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Minister says 20mph speed limit will not only save lives but will help build stronger, safer communities

26 Jun 2023 4 minute read
20mph speed limit sign. Photo Dominic Lipinski PA Images

Climate Change Minister Lee Waters says reducing the speed limit in Wales will not only save lives but will help build stronger, safer communities.

His comments come just three months before the introduction of the default 20mph speed limit across Wales.

Most streets in Wales that currently have a 30mph speed limit will switch to 20mph on Sunday, September 17.

The change comes after four years of work with local authorities, police and road safety experts to design a change in law, making Wales the first UK nation to reset the default speed limit for local roads.

Community safety

Mr Waters, the Deputy Minister with responsibility for transport said: “We’re now just three months away from the biggest step-change in community safety we have seen in Wales for a generation.

“In Wales we do things differently, we look after each other and trust the science.

“Evidence shows that a vehicle travelling at 30mph will still be travelling at 24mph in the time it would take a car travelling 20mph to stop.

“Reducing speed not only saves lives; it will help build stronger, safer communities – better places to live our lives.”

The move follows a similar approach in Spain where the speed limit on the majority of roads was changed to 30km/h in 2019.

Since then, Spain has reported 20% fewer urban road deaths, with fatalities reduced by 34 per cent for cyclists and 24 per cent for pedestrians.

First Minister Mark Drakeford added: “Our streets will be quieter, reducing the scourge of noise pollution, and slower speeds also boosts the confidence of people to cycle and walk around their local areas and for children to play outdoors.

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

“I am confident if we all work together, we can make the necessary changes that will benefit us now and in the future.”

Deaths

Research also shows the 20mph default speed limit could save £92m a year by reducing the number of deaths and injuries. It could also help to reduce pressure on the NHS from a reduction in injuries from road traffic collisions.

Over the first decade, it is estimated a lower speed limit will save up to 100 lives and 20,000 casualties.

Dr Sarah Jones, Consultant in Environmental Public Health for Public Health Wales, said: “Public Health Wales strongly supports 20mph legislation, which will transform the places where people live, work and travel.

“The evidence is clear that reducing traffic speeds has multiple health and wellbeing benefits.  It improves road safety, reduces noise pollution and over time will help to tackle air pollution. The safer environment that slower traffic speeds bring will also enable more people to actively travel, for example walking and cycling to work and school.

“Active travel offers such a wide range of benefits across society, boosting physical and mental health, and reducing the demand on our health service of treating many preventable illnesses.”

Resistance

The new default speed limit is opposed by the Welsh Conservatives, who have predicted large scale resistance to the proposals and accused the government of riding roughshod over local decisionmakers in pursuit of an anti-driver agenda.

“The Welsh Conservatives have long said 20mph speed limits can be appropriate in certain areas such as outside of schools and playgrounds, but forcing councils to fork out thousands of pounds to fix this baseless law shows it should never have been passed in the first place.

“Labour have already admitted that this policy will come at an astonishing cost of £4.5bn to the Welsh economy, proving being anti-driver means being anti-growth.

“Meanwhile, public opinion has not been greatly in favour of this change, with countless people, all across Wales feeling they were not able to have a proper say in this decision, and a new report has cast doubt over how many lives it would actually save.

“Labour ministers need to stop imposing dogmatic and restrictive measures on road users in Wales and focus on making sure Wales has a public transport system fit for the 21st century.”


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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
9 months ago

“Yeah…but what about car go brum brum? I like car go fast brum brums not slow brum brums. Fast brnm brums is moar funs and its waaaaaahhhhhy kewel, yeah? Coz like in the films and telly and that and I like the way it feel, what about me and what I want? What about my mum she likes cars that go brum brums, not slow but also not ggfast and she goes to work, this is RUIWENING her lif. Its not fair. Cars go brum brums fast for reason. They are trying to make us have five minute cities and… Read more »

Richard 1
Richard 1
9 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

My car has automanic transmission – as soon as I get behind the wheel it makes me a bit bonkers

Richard 1
Richard 1
9 months ago

I’m looking forward to the new limit. I’m hoping it might mean that traffic on the A483’s seductive sinuous curves through the south end of Llandrindod slows down to 30 mph – at the moment 45 is not uncommon.
I’d like to see a breakdown of the Conservative’s alleged claim that the policy will cost £4.5bn to the Welsh economy.

john
john
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard 1

Its not a conservative claim. Its the WG own assessment which was presented to the senedd members in their voting pack before they voted on it. Sam Rollands ( conservative) is questioning why the £4.6bn cost was never discussed openly.

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
9 months ago

bRING IT ON.
i’M ALL FOR IT. iT WILL SAVE LIVES. hUMANS & ANIMALS.

WilliamsG
WilliamsG
9 months ago

They start as 20mph but when they get enforced (which they eventually will) everyone will drive around at 12mph shortening your engine life driving in lower gears. Travel around Scotland and you will see the effect. The Welsh government spend millions building the Heads of the Valley then make it 50mph, no one uses the outside lane. If they wanted a 50mph road why spends hundreds of millions upgrading it? I am all for road safety but the Welsh government is obsessed by speed. Is the aim to force us onto a totally inadequate public transport system? I know this… Read more »

Philip Davies
Philip Davies
9 months ago

£4.5bn eh? Obviously it is difficult to put a price on any life saved, but the now established logic of this pedestrian- and pedaller-favouring speed restriction is inevitably either an eventual ban on all private transport, or the compulsory fitting of speed limiters to existing vehicles and then making new cars with smaller engines and factory-fitted speed limiters. After all, 20mph is still faster than the EU’s 30kph. There will now be constant ongoing pressure to remove all driver discretion. Driving will never be fun again, I’m afraid. But, while yielding to the inevitable, I would appreciate it if people… Read more »

Phil
Phil
9 months ago
Reply to  Philip Davies

…Not all doom and gloom, Philip…. once you’ve crawled your way to the M4 you can reach 50MPH near Port Talbot and Newport and the giddy heights of 70MPH in places inbetween!

Philip Davies
Philip Davies
9 months ago
Reply to  Phil

‘Be still, my beating heart!’

Phil
Phil
9 months ago

Absolutely no point in protesting. Mr Drakeford will countenance no objection, however overwhelming the argument. He knows best!
(When’s the next Senedd Election?)

Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
9 months ago

Please present your evidece!

Richard 1
Richard 1
9 months ago
Reply to  Phil

Phil, you link to a petition against the 20 mph speed limit. At 22,000 signatures it was well-supported but it can’t and doesn’t count as an argument – only as an expression of opinion. The argument is in the projections of how many injuries and deaths will be saved by the new limit and by the switch from protecting the interests of drivers to protectingthe interests of cyclists and pedestrians.

Phil
Phil
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard 1

On that premise the Welsh Government should ban all but essential vehicles from the roads and limit them to 15mph.
The other question is .. Who’s going to police the new law? I live in a current 20mph area and no one seems to take any notice of it. Will we see endless columns of speed cameras and average speed cameras filling our countryside?

john
john
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard 1

All of the statistics are to be seen online in ONS and police accident statistics. UK is one of the safest countries in the world for pedestrians. On average in Wales there is about 85 deaths a year, about 45 at 30mph. A 20% reduction is 7 lives potentially a year. This should be balanced against the £100+m initial investment the £4.6bn economy loss, which was not a conservative figure it was WG own estimates in their own decision making report. Sam Rowlands ( North Wales conservative) asked them why they ignored that figure in their decision. Then consider on… Read more »

Keith Gogarth
Keith Gogarth
9 months ago

I have been a big supporter of the Welsh Government but it seems now they are getting into to much of a holier than though ‘woke’ campaign of controlling peoples lives, international green issues, speed limits and whether we can chastise our kids. They need to back off and concentrate on gaining more power from Westminster rather than boring and annoying us with trivia.

Robert Price
Robert Price
9 months ago

There is a pernicious reality that on the whole people do not drive to speed limits – they drive at speeds where they feel they have safe control of their vehicle and will avoid fines or prosecution.  Data collected on 446.6 million journeys at 74 sites across the UK found that a worrying number of motorists are breaking the law at every speed limit. The data, released by the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2018, found that a staggering 86% of all journeys made through 20mph zones broke the speed limit. This compares with more than half (52%) of journeys in… Read more »

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