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