The government have announced plans to make it easier for local councils to introduce 40mph speed limits on rural roads. If implemented and enforced this could contributed to greater safety and lower accidents.
The Minister for road safety, Mike Penning, said:
“40mph limits should be considered for sections of rural roads where there are many bends, junctions or accesses and speeds are already at 40mph or below.”
The government did not propose a blanket ban, but it would make process easier and less expensive..
According to the D o T, rural roads contain the highest level of fatalities on British roads.
Statistics showed that in 2006, 58% of road fatalities and 41% of all killed and seriously injured (KSI) casualties on local authority roads in England occurred on rural roads. Over a ten year period, whilst fatalities on urban roads had declined by 16% and KSI casualties by 33%, on rural roads the reduction in fatalities was 5% and the reduction in KSI casualties 29%.
(Rural Road safety, D of T) This is despite these roads only accounting for 18% of the road network.
Half of rural road deaths were on roads with 60mph speed limits.
Cycle Safety and Rural Roads
Issues around cycle safety tends to concentrate on urban roads. This is because most cycling occurs within an urban environment. But, cyclists are particularly vulnerable on rural roads – even though cyclists who venture out onto rural roads are likely to be more experienced cyclists. Dangers faced on rural roads include:
- Cars often expect less cyclists on rural roads and are not prepared to meet slow moving cyclists
- Danger of motorists failing to look and observe
- Potholes in roads give little leeway with narrow carriageways.
- Impatience in overtaking cyclists. Frequently on tight bendy rural roads, cars are not prepared to slow down behind a cyclist, therefore they overtake at any cost. This means either:
- passing very close cyclists, with little room
- Overtaking onto other side of the road into the face of oncoming traffic.
In fact, I would say I feel less safe on rural roads with 60mph speed limit than most places in urban areas. Some roads, like sections of the A65 in Yorkshire / Lancashire, you studiously avoid if you can.
The government made no mention of cyclists in their proposal, but a reduction in speed limits would make a big difference for the rural cyclist.
According to D o T report on rural roads, council of Norfolk asked road users attitudes to road use.
% Feeling safe on Rural Roads 2010
- Car Motorists 73%
- Cyclists 49%
Not a surprise that cyclists then less safe than cars. A reduction in speed, would make a big difference to the perception of riding on the road.
It’s one thing to have a speed limit, it’s another to enforce it. 20mph speed limits in urban areas are frequently ignored. The government hope the speed limits will be largely self-regulating, but I’m not so sure.
Interesting that the Use of average speed cameras on A149, led to number of cars exceeding 60mph fell from 6,614 to 697; a fall of almost 90%.
Unsurprisingly, the minister for road safety didn’t mention average speed cameras. Not politically popular, even if effective in reducing speed limits.
Top 20 Factors contributing to Accidents
- Failed to look properly
- failed to judge other person’s speed or path
- loss of control
- poor turn
- slippery road (due to weather)
- Travelling too fast
- careless / reckless / in a hurry
- sudden braking
- following too closely
- Inexperienced / learner driver