IAM poll shows public support for 20mph limits outside schools

09.55 | 15 August 2011 | | 15 comments

67% of people think that 20mph zones should be used outside schools, according to a poll by the IAM.

The poll of nearly 4,000 people also reveals that 38% think that 20mph zones should be used on roads with amenities such as parks and shops, but only a quarter would like to see them made the default speed limit in all built-up areas. 43% would like the road outside their house to have a 20mph speed limit, while 39% would not.

Kevin Delaney, IAM head of road safety, said: “The IAM supports the selective use of 20mph speed limits where there is clear evidence that the risk of casualties will be reduced. But blanket 20mph speed limits or limits at inappropriate sites risk widespread disregard by drivers who do not recognise a necessity for them. Consultation with, and buy-in from, local people here is essential.

“Passive enforcement measures, such as speed bumps, are unpopular and active enforcement by police is unrealistic in the current financial climate. If lower speed limits are restricted to locations and times where there is an obvious need, responsible drivers, who are the overwhelming majority, will adhere to them without the need for enforcement.”

For more information contact the IAM Press Office on 020 8996 9777.


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    Getting back to the text of the report by the IAM of restricting roads and streets around schools to 20 mph.

    Please let Blackpool know.

    They have decided to accommodate the government’s recommendations of a total 20mph speed limit in all towns but unlike Lancs county have decided to do it bit by bit by bit by bit, no doubt until the public cry enough, just make all streets 20 mph. But not only have they done this but the have put in place humps and cushions, the highest ever seen 6/7 inches high. Not as per legislation.

    Further, in the latest block of streets seven of them each signed now to 20 mph and enter onto a road that has a primary/junior school on it. But do we see them all being tied together on this road. No. The road with the greatest consideration should be the safety of children does not have a 20 mph limit on it.

    Well done Blackpool, for not following the trend and doing things your own roundabout way.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
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    Hi Peter, may I ask were you involved in the writing of the Atkins report that Honour and I have read? If so perhaps you are aware of information that I am not, or if you feel I have misrepresented your work, I can assure you that I did not intend to and I must apologise if I have.

    Are you referring to figure 6.3 (p23) as I was?

    That shows eleven perceived benefits that the 20mph may have achieved. Looking again I still see that NONE of these benefits were felt to have been achieved by most residents. Therefore most residents had no opinion, thought there were no improvements or thought they had got worse. Isn’t that a “fact”?

    I find a lot in the report that is “political” (though not party) in stated attempts to force changes in the way people live their lives. I have not commented on these and don’t intend to as my interest is in keeping people safe on the roads. The evidence of effect of policies on safety is my interest, not the politics.

    It’s interesting that, seeing the results, you would not have gone ahead with this scheme yet surely the lessons of this scheme are that we should be VERY careful putting such policies in place, especially near children, and that proper scientific tests should be done to ensure that the positive benefit really does outweigh the negative side effects? But this can never happen whilst unwelcome outcomes are excluded from the publicity such that people are kept unaware of the full picture.

    Dave Finney – Slough
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    Dave continues to misrepresent a factual report. When someone from the public “disagrees” that a measured criterion is not better in the “after” period it does not mean it is “worse”.

    Please note the use of my word “factual”. The report is a consultants report and not a party political policy. It also had a definitive purpose and does not vire off into the rights/wrongs and benefits/disbenefits of slowing traffic down per se.

    If it helps, my purely personal opinion is if I had 500k to spend on a safety scheme I would in most LHA areas probably not introduce a sign-only 20mph speed limit and instead would seek something else to spend my money on. Part time limits around schools (with enforcement), the subject of the original posting, may well be a better use of money.

    Peter, Manchester
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    Every safety scheme and every safety device has positive benefits and negative side effects on safety.

    Only considering road safety in isolation:

    Positive benefit of lower speeds:
    1) Lower speed means more time to stop thus preventing accidents and reducing seriousness of injuries.

    Negative side effects of lower speeds:
    1) Human brains tuned to pay attention to fast moving objects in periferal vision so slower vehicles less likely to be noticed, therefore increasing accidents.
    2) Slower vehicles make less noise so less likely to be noticed, therefore increasing accidents.
    3) Speeds lower than “naturally safe” induce lower concentration levels by drivers therefore increasing accidents.
    4) Lower speeds mean journeys take longer to complete so increase chance of tiredness or falling asleep accidents.
    5) Roads “feeling safe” lead to less attention by pedestrians, therefore increasing accidents.
    6) driver attention diverted to checking speed limit signs and speedometer therefore increasing accidents.
    7) driver priorities shifted from being safe to belief that legal is safe therefore increasing accidents.

    This list is not exhaustive, I’m sure there are others, but, whilst the report makes great play of the expected safety benefit above and other benefits, none of the negative side effects are mentioned at all in the report.

    And when road safety gets worse after 20mph, particularly the serious injuries, could it be that negative side effects are larger than the positive benefit? After all, the main reasons why accidents happen (apart from drink) appear to be attention/concentration issues.

    Honor, great to see the report being read but look closer. You say “a high level of public satisfaction” yet figure 6.3 (p23) shows “Impact of scheme on anticipated wider benefits”. This shows that on all eleven criteria the majority of respondents felt there was no benefit or made things worse. And that’s despite the fact the residents only had incomplete and biassed information on which to judge.

    What would residents have said if the council had been honest in the first place?

    You ask “Do we prioritise the schemes that have high public support”, well if we do we must start by being honest with the public. Surely decisions can only be as good as the information on which they are based?

    Dave Finney – Slough
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    Having read the final report on the interim stage of this scheme, it seems to me that there is a degree of selective quoting going on. The report does not make inordinate or unjustified claims, it is a very measured analysis of the situation so far. I have pasted the conclusions from the report below, it says:

    1. The average speed reduction achieved by installing speed limit signs alone is less than that achieved by the introduction of 20 mph zones partly because 20 mph Speed Limits are implemented where existing speeds are already low;

    2. Within an area-wide application of 20mph sign only limits, those roads with average speeds higher than 24 mph may benefit from significant speed reductions, but not to the extent that the 20mph speed limit is self enforcing;

    3. Based on the available data for two years after scheme implementation, casualty benefits greater than the national trend have not been demonstrated; and

    4. The evaluation of area-wide schemes relies on good quality data and an appropriate evaluation design.
    Following the analysis of the available data, it is recommended that an evaluation study that takes account of 3 years of ‘After’ data to monitor the long-term impacts of the 20 mph scheme in PCC would offer stronger evidence of outcomes.

    What might be being lost in this discussion is a fundamental point that is also covered in the report: the scheme was devised as a response to local peoples demands to address what they considered to be a problem of speeding vehicles in their communities that adversely affected the quality of their daily lives and made them feel at greater risk of being involved in a collision. The level of crashes and casualties was of sufficient concern to the council to follow up on this but the primary motivator was public demand for action. In this respect, the scheme was successful in that their survey work shows a high level of public satisfaction that the scheme has reduced vehicle speeds and people now feel safer.

    The speed and crash data actually shows a more mixed picture with speed reduction most evident where there were higher speeds pre-scheme and the overall casualty numbers probably unaffected by this work – simply showing usual variations. It is really too early to obtain a full analysis from the data and the sample sets will still be very small even then.

    I think that the key questions are: is this good value for money? If looked at as a casualty reduction scheme, what was the FYRR? And how do you measure peoples confidence in their local environment – I suspect that they feel less at risk because “someone has listened and something has been done”. This does not have to be connected to actual crash reduction in order to work. But whether this is the best use of public money is a debate that I think we will be having more often as expectations of what “localism” means in terms of expenditure on road safety and casualty reduction – and even what we mean by “road safety” come up for debate. Do we prioritise the schemes that have high public support or those that will make the greatest reduction in deaths and injuries? Is there a middle way? I think there is a key role to be played by integrating ETP elements into the engineering approach (as some authorities already do) and offering a variety of solutions and better explanations as to how and why decisions are made. With such limited resources we will be saying “no” more often but we can improve how we say it, the explanations we provide and what else we can offer to concerned communities, within the available budgets and obligations.

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
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    Don’t really want to get into a ping pong match on this…..but the report does not encourage any other LA to adopt a similar design.

    It also states quite clearly that KSI numbers went up.


    Peter, Manchester
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    Peter, great to hear from those involved.

    My issue is simply the lack of honesty.

    As an engineer I do not start with a theory of what should improve safety, and then try to make the facts fit, never doubting the theory. I start with the evidence and ask “what does this tell me?”.

    I know this is a radical departure from current thinking in road safety, but it produces a very different picture of road safety than that we are being told and one that is not politically acceptable.

    Of course you are right to say the increases in KSI may well have been “random variation”, but will you say the same if another city has 20mph and KSI go down? Or will you say, this is evidence of the advantages of 20mph?

    But the real issue is why don’t the Portsmouth 20mph reports make it clear that more serious injuries occurred, state their belief that this was “worrying” and their hope that it wasn’t an effect of 20mph, just random variation? Why is the report claiming glowing success for the scheme and encouraging other councils to introduce their own speed limit reductions?

    Lack of honesty is the root of the problem.

    The positive benefits of 20mph have been widely publicised (using our tax money), but the negative side effects have not been included in this publicity. Why not?

    Again, lack of honesty is the root of the problem.

    Dave Finney – Slough
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    Having being involved in writing some of the Portsmouth post opening reports, I am alarmed with some of the statements in this discussion board that try to link the speed limit reduction to “causing” more serious accidents. Most safety professionals know that accidents are random in nature and that proving “case and effect” is not an easy undertaking. Far more likely that in Portsmouth, because KSI are very low in number that the variation is due to chance alone. I do however accept that the scheme there has not been able to fully demonstrate “hard” benefits in terms of casualty reductions for the large monetary outlay. In terms of schools, perhaps an important criteria in determining the need for a 20mph limit is whether a SCP has been justfied due to the existing nature of the road and its users.

    Peter, Manchester
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    But Bob, will time tell?

    The problem is we already know that the authorities will claim success, irrespective of the facts. If 20mph results in more casualties and worse injuries, they will deny the damage has occurred and simply carry on with their harmful expensive policies.

    Have you read Portsmouths 20mph zone reports?

    The only way each one of us will find out the truth is if we personally evaluate the evidence for ourselves, but we see in public opinion polls that hardly anyone does this so the problem can never be solved. IOW, Propaganda works.

    The 1st step in solving a problem, is recognizing the problem exists!

    Dave Finney, Slough
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    Just another, bring it to the mind of the public, by the IAM… again. Which will help to justify the Government’s position of introducing 20 mph speed limits in all conurbations by 2015.

    They are doing a good job on behalf of the Government in creating this positive drip drip drip attitude towards its inception.

    Well done IAM.

    Only time will tell if it indeed prevents accidents or minimises injury.

    Personally I would like a parking restriction enforced round junctions then vulnerable twv will be more clearly seen and the intreo of more stop junctions instead of give way.

    Also police on the street at least attempting to protect life and property.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
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    So why did 20mph in Portsmouth result in more serious injuries?

    Average speeds were already very low due to the narrow nature of the roads and average speeds did drop, if only by 0.9mph.

    It seems that the negative side effects of lower speeds are greater than the positive benefits resulting in more serious injuries.

    If people want 20mph that’s fine but shouldn’t we stop the dishonesty which justifies millions of pounds of our money being spent?

    Dave Finney – Slough
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    20mph limit at schools is a good idea. But it will be ignored if a time for these limits is not shown.

    D Jones, Manchester
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    Responsible drivers in Islington aim to comply with the 20mph limits. In built up areas where people travelling on foot outweigh people travelling in cars, 20mph limits are a no-brainer. The anti-social drivers who speed in 30mph limits will probably continue to do so in 20mph limits, but the decent majority will set a culture shift. Personally I’m in favour of anything that makes the precious public space of our streets, more pleasant (and indeed safer) for people.

    Caroline Russell, London
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    I find it surprising that only 2/3 of people support this measure given the massive amount of our tax money that has been spent to promote it.

    But is there any actual evidence?

    Isn’t Portsmouth the largest 20mph scheme in the UK? After the introduction of the city wide 20mph, the serious collisions remained the same at a time when they fell everywhere else. Therefore, compared to the national trend, serious collisions rose after 20mph.

    And, after a fall in traffic flow is considered, serious collisions rose further still.

    My objection is simply the dishonesty regarding the analysis of evidence but, if the authorities were to start being honest, we might see a large drop in public support.

    ps these schemes cost a lot of money, Portsmouth spent over 1/2 a million pounds on something that appears to have totally failed in safety terms. They simply cannot afford to be honest.

    Dave Finney – Slough
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    I would be very interested to see any research that established a link between those drivers who wanted a 20mph speed limit outside their home, and the speed at which they chose to drive past the homes of others.

    I admire Mr Delaney’s confidence in the ability of responsible drivers to ensure compliance by others, but I fear that it may be misplaced.

    David, Suffolk
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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