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Global call to cut urban road speed limits

A global road safety alliance has called on countries to impose mandatory 20mph limits in urban areas to help cut deaths and injuries to pedestrians, including many children.

The ‘Stockholm Declaration’, which was announced at the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, aims to cut by half the number of road deaths and injuries by 2020, and completely by 2050. This ambitious programme now has the support of dozens of countries worldwide.

The conference was the work of the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety, which was set up in 2012 response to a growing demand from NGOs for a forum where they can share knowledge and collectively advocate for road safety and the rights of victims of road accidents. It currently represents more than 200 NGOs.

‘Mandate a maximum road speed’

It also marked the end of the UN’s Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020), and seeks to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of a 50 per cent reduction in global deaths and injuries on the road. One of those on board is the UK, where road safety improvement has stagnated since 2010.

In the past decade there has been little to no reduction in the numbers of people being killed or seriously injured every year, and at present more than 70 people in the UK are killed or seriously injured on the roads every day. Road safety charity Brake says that an average of five people die every day on the road in Great Britain, with countless more seriously injured.

Between 2017 and 2018, the number of child fatalities (aged 0-15) in the UK remained the same at 48. During the same period, the total number of child casualties decreased by nine per cent to 14,266, the lowest total on record. The majority of child fatalities are mainly pedestrian (28) or car passengers (15).

The ‘Stockholm Declaration’ is the result of extensive consultation with all World Health Organization (WHO) member states, and it states: “We Ministers…resolve to… Focus on speed management, including the strengthening of law enforcement to prevent speeding and mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner, except where strong evidence exists that higher speeds are safe.”

‘Keep vulnerable road users safe’

The declaration also calls for a speeding up of the shift toward safer, cleaner, more energy efficient and affordable modes of transport including by promoting higher levels of physical activity such as walking and cycling.

In the UK, 20mph limits in urban areas are becoming ever more common, but the national default remains 30mph. This means that councils who wish to lower the limit to 20mph must put in expensive signage which is acting as a barrier for some to implement these safer speeds. Brake is calling for the national default to be fixed at 20mph in urban areas, helping keep vulnerable road users safe and making our towns and cities more welcoming places for people to walk and cycle.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “20mph is the only safe speed for places where pedestrians and cyclists mix so closely with motorised transport and we need to see this become the norm in our towns and cities. Councils across the UK are already introducing 20mph limits, but some are being held back from doing so by the cost and need help. We’re calling on the Government to step up by following the declaration made in Stockholm this week and introduce a default 20mph for urban areas in the UK.  Lower speed limits reduce the numbers of devastating casualties on our roads and encourage more people to walk and cycle safely and confidently in their community.”

Author: Simon Weedy

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