Motoring safety experts at Road Angel have criticised Rishi Sunak's plans to remove 20mph zones, despite claims that it will improve road safety and reduce deaths.
The plans have sparked a debate across the UK, with the Prime Minister stating that a blanket reduction in speed limits "doesn't make sense".
However, Wales is set to introduce 20mph speed limits in September, making it the first UK nation to establish a default 20mph limit. Scotland also plans to follow suit, with Transport Scotland's national strategy stating that default 20mph limits will be implemented on every road in built-up areas by 2025.
Support for the transition to 20mph streets comes from influential organisations such as the World Health Organization and the UN General Assembly. These entities have called on policymakers to promote low-speed streets worldwide, recognising that a 20mph speed limit is the right balance for people and traffic to coexist safely.
The introduction of default 20mph limits in residential areas and busy pedestrian roads aims to reduce collisions between vehicles and vulnerable road users. It also seeks to create safer spaces for playing, walking, and cycling. Spain serves as a successful example, where a national 30km/h (18mph) speed limit was implemented in urban streets in 2021. This change resulted in a 20 percent reduction in the mortality rate and a significant decrease in pedestrian, cyclist, and motorcyclist fatalities.
However, the latest government figures reveal a concerning trend. In the year ending June 2022, 29,795 people were reported killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads, representing an increase of over 2,000 from the previous year. It is worth noting that these statistics are influenced by the impact of the coronavirus lockdown periods, during which fewer journeys were made.
It has however surprised many that ministers are now considering restricting councils' ability to impose 20mph speed limits. This potential shift is seen by some as a response to what is perceived as "anti-motorist" policies and traffic schemes. Critics argue that such restrictions could undermine ongoing efforts to enhance road safety and protect vulnerable road users.
Gary Digva, Founder of Road Angel, said: “Reports that the government is planning to crack down on councils wanting to lower speed limit zones is extremely concerning.
“Road safety should be the top priority with the high rate of deaths and serious injuries on Britain's roads.
“Spain saw a 20 percent mortality rate decrease after implementing the lower speed policies, so there is substantial evidence that this will work to make our roads safer, and potentially save hundreds of lives a year.
“Lowering the speed limit in areas where there are a lot of vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, makes sense as it reduces the risk of fatalities should there be a collision.
“Not only does lowering the speed limit reduce the force and impact of a vehicle, but it also dictates if a driver is able to stop in time to avoid a crash.
“It is disappointing to see that the PM deems life-saving policies as “anti-motorist” when they are in fact anti-death and could save hundreds of lives if introduced across the whole of Britain.”