A Safer Way
An interesting new report from the U.K.’s Department for Transport, titled “A Safer Way: Consultation on Making Britain’s Roads the Safest in the World,” notes that the country, which already has among the safest roads in the world and has cut fatalities by 18%, is aiming to reduce road casualties by a further one-third by 2020. As the chart above shows, the U.S. is in rather a different group of company (this measure is, albeit, per 100,000 persons so does not account for miles driven, but still…)
One part of the strategy is an increase in “self-enforcing” 20 MPH speed zones in urban areas (London now has more than 700, it notes).
Research suggests that pedestrians struck at 30 mph have about a 1 in 5 chance of being killed. At 20 mph the chance of a pedestrian dying is 1 in 40. In order to improve safety on the streets where we live, we will amend our guidance on speed limits, recommending that highway authorities, over time, introduce 20 mph zones or limits into streets that are primarily residential in nature and which are not part of any major through route. Similarly, we will encourage local authorities to consider introducing 20 mph limits or zones in town or city streets, such as around schools, shops, markets, playgrounds and other areas where pedestrian and cyclist movements are high.
The DFT will also be studying what speed reductions are theoretically possible without engineering treatments:
We will, however, also research the effect on speeds and casualties of wide‑area, un‑engineered 20 mph zones. As introduced in Portsmouth and proposed for a number of other cities, these are implemented through 20 mph signs alone. Our previous evidence shows that these have the effect of reducing speeds by 1–2 mph (as opposed to engineered zones, which can reduce speeds to near 20 mph) and are therefore most suited to roads where average speeds are already low. We will, however, re‑examine this issue in the light of the evidence provided by our forthcoming research.
Interestingly, the U.K. has already seen substantial speed reductions on local streets — whether this is due to enforcement, engineering, or education (or a bit of all three) is unclear.
The percentage of vehicles that exceed the speed limit on 30 mph roads was lower in every vehicle category in 2007 than it was ten years earlier (Figure 7.1). The improvement is particularly marked for cars, for which the percentage exceeding the speed limit in 1996 was about three‑quarters. This fell to just under half in 2007.
The implication of this goes beyond safety.
Not only do these zones make our streets safer, but they also have potential to reduce pollution and improve public health by encouraging walking and cycling. The limited evidence gathered to date suggests that people walk and cycle more in areas subject to 20 mph zones. We believe that these road safety measures will have the effect of enhancing both public safety and public perception of safety, so encouraging more walking and cycling.
This entry was posted on Friday, April 24th, 2009 at 11:25 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.