Would a Blanket 20mph Speed Limit Save Lives or Make Driving a Complete Misery?

By Gary Cutlack on at

West Sussex County Council is the latest authority to open the political hot potato of traffic speed limits up for debate, sending letters to voters to ask if a 20mph residential limit would be welcome in the town of Worthing. Would it? Or would it only make driving anywhere a nightmare?

At the moment, it's down to local councils to limit speeds to 20mph in areas where vulnerable people might be wobbling or toddling around the streets. There's no universal law covering the use of the lower limit and it's left to pressure groups like 20's Plenty to encourage residents to ask their councils to introduce 20mph zones.

One the plus side, reports from areas with slower limits than our 30mph minimum suggest lower accident rates occur, which is surely reason enough for some pen-pusher to sign a UK-wide 20mph maximum into law regardless of how angry it would make Top Gear.

However, it's pretty boring driving a car at 20mph, a speed at which a moderately skilled cyclist should be able to keep up with you unless you're going up a hill. At speeds that slow it's hard to pay attention to driving, as you're so bored you start fiddling with the radio, eating the sausage roll you've been saving, getting the dust out of the gear stick base and are tempted to see if you can access the Wi-Fi connections of nearby houses.

Are we too in love with cars to limit them to 20mph in the UK? Would it really lower traffic accident rates? And how fast can a human walk anyway?

Image credit: 20mph from Shutterstock