20mph speed limits lead to rise in road deaths, council admits

Cars pass a 20mph speed limit sign in Morden, south west London. Wide-ranging proposals to dramatically cut the number of deaths on the roads were set out by Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick today as he also confirmed a major overhaul of the driver training and testing process.

Bath and North East Somerset Council has admitted that reducing the speed limit to 20mph in 13 new zones has led to a rise in road deaths and serious injuries. A report conducted one year after the introduction of the zones found that the rate of people killed or injured has gone up in seven of the 13 zones.

However, the council is refusing to revert the areas back to their 30mph state, citing cost concerns. Patrick Anketell-Jones, Conservative councillor for Bath and North East Somerset, said: "It has cost over £800,000 to roll out the 20mph zone and it would probably cost the same to reverse them.

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"We just haven't got the money. I'm pretty sure the 20mph zones will stay in place for the foreseeable future."

The review of the 20mph traffic control measures says the reason for the rise in injuries could be perceived risk. It says: "There is no simple explanation for this adverse trend but it could be that local people perceive the area to be safer due to the presence of the 20mph restrictions and thus are less diligent when walking and crossing roads, cycling or otherwise travelling."

It adds a warning, saying the rise in casualties would "suggest against further expansion of area based schemes".

The seven zones where injuries increased were largely in rural areas, while 20mph zones in the city centre saw a reduction. "Casualty severity has worsened marginally in Bath and more so in outlying towns. Again, this is reflective of the national situation," the report said.

Retired civil servant Simon Marshall said he was astonished to see the report. "The facts are that numbers of people being killed and injured are going up since the zones were introduced.

"More people are being hurt because less people are taking care, and the council are saying that they can't afford it. To my mind that's saying that people are being seriously hurt but we are not prepared to stump up the cash to stop that happening."

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