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Call for speed limit change on rural roads

By Kyle Ritchie

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Road safety campaigners are calling for a review of speed limits on rural single-carriageway roads.

It comes after a report is released revealing that drivers do not feel safe travelling at the default 60mph speed limit.

The report, by Brake, the road safety charity and Direct Line and based on a survey of more than 1000 drivers, found six in 10 would feel unsafe travelling at the default 60mph limit on rural single-carriageway roads compared with nine in 10 saying they generally aim to drive at around the limit on roads of any kind.

A call has been made to reduce the speed limit on single-carriageway rural roads.
A call has been made to reduce the speed limit on single-carriageway rural roads.

Fewer than a quarter (23 per cent) stated that 60mph is a safe speed for a vehicle on a road where there may be people on foot, bicycles and horses.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “Drivers have made their views clear – travelling at 60mph on rural roads doesn’t feel safe to them, and the majority would support or not object to the limit being reduced.

"The current default limit gives a false impression that 60mph is a safe speed and this is putting everyone who uses our rural roads at risk.

"With 17 people killed or seriously injured on these roads every day, the Government must review the default speed limit with a view to its reduction.

“Looking ahead to the publication of the Government’s new road safety action plan, we urge a focus on speed reduction, both in our towns and cities but also on the country’s many winding and narrow single-carriageway rural roads that are often overlooked but where so many of our road deaths and serious injuries occur. Simply put, slowing down vehicles save lives.”

Nearly half (four in 10) of all deaths on Britain’s roads occur on rural single-carriageway roads. On average, 17 people are killed or seriously injured on these roads every day.

Most rural roads in the UK have a 60mph speed limit, which is the national default for single carriageway roads.

However, these roads are unsuited to high speeds. They are often narrow with blind bends, brows and no pavements or cycle paths, with a lack of alternate direct and segregated routes for people on foot, bicycles or horses.

These roads also have other hazards like the presence of animals or items in the road such as a tree branch.

Overgrowing hedges and trees can obstruct visibility of the road and signs and can also present an additional danger in the event of a crash.

Even in dry weather, the stopping distance at the default 60mph limit is 73 meters, which is more than six double-decker bus lengths.

This means that a driver travelling at the limit would almost certainly not be able to stop in time, if a cyclist on the road in front was hidden by a blind bend.

The report found that drivers either wanted, or were ambivalent, about a reduction to the default 60mph limit on rural roads, with less than one in five (19 per cent) objecting to a reduction.

Xavier Brice, CEO for Sustrans, walking and cycling charity, has also welcomed the report.

He said: “This report highlights that we need to continue to make everyone feel and be safe on our roads.

"Evidence shows lower speed limits save lives and prevent injuries, as well as making our roads more inclusive and pleasant for all, in particular for vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, those who cycle, disabled people, horse riders and children.

“Our review of the National Cycle Network highlights that reducing speed limits in both rural and built-up areas can play a huge role in making walking and cycling more welcoming.”

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