Over the past few years, UK towns and cities have been introducing more and more 20mph zones in an attempt to reduce the number of accidents and injuries on British roads. It doesn’t appear to be working, however, as the number of serious accidents in the UK’s 20mph zones has increased by a massive 26 per cent over the last year. Furthermore, slight accidents have increased by 17 per cent.
The statistics come from analysis of goverment data by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), a road safety charity, which also found that injuries in these zones increased: serious casualties increased by 29 per cent, while slight casualties went up by 19 per cent.
Interestingly, there was actually a decrease in the number of serious and slight accidents on 30mph and 40mph roads over the same time period.
‘Serious accidents went down nine per cent on 30mph roads and seven per cent on 40 mph roads. There was a five per cent reduction in slight accidents on 30 mph roads and a three per cent decrease on 40 mph roads.’
The big question is why. IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “The government and councils need to take stock on the effectiveness of 20mph signs.” He continued, stating that “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.”
The fact that 30mph and 40mph zones have seen a decrease in casualties is surely proof that it is not speed alone that contributes to accidents. There are a number of factors that come into play, and making our inner-city roads safer is more complex than placing signs that the vast majority will ignore.
Britain’s roads are - for the most part - incredibly old, and their layouts were designed at a time when people couldn’t envisage traffic at the levels we experience today. Best acknowledges this fact, saying “authorities need to spend more on changing the character of our roads so that 20mph is obvious, self-enforcing and above all contributes to fewer injuries.”
Anyone who has spent any time driving in Britain will be aware that our roadways are due a major overhaul. Local councils must begin researching ways of improving the flow of traffic, and improving the visibility of both pedestrians and other road users, rather than simply trying to slow cars down. Unfortunately, in an age when councils barely have enough cash to repair potholes, it’s hard to imagine anyone diverting funds to this matter.
It looks like we’ll be stuck with even more ineffective speed cameras for the time being.