Skip advert
Advertisement

National 20mph speed limit for built-up areas introduced in Wales

Dropping the speed limit from 30 is unpopular, polls show, but the Welsh Government claims 10 lives per year will be saved

Welsh 20mph zone

Wales implements its new national 20mph speed limit in restricted areas from 17 September, as motoring organisations warn drivers not to rely on their sat-navs for speed limit guidance.

The law change means 20mph will be the default speed limit in any built up area where street lights are closer than 184m (200 yards) apart, unless local authorities have applied for exceptions where 20mph is deemed inappropriate. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

The Welsh Labour government is behind the change, with First Minister, Mark Drakeford telling the BBC that increased journey times for drivers was not an “unfair bargain” as he claimed the measure would save 10 lives in Wales every year. The Welsh government believes the new national limit for roads in built-up areas will reduce collisions, noise, pollution, and also encourage more citizens to cycle and walk.

The changes will affect around 7,500 miles of Wales’s 22,000-mile road network, and require 30,000 road signs to be replaced. The cost of £32.5m will be recouped through NHS savings that could top £90m, says Welsh Labour, although the Welsh Conservatives say the economic cost of increased journey times will be huge, and the UK leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt declared the change “insane”.

Even in Wales the move faces significant opposition, with a recent poll suggesting two-thirds of the population were against lowering the limit from 30mph. Trials running in various Welsh regions ahead of the law change have shown a small reduction in vehicle speeds, with numbers of cars travelling at 30-34mph falling from 13 to 9 per cent, those travelling at 25-29mph falling from 38 to 28 per cent, and those travelling at 20-24mph rising from 34 to 39 per cent. Numbers of more serious speeders travelling at 35mph and above, reduced from 4 to 3 per cent.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Welsh police say they’ll engage in education ahead of prosecution for the first 12 months of the change, giving time for drivers to get used to the new limit. Meanwhile, drivers have been warned not to trust their sat-navs for up-to-date speed limit information by motoring organisations including the RAC, whose spokesman Simon Williams says delays in updates to sat-nav systems mean drivers should pay full attention to road signs instead.

Study shows 20mph limits have little impact on safety

Reducing speed limits to 20mph has little effect on road safety, that was according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2022.

Researchers analysed 76 roads in central Belfast before and after 20mph speed limits were introduced, comparing them to other roads in Northern Ireland where 30mph or 40mph speed limits had been retained.

The findings were that there were “no statistically significant differences” in the long-term rate of crashes and casualties, or the average speed of traffic. Roads with 20mph limits did, however, experience less traffic, according to the research.

The study concluded that policymakers considering implementing 20mph speed limit interventions should consider the fidelity, context and scale of implementation.

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “The findings of this study are surprising, as they appear to suggest that drivers on 20mph roads in Belfast hardly slowed down at all, despite the lower speed limit, which is at odds with other reports.

“It seems there is a serious problem with compliance, as we would expect that – even without enforcement – average speeds would drop. Consequently, the study may demonstrate a need for councils to find other ways to get drivers to slow down, whether that’s through enforcement or modifying road design with traffic islands, well designed speed humps or chicanes.

“It’s also important that 20mph limits are used in places where they stand to make the biggest positive impact, such as in built-up areas and in locations where there are large volumes of motorised traffic, cyclists and pedestrians – but clearly that depends on a meaningful drop in overall vehicle speeds. Equally, our research shows drivers are less likely to comply with a lower limit if they don’t believe it’s appropriate for the type of road.”

What are your thoughts on reducing speed limits? Tell us in the comments...

Skip advert
Advertisement
Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Government says ‘no’ to new cash incentives for electric car buyers
Parliament
News

Government says ‘no’ to new cash incentives for electric car buyers

A Lords Committee report backing car-makers’ calls for discounts to boost EV sales falls on deaf ears
19 Apr 2024
Tesla slashes Supercharger membership cost with 42 sites now open to all EVs
Tesla Superchargers
News

Tesla slashes Supercharger membership cost with 42 sites now open to all EVs

Tesla has cut the costs of its Supercharger Membership, which grants access to lower charging rates, by £2 per month
19 Apr 2024
Food or car insurance? Tough choices for low income households as costs spiral
Car insurance
News

Food or car insurance? Tough choices for low income households as costs spiral

Citizens Advice has told parliament’s Treasury Committee that people of colour pay, on average, £250 more for car insurance
18 Apr 2024
M25 weekend closure no.2 to bring “long delays” in May
Diversion route for the M25 closure between Junctions 8 and 10
News

M25 weekend closure no.2 to bring “long delays” in May

Further M25 closures are expected to take place throughout the year, with the next scheduled for 10-13 May
16 Apr 2024

Most Popular

‘Dacia Zen’ seven-year warranty brings added peace of mind
Dacia Duster - tailgate
News

‘Dacia Zen’ seven-year warranty brings added peace of mind

The value brand’s new warranty is also available on used cars, as well as for existing Dacia customers
16 Apr 2024
Car Deal of the Day: Mercedes EQC offers luxury EV motoring for £327 a month
Mercedes EQC - front cornering
News

Car Deal of the Day: Mercedes EQC offers luxury EV motoring for £327 a month

Mercedes’s EQC showed that the German firm was serious about electric cars and it’s our Car Deal of the Day for Monday 15 April
15 Apr 2024
New Nissan Qashqai gets angry, as best-selling family SUV receives aggressive facelift
Nissan Qashqai reveal - front
News

New Nissan Qashqai gets angry, as best-selling family SUV receives aggressive facelift

In addition to its new much sharper design, the Qashqai now features Google apps and voice assistant built in
17 Apr 2024