Why twenty’s plenty

Anna Semlyen argues that reducing speeds limits will cut accidents and boost respiratory health.

Prevention is always better than cure. Best practice in road injury prevention centres on lower speed limits. Speed is the crucial factor in stopping times and crash damage. 

Did you know that 

  • survival rates are from seven to 10 times better at 20 mph than 30? 
  • children under 12 can’t judge how fast traffic is going over 20 mph due to under-developed eyesight?
  • councillors set road speeds? 
  • limits of 20 mph prevent 20 per cent of casualties and reduce their severity, mainly because stopping distances halve – from six car lengths at 30 mph to
  • three at 20 mph?

When 20 mph becomes normal for built up areas, steadier driving improves fuel efficiency and air quality (provided that humps are not used).  

Going at a maximum of 20 mph (compared to 30) uses 12 per cent less fuel  reduces diesel NOx and PM10 particulates (equivalent to taking nearly half of petrol vehicles off the road). 

As physio staff will know, respiratory health improves too!  In addition, noise and traffic decreases, while active travel increases. Extra exercise benefits include less coronary heart disease and obesity. Slower speeds offer huge public health gains.

For 16 million people across the UK, 20 mph is normal for most roads. They live in parts of inner London, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol, Lancashire, Calderdale and Edinburgh, among other places.

The benefits?

Calderdale recently reported a 22 per cent fall in injuries.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the Department for Transport and Transport Scotland all recognise the active travel, public health, air quality and road safety benefits from 20 mph limits. Implementing the policy involves public engagement with drivers, signs, posts or markings, legal traffic regulation orders plus officer time and light enforcement. Oxford spent £300,000 (equivalent to £2 per local person). It has been done by councils of all political colours.

Would you like to campaign for 20 mph? Membership is free. You could write to your local councillors or get petition signatures, for example.  

The 20 mph national conference is in Birmingham on 8 March  www.20splenty.org/calendar  Please ask councillors and public health staff to attend. 

Where there is political will, councillors have funded 20 mph initiatives. Join the national 20 mph campaign today to protect people from avoidable harm. 

  • Anna Semlyen, national campaign manager, 20’s Plenty for Us
Anna Semlyen, national campaign manager 20’s Plenty for Us

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