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‘Blanket’ 20mph speed limits make roads less safe, says Transport Secretary

Putting in place “blanket” 20mph speed limits means drivers are less likely to slow down on roads where there is a school or children are playing, the Transport Secretary has said.

Mark Harper said widespread use of a 20mph limit “damages the ability” for the zones to have an impact on roads where a lower speed is required for safety reasons because drivers are “less likely to comply”.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Friday that guidance would be reviewed on the use of 20mph limits in England to “prevent their blanket use in areas where it is not appropriate”.

It comes after the Labour-run Welsh Government dropped the default speed limit from 30mph to 20mph for restricted roads in a move it predicts could save up to 100 lives and 20,000 casualties in the first decade.

The Transport Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We want to stick with the position where 20mph speed limits make perfect sense, for example, outside a school or in a heavily built-up area where you might have children playing in a residential area or where there is a particular issue with accidents.

“In those areas it makes perfect sense.

“What we are against, and what we are looking at strengthening guidance about, is avoiding the blanket imposition of a 20mph speed limit like we’ve seen in Wales.”

He said 20mph had been imposed “irrelevant to the conditions” on some roads in Wales.

Mr Harper added: “(That) makes life harder for drivers, doesn’t deliver any benefits, actually damages the ability of 20mph speed limits to make people safer because if you put them in inappropriate places, actually people are less likely to comply even when they make sense.”

The Conservative Cabinet minister told Times Radio that a study commissioned by the DfT indicated a reduction to 20mph “doesn’t actually make much difference” to driver speeds.

The study published in November 2018 found 20mph limits in residential areas were supported by the majority of residents and drivers.

The report concluded there was no evidence of a significant drop in the number of crashes and casualties after the introduction of 20mph limits.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also said he was “slamming the brakes on the war on motorists” after announcing a slew of pro-driving policies ahead of the Tory conference, starting in Manchester on Sunday.

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