could lives on.the roads .there are other implications where lives could be lost .when time is a essence.

simon m hughes
simon m hughes
7 months ago

What is the point of arguing with an autocratic leader? When policy is anticipated to have a significant impact on the daily lives of citizens the correct route for the government to take is to allow a national vote. It is glaringly obvious that this government knows that this policy would be voted down by a significant distance. There is no other reason for not taking this route only that you know the resistance to it is overwhelming! As far as seatbelts and breathalyser legislation were concerned these were UK legislation and part of the policies promised by the leading… Read more »

kai
kai
7 months ago

1903 was when the 20mph speed limit was first introduced, it was raised to 30mph due to no one taking notice. 2023 and the 20mph speed limit reintroduced…..talk about going backwards!

CapM
CapM
7 months ago
Reply to  kai

I did go to the trouble of setting this confusion right with another who brought it up.

The historic speed limit of 20mph applied to all types of roads everywhere that’s why it was widely ignored.

And of course it takes very little effort or cognitive thinking to recognise that road use and numbers and performance of vehicles etc etc is vastly different than it was nearly a century ago.

Trevor woolnough
Trevor woolnough
7 months ago

No science behind what he says, and a very lazy blanket law with no consideration to actual local conditions. Abergavenny for example.

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