20mph limits blasted by watchdog – but fewer accidents reported

A 20mph sign in Fylde
A 20mph sign in Fylde
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Controversial 20mph zones have been slammed by a major motoring watchdog -– but the authority which brought them to the roads of Fylde is adamant they are working.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has claimed the whole principle of the lower limits being introduced to residential areas needs a rethink after national statistics showed a 26 per cent increase in serious accidents on 20mph across the country last year.

But Lancashire County Council, which has spent £9.2m bringing the lower limits to the county, claims it is bucking that national trend, with statistics of its own showing the lower limits brought about a decrease in 2013. And in a bizarre coincidence, the fall was by 26 per cent.

As well as the increase year on year of just more than a quarter in the number of serious accidents nationally, there was 
also a rise of 17 per cent in slight accidents on 20mph roads.

He said: “The government and councils need to take stock on the effectiveness of 20mph signs.

IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “Recent advice, guidance and relaxation of regulations has all been about making it easier for councils to put 20mph limits in place.

“More and more roads are being given a 20mph limit but they do not seem to be delivering fewer casualties.

“The IAM are concerned that this is because simply putting a sign on a road that still looks like a 30mph zone does not change driver behaviour.

“In locations with a proven accident problem, authorities need to spend more on changing the character of our roads.”

But as the final 20 mph signs of the countywide programme are set to be installed in areas of Fylde by the end of this month, Lancashire County officials claim the opposite to the trend highlighted by the IAM is true locally.

The most recent report showed that last year, while the 20mph rollout was still ongoing, accidents in all areas across the county in which people were killed or seriously injured fell to 642 from an average of 873 in the four years up to 2009.

The county council said its aim is to bring the number of serious accidents on its road down by 45 per cent from the 2005 – 2009 average by the year 2020.

Vali Birang, head of sustainable transport and safety for Lancashire County Council, said: “We’re now completing the final phase of the programme to introduce 20mph speed limits.

“Where communities have concerns about speeding we’re continuing to work with police and local people to monitor speeds, influence drivers’ attitudes, and enforce the limit.

“The community road watch and school watch activities have been well supported.

“Interim results of an independent assessment show overall casualties have reduced by nearly 30 per cent.”