20mph limits to put brakes on drivers

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The Independent Online
A big increase in the number of 20mph zones was recommended by a cross-party parliamentary road safety group yesterday.

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety said all speed limits should be reviewed and recommended 15 measures which it said Parliament and the motoring industry should undertake. The whole issue of speed had to be tackled if the number of accidents was to be reduced, it said in a pamphlet.

Britain has one of the worst records in Europe for child pedestrian deaths. According to transport ministers, 160 child pedestrians were killed in speed-related accidents in 1995. The council said in Taking Action on Speeding that reducing speed on the roads would be the single most effective way of lowering that toll.

Robert Gifford, its director, said: "Pedestrians hit at 20mph by a vehicle receive mostly minor injuries. At 30mph the majority are killed or seriously injured."

Speed killed car occupants too, he said. Their chances of being killed or seriously injured was five times greater at 40mph that at 20mph. The pamphlet said: "Speed is the biggest single contributory factor in road accidents." The council said it accepted a survey finding that 85 per cent of motorists broke speed limits "when the road is quiet".

But it said all limits should be reviewed with the idea of reducing the current 60mph maximum on trunk roads and creating many more 20mph zones in towns without the cumbersome engineering measures presently required.

The council said it accepted there was no single measure which could transform safety but called for a national strategy to tackle both excess speed (breaking the limit) and inappropriate speed (when a car is driven too fast for the conditions).

The Highways Agency was criticised for cutting funds for local safety schemes on trunk roads.

The pamphlet said that a key problem was that drivers "do not perceive speeding to be a significantly criminal activity" and suggested a change in the driving test. Mr Gifford said: "Instead of focusing on technical things ... the test should concentrate on ensuring that drivers are aware of the dangers of speeding."

The council also called for a national data-base for speeding offences to help insurance companies.