20mph speed limit roads could be rolled out across the whole of the UK

UK motorways: Highways England warns drivers of speed limits

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In what is believed to be a world first, Wales became the first country to change laws to ensure that all residential roads in the country have a 20mph speed limit. As part of plans backed by the Welsh Government and First Minister Mark Drakeford, it is hoped the driving law changes will lower road collisions and pollution rates across the country.

The new rules apply to “restricted roads” which are those that have lamp posts placed less than 200 yards apart.

The changes to the speed limits will come into effect in September 2023, with certain exceptions expected to be made later on in the planning process.

While some drivers have questioned the move, many road safety experts have heralded the steps being taken.

Paul Loughlin, partner and motoring law specialist at Stephensons, spoke to Express.co.uk about the law changes and how it could become more common around the UK.

He said: “Changes to the speed limit in urban areas have long been under review and their introduction in Wales could point to their gradual introduction across the UK as a whole. 

“There is a concerted effort from safety campaigners, political parties and even car manufacturers to make our roads a safer place for vulnerable road users.

“We know from experience that a significant number of speeding offences occur in 30mph zones, there is also evidence to suggest that drivers are more likely to be killed or seriously injured in urban areas.”

Earlier in July, Witney in Oxfordshire became the first town in the county to introduce widespread 20mph speed limits.

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In doing so, the town is taking advantage of Oxfordshire County Council’s £8million programme to roll out 20mph roads.

Plans for dozens of 30mph roads in the town to have their speed limits reduced were approved and are set to be introduced in the future.

The county council has been inundated with requests from towns and villages to bring in 20mph zones since it launched the policy in February. 

The first two phases of the project are now fully booked, although communities can still apply to be part of the third delivery phase which takes place in 2024 and 2025.

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Mr Loughlin continued by highlighting how any speed limit changes could benefit all road users and boost safety across the UK.

He added: “Recent research found that over 16,000 fatal crashes occurred in areas where the speed limit is between 21-30mph. 

“The statistics therefore seem to support the introduction of these measures. 

“As to how effective this will be is unclear given that some research has shown that only 13 percent of people adhere to the lower 20mph zones. 

“It will certainly be interesting to see both how effective this is in Wales and whether they are rolled out further across the UK in time.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) states that 45 percent of pedestrians get killed when struck by a car going at 30mph or less.

However, only five percent were killed when the car was going at 20mph or less.

In March 2020, Transport for London introduced a 20mph speed limit on all of its roads within the congestion charging zone.

This is part of its Vision Zero commitment which aims to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries from roads by 2050.

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