We are ecstatic that our motion “Twenty’s Plenty: Saving Lives On The Road” will be debated at the Party Conference next month. We believe that the Liberal Democrats can best lead the country on road safety.
Too many of us, including one author of this article, have experienced the dreaded phone call or police visit to say a friend or relative has been killed on a residential street. We do all we can to prevent this avoidable pain.
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.
This policy is a vote winner. Widespread 20mph limits in Portsmouth, Oxford, Lancashire, Brighton & Hove and Bath & North East Somerset have been popular and made roads safer. Nationally, 71% of drivers supported 20 mph limit for residential streets in the 2011 British Social Attitudes Survey. Insurance premiums are lower in 20mph areas.
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.
* Antony Hook is Vice-Chair or the South East Region. Sarah Osborne is a District Councillor in Lewes where she chairs the Scrutiny Committee.