The Liberal Democrats have a long tradition of campaigning on local issues that have an impact on local communities and road safety is one such issue – Twenty’s Plenty! The Liberal Democrats are distinct from other parties; they welcome a debate at their showcase Annual Party Conference – even when the media spotlight is on them.
Yesterday, an article appeared on the Liberal Democrat Voice Website: ‘20’s Plenty: Road Safety Set For Debate At Conference’ which was written by Antony Hook and Sarah Osborne, according to the Liberal Democrat Activists there is an urgent need to increase our awareness of road safety.
Road deaths are a public health crisis. We suffer one of the highest proportions of pedestrian fatalities in Europe and it is worsening. 2011 saw a 12% increase in pedestrian casualties, and half of road deaths and serious injuries in Britain occur on 30 mph limit roads.
There is cause for hope. We can change this. Our motion calls for 20mph to become the standard speed limit on residential roads.
A Transport Research Laboratory study found 20 mph limits cut child pedestrian accidents by 70%. In 2008, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety found Britain’s annual 3,100-road death toll would be cut by two-thirds if all residential areas had 20mph limits.
Drivers benefit too. In Portsmouth, 2 years after introducing 20mph limits on residential roads there were 23% fewer driver and 31% fewer passenger casualties. Elderly drivers had 50% fewer injuries.
Financial gain will be enormous. The Department for Transport estimates:
- average cost per seriously injured casualty on the roads is £178,160, and
- average cost per fatality is £1,585,510.
There will be up-front costs to change speed limit signs so we propose staggered conversion: new residential developments to have 20mph limits and 10% of existing residential streets to be converted to 20mph each year. The national government should assist local authorities to meet initial costs, which will be recovered many times over.
We accept that local authorities should be able to make the case for exceptions that will stay at 30mph such as arterial or trunk roads…
Environmental arguments are strong. When the speed limit in Germany was reduced average drivers used 12% less fuel. In Bristol, reductions to 20mph saw cycling and walking increase 12%.
This is policy will protect lives, help the environment and save money.
We are delighted that Transport Minister Norman Baker MP told us he supports our motion. We would like it passed unanimously to send the strongest signal that Liberal Democrats will save lives on the road.
We cannot continue with Europe’s bloodiest roads.
Selecting a motion such as this, the Liberal Democrats would obviously realise that they would come under public scrutiny – in particular from elements of the right wing press. But at least, they will be acting in the public’s best interest and not in the interest of single minded pressure groups, as the Daily Telegraph reports:
The plan (see article above), which will be voted on at next month’s Liberal Democrat conference, is designed to cut the number of deaths on the roads, amid suggestions that fatalities could fall by as much as 70 per cent.
Delegates also believe that slowing traffic in residential areas would encourage more parents to allow their children to walk to school.
However, the AA warned that while it was not opposed to 20mph limits where appropriate, a blanket introduction would be “totally impractical”.
The motion to be discussed at Lib Dem conference reads: “Among EU member states, the UK has one of the poorest levels of children walking or cycling to school.
“Many parents cite danger from fast-moving traffic as a reason for not allowing their children to travel to school on foot or by bike.
“Lowering the normal residential speed limit from 30mph to 20mph would make roads safer; in particular a study by the Transport Research Laboratory has found 20mph limits decrease child pedestrian deaths by 70 per cent.
“It has been shown that half of people hit by a car at 30mph will die and only 10 per cent of people hit by a car at 20mph.”
Recent figures released by the Department for Transport show that while deaths and injuries in 20mph zones rose last year from 1,827 in 2010 to 2,262 in 2011, they fell by one per cent in 30mph areas.
A spokesman for the AA said: “Converting all roads to 20mph would be totally impractical and would impact on driving times and add to costs and delays.
“It’s great in pedestrianised areas but just slapping up 20mph signs would not make things safer.”