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New research suggests 20mph speed limits have little impact on road safety amid Wales-wide roll-out

16 Nov 2022 3 minute read
20mph sign. Picture by Carmarthenshire County Council

Cutting speeds on urban roads to 20mph does not significantly improve safety, a new report suggests, as the Welsh Government seek to roll out the new limits across Wales.

Researchers analysed data from before and after the limit was introduced on 76 roads in central Belfast in 2016.

The study found “little impact on long-term outcomes” in the city.

Comparisons with streets in the surrounding area and elsewhere in Northern Ireland that retained their 30pmh or 40pmh limit showed there were “no statistically significant differences” in terms of the number of crashes, casualty rates or average traffic speed.

Roads with a 20mph limit did experience a reduction in traffic, according to the report published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The authors of the report, who include Professor Ruth Hunter of Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Ruth Jepson of the University of Edinburgh, noted that their research was smaller in scale than some other studies on the topic.

The report said that 20mph limits could be combined with other measures such as driver training, CCTV and police communications to “facilitate an ambitious culture change that shifts populations away from the car-dominant paradigm”.

It added that reducing speed limits is “not simply a road-safety intervention” but can be “part of the fundamental reset of the way we choose our life priorities – people before cars”.

£100 million

Schemes to cut speed limits to 20mph have become increasingly popular in the UK and others parts of Europe in recent years as part of effort to reduce crashes and injuries.

The Welsh Government has committed to creating a default 20mph limit on all roads in the country where cars mix with pedestrians and cyclists.

Earlier this month research conducted by the Transport Research Institute (TRI) at Edinburgh Napier University, in conjunction with Public Health Wales suggested plans to introduce a default 20mph speed limit across Wales could save £100 million over the first year after its launch.

The estimated cost saving is the direct result of fewer deaths and injuries, with estimates suggesting it would save more than 100 lives and 14,000 casualties over a decade.

A separate independent public attitude survey, conducted by Beaufort Research on behalf of the Welsh Government published at the same time, showed the majority of respondents supported a new lower speed limit.

Almost two-thirds of people surveyed said they would support a 20mph speed limit where they lived and 62% said they wanted everyone to slow down on the roads.

When asked about safety, 64% of people said that 20mph speed limits “makes it safer for pedestrians”; 57% agreed that 20mph means “fewer serious collisions on the roads” and almost half (47%) thought 20mph would make it safer for cyclists.


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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
21 days ago

Which part of Cymru is Belfast in again?….

Richard 1
Richard 1
21 days ago

The Belfast stats fail to reflect the lived experience of being a pedestrian on roads and streets where drivers make their own rules. Where different modes of transport have to mix we need a change in the whole culture. I’m pleased to see this happening.

Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
21 days ago

Generally support 20MPH limit. But driver education is more important. The use of social media and TV to inform all road users of how to protect themselves.

Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
21 days ago

So a small scale study by no named organisation disagrees with the Transport Research Institution and we are giving it our attention …. Why? Studies based on statistics need to be large scale. Northern Ireland has around the same population density as the Llyn Peninsula. It’s hardly renowned for traffic volume.

Tewdwr
Tewdwr
20 days ago

wrong

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
20 days ago

It would have been interesting to have seen a simple table from the researchers showing 40mph, 30mph and 20mph roads average speeds before and after the introduction of the new limit. My suspicion, based on experience of how my friends drive and what I experience when cycling, is that many drivers exceed 20mph limits by a larger margin than they do in 30mph limits. If my hunch is right that would account for the 20mph zones showing little difference. Anybody seen any data on that?

Last edited 20 days ago by Peter Cuthbert
Ivor Schilling
Ivor Schilling
20 days ago

Lee Waters needs to retire.

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