Welsh Tory leader claims new 20mph speed limit could increase risks for road users
The leader of the Welsh Conservatives claims the new default 20mph limit being introduced in Wales from tomorrow could make roads less safe.
Andrew RT Davies made the comments in a column for the Daily Mail, in the aftermath of the Tories failure to derail the introduction of the new speed limit in the Senedd on Wednesday.
Describing the change as a “mad scheme” Mr Davies also accused the Welsh Government of having “disdain for democracy” and claimed, “dogma has triumphed over common sense”.
“The practical interests of the public and businesses mean little as they are sacrificed on the altar of radical ideology by Left-wing, virtue-signalling politicians,” he said.
Mr Davies, who had previously backed the 20’s Plenty group which campaigns for a reduction in the speed limit, added: “In effect, my nation is being used as a testing ground for an eccentric liberal experiment. Will it be justified in terms of lives saved, pollution reduced or worthwhile costs, I have my doubts.”
“The key justification for this move is to improve road safety and lower the number of casualties from traffic accidents.
“According to the 20mph advocates, the lower a car’s speed, the better the chances of survival for a pedestrian who has been hit. It seems straightforward but, perversely, the new law could increase risks in a host of different ways.
“The new limit could lead to more frustration, tail-gating and overtaking. Similarly, the police have warned that response times by emergency vehicles might be reduced. And the removal of now redundant 20mph signs outside schools could actually lead to more speeding in such areas.
“On a deeper level, the sheer scale of this blanket change will undermine the integrity of the legal system because so many motorists will be caught out. A nation that criminalises a large portion of its own population through some arbitrary new policy is helping to destroy respect for the law.”
Defending the scheme earlier this week, the First Minister said cutting speed from 30mph to 20mph would protect lives and claimed it would save the NHS in Wales £92 million a year.
A recent public health study cited by the Welsh Government suggests that the 20mph default speed limit could result in 40% fewer collisions per year, saving 6 to 10 and 1200 to 2000 casualties.
From tomorrow Wales will follow the example of Spain, which made a similar change in 2019, and has since reported a fall in urban road deaths.
“This is a manifesto commitment of the Labour Party, and it was in our election manifesto,” Mr Drakeford said.
“Politicians are very often criticised for not keeping their promises and this is a promise that we will be keeping here in Wales.
“We will invest around £32 million in one-off expenditure and that one-off money will save £92 million every single year in the NHS.
“We will be paid back many, many times over for the investment that we are making.
“I’m reinforced in my belief that it is the right thing to do from the experience we see elsewhere in the world.
“Spain, which has had this policy in place over recent years, have seen a 20% reduction in urban deaths on the roads.”
“While I understand that all change is challenging, I’m also confident that once it’s there and people get used to it, people will find the advantages of it,” he said.
“Just as other changes in the field of road transport – the breathalyser, seatbelt wearing, other speed limits controversial in that time – are completely accepted now.
“Wales has often led the way in progressive policies. We are used to them being controversial at the time that we introduced them.
“When we changed the law in relation to organ donation, no other part of the UK was willing to do the same thing. Now every part of the UK does so.
“I’m reconciled to a period of turbulence when you make a change but I also confident that once the policy is operating people will see that it is a sensible and progressive thing to do.
“It will prevent accidents, it will save lives, and it will be absolutely worth doing.”
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