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Speed limits could be cut in road safety review

Local councils will be able to bring down speed limits by 10 mph in urban areas and accident blackspots under road safety proposals announced by the Government today.

The proposals, which include stiffer driving tests, are part of a 10-year strategy to cut the number of deaths on Britain's roads by a third by 2020.

Under the Department for Transport (DfT) guidelines, councils will be given powers to reduce speed limits from 30 to 20 mph on roads close to schools and in residential areas.

They will also be able to review limits on single carriageways in the countryside.

That could see speed limits come down from the current 60 to 50 mph, but a DfT spokeswoman stressed any change would be at the sole discretion of the local council.

Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said there are now almost 17,000 fewer deaths or serious injuries a year than there were in the mid-1990s.

"But it is intolerable that eight people are still dying on our roads each day," he added.

For younger people aged 14 to 17, a voluntary, pre-driver qualification in safe road use will count towards their car theory test. Theory and practical tests will also be improved.

The "Pass Plus" system of more advanced lessons that can be taken after passing the driving test will also be improved to encourage more drivers and insurers to take part.

In addition, van drivers will be given the chance to enhance their skills through a new qualification.

The proposals will be open for consultation until 14 July.