Speed Limits Set on the Whim of Residents' Votes?
The End of Consistency and Expertise?
The Alliance of British Drivers are deeply concerned at the contents of a Private Member's Bill approaching its Second Reading in the House of Commons, due on 3rd February 2016. The Speed Limits on Roads (Devolved Powers) Bill, sponsored by Scott Mann MP (Cons, North Cornwall) would give powers to parish and town councils to hold localised referenda to set speed limits which would become legally binding on highways authorities to introduce.
ABD director Ian Taylor said:
“This is localism carried too far. Traffic speeds would be dictated by the whim of residents and other users of the roads — with those visiting, servicing or passing through not getting a say.
For speed limits to work and get acceptance (and compliance) from the majority of drivers, they need to set correctly to achieve a level of consistency on the same types of roads everywhere. That is a job for experts, not the votes of amateurs, who would doubtless be egged on by those lobby groups who campaign for speeds to come down nearly to walking pace. This would become hell for drivers, at the hands of those who think they 'own their streets' and have no concept of the point of a public highway network.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
- Parish councils already have ability to lobby highways authorities on speed limits, as do individuals – this legislation is therefore unnecessary.
- Highways authorities have legal responsibility to maintain a safe and efficient network and set speed limits that promote safety without unnecessarily increasing journey times. Allowing local referenda to set legally binding speed limits on highways authorities might conflict responsibilities.
- Speed limits affect drivers all drivers visiting or passing through, not just residents. There needs to be reasonable consistency between limits on similar types of road in different areas to avoid confusion. There are already too many differences in speed policies between existing authorities — this Bill would make the situation far worse and probably result in increased non-compliance.
- Changing speed limits does not guarantee a change in actual speeds; a change (up or down) rarely leads to a change in measured speeds of more than 25% of the change, often less.
- Reduced speed does not guarantee reduction in accidents; slower is not necessarily safer. Limits set too low create driver conflict and increase speed variance, which is more highly correlated with accident risk than average speed. A correctly set speed limit minimises speed variance. (The ABD recommends the 85th percentile method) So this Bill will not 'save lives'.
- Residents frequently exaggerate (sometimes grossly) the speeds of vehicles on 'their' roads. Speed limit changes should never be considered on the basis of residents' claims alone; there must be objective speed surveys. Often residents make claims of 'speeding' when they are actually objecting to levels of traffic flow, or are concerned about other aspects of safety not speed-related.
- Comparing accident numbers on 20 mph and 30 mph roads (as Steve Mann MP, the Bill's promoter has done) without taking into account the vastly greater number of 30 mph roads is nonsense — the only valid comparison is the rates per vehicle mile, which are not currently available by speed limit.
Notes for Editors about the ABD
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