Memorandum by The Department for Transport,
Local Government and the Regions (RTS 49)
ROAD TRAFFIC SPEED
Although Great Britain has one of the best road
safety records in the world, 3,409 people were killed and 316,874
were injured on the roads in the year 2000 (DTLR 2001a). Research
has shown that excessive and inappropriate speed is a major contributory
factor in road accidents and to the severity of any resulting
injury. The recommendations of the speed policy review started
by DETR in 1999 were published as "New Directions in Speed
ManagementA review of Speed Policy" (DETR 2000a).
In March 2000 the Government set new casualty reduction targets
and the strategy for achieving them. These were published in the
Road Safety Strategy document, "Tomorrow's roadsSafer
for Everyone" (DETR 2000b). The remainder of this memorandum
addresses the specific questions put by the Committee.
A. THE ROLE
The relationship between speed and safety is
complex. Research by TRL (Finch et al 1994 and Taylor et al 2000)
provides clear evidence that lower speeds result in fewer collisions
and the collisions that do occur are of lesser severity. Some
of the conclusions from the research are compelling, but should
not be taken out of context and extended outside the range covered
in the relevant studies, and these include:
(i) Causing crashes
In any given situation on urban roads, the faster
the average traffic speed, the more collisions there arethe
accident frequency rises approximately with the square of the
average traffic speed. So for example, on urban roads a 10 per
cent increase in mean speed could result in a 21 per cent increase
in collisions. (Taylor et al 2000).
Broadly speaking, for each 1 mph reduction in
average speed accident frequency is cut by 5 per cent (Finch et
al 1994). NB. This applies only to the range of road types and
traffic conditions covered in the study (with average speeds of
between 30 mph and 50 mph and cannot be extended beyond that or
applied to large changes in speed).
Excess or inappropriate speed contributes to
a significant percentage of all crashes and a higher percentage
of more serious crashes. (By definition: excess speed is above
the speed limit, and inappropriate speed is within the speed limit,
but inappropriate for the conditions).
The higher the proportion of those drivers who
speed, the more accidentsthe accident frequency rises by
19 per cent if the average speed of the speeders increases by
1 mph (Taylor et al 2000). This leads to the conclusion that reducing
the speed of the fastest drivers relative to the average speed
of the traffic is likely to bring greater accidents benefits than
reducing the average speed for all drivers, particularly on urban
Individuals driving at more than 10-15 per cent
above the average speed of the traffic around them, are much more
likely to be involved in an accident (Maycock et al 1998, Quimby
et al 1999a and b).
(ii) Severity of Accidents
The likelihood of being seriously injured in
a collision rises significantly with small changes in impact speed.
The probability of serious injury to a belted car occupant in
a front seat at an impact speed of 30 mph is three times greater
than at 20 mph. At 40 mph it is over five times greater (Hobbs
and Mills 1984).
For pedestrians and cyclists at-the-scene investigations
of collisions involving pedestrians and cars found that at up
to 20 mph being hit by a car is survivable by 95 per cent of pedestrians,
at up to 30 mph 55 per cent survive and at up to 40 mph only 15
per cent survive. The change from mainly survivable injuries to
mainly fatal injuries takes place at speeds of between about 30
and 40 mph (Ashton 1981).
Elderly pedestrians are more likely to sustain
non-minor and fatal injuries than younger people in the same impact
conditions due to their greater physical frailty.
(iii) Reducing the quality of life in urban
Traffic speed, actual and perceived, affects
quality of life and the social costs are borne mainly by those
outside of moving vehicles. The effects are difficult to quantify
and will differ according to the type of area, and the local environment.
Injuries and noise are easiest to identify and measure, but it
is harder to quantify the effects that fear of fast moving vehicles
has in discouraging people from walking, cycling and horse riding,
or in limiting their enjoyment of or ability to reach facilities.
Fast traffic contributes to the severance of
communities, and disproportionately affects those who find it
difficult to cross busy roads, especially older people and children.
In worst cases this can increase inequalities and cause social
exclusion in communities by making it more difficult to form support
networks and, for those without cars, to get to necessary facilities,
such as shops, schools and medical services (Department of Health
1998, Health Education Authority 1998). Pollution levels and general
public health are worse in inner cities and there are higher than
average child road casualty rates in poorer neighbourhoods (Christie
1995). Physical activity is important in reducing heart disease
and strokes (Department of Health 1999), and if traffic speed
dissuades some people from walking and cycling, it could affect
their health and general fitness.
(iv) The consequences of illegal and inappropriate
speed for urban design
To manage speed to safe and acceptable levels
Local Authorities are required to set appropriate speed limits
and introduce measures to achieve compliance, including engineering
and enforcement. In many circumstances the 30 mph urban limit
is appropriate, but in some cases 20 mph speed limits are more
appropriate. Traffic calmed 20 mph zones are particularly effective
in residential areas where people want to walk and cycle, particularly
where children are present. See Annex 2.
DTLR support authorities financially and with
guidance on implementing innovative schemes, especially in support
of local casualty reduction targets.
B. THE AVAILABILITY
This has been the subject of extensive research
both in the UK and other countries, and there is a large amount
published, including studies of driver behaviour and attitudes
to speed and enforcement, and research into proven and promising
interventions. References to some of the key research studies
are at the end of this memorandum. Work sponsored by DTLR is marked
C. THE EXTENT
(i) Better enforcement
Until recently enforcement of speed limits required
intensive use of police time and has had to compete with other
law enforcement priorities. Developments in enforcement camera
technology (see section below) mean that better enforcement is
now a more credible approach. ACPO has clear enforcement guidelines,
whether using officers in vehicles or at the roadside or automatic
fixed cameras. The latter are being used increasingly to enforce
speed limits at sites or on routes with a history of accidents.
A Home Office study showed a 28 per cent reduction in accidents
at speed camera sites (Hooke et al 1996). However, operational
and purchase costs fell entirely to the police and local authorities
and that was a constraint. As a result the Government changed
the rules to permit some fixed penalty fine revenue to be re-invested
in camera operation. In April 2000 a trial in eight police force
areas began to test the system. The Executive Summary of the first
year's monitoring report shows a reduction of 47 per cent in the
numbers of people killed or seriously injured at the camera sites
(Gains et al 2001). The system is now being rolled-out nationally.
See Annex 5.
(ii) Road re-design and traffic calming
Engineering based road design and speed management
treatments are extensively used to manage speed and improve safety
in urban and rural areas, although the methods used differ. Traffic
calming using horizontal and vertical deflections is widespread
in urban areas, where the techniques are well developed and have
been demonstrated to be effective.
DTLR is funding an expansion of child pedestrian
safety/20mph zones, mainly in residential and school areas, with
grants totally £3.5 million to 27 LHAs in the current programme.
Other urban roads, such as busy high streets, have their own safety
problems and five demonstration schemes to improve safety on mixed
priority urban routes were announced on 27 November 2001, funded
by DTLR grant totalling £5.5 million.
A current initiative primarily to improve quality
of life is the development of Home Zones that are designed as
very low speed areas with shared access by traffic and people.
The Prime Minister announced on 24 April 2001 the intention to
accelerate the growth of the programme of Home Zones in England,
by establishing a £30 million challenge fund. Successful
schemes will be announced early in 2002. See Annex 2.
Gloucester Safer City (DTLR 2001c) successfully
demonstrated how an overall approach to urban safety management
in a free-standing city can provide significant benefits for safety.
The application of these lessons to inner city areas is less clear
and a further demonstration project is being planned to illustrate
how significant investment, together with integrated network and
safety management, can benefit communities. Inner city projects
will be targeted at areas of high social deprivation, as there
is evidence that less well off people are disproportionately involved
as road accident casualties. Grant funding of £6 million
will be made to one LHA following bids in 2002 for an Inner City
However, in rural areas speed management and
safety practice is less well developed. Accidents on rural roads
tend not to be concentrated at specific locations, but scattered
along sections of road. DTLR-commissioned research indicates that
accident rates quantified per junction, per bend or per vehicle-kilometre
might be useful ways to prioritise areas for remedial treatment.
LHAs would be given accident rates based on national figures for
different classes of rural road. These would give a benchmark
for authorities to use as suggested intervention levels for their
own roads (Barker et al 1999, IHT 1999). The Department will shortly
issue advice on using the intervention levels.
Many interventions developed for urban areas
are either not suitable or practical for use in rural areas, eg
road humps may be visually intrusive and unacceptable in some
rural communities, or inappropriate on roads with higher traffic
volumes and speeds. A research contract has been let to investigate
further and implement "natural traffic calming measures".
This will follow on from the more theoretical studies undertaken
by the Scottish Executive and the Highways Agency. Measures for
both rural and urban areas will be examined. The encouragement
and dissemination of best practice by issuing and updating best
practice guidelines, such as those published in June 2001, (DTLR
2001b) will continue. More on engineering treatments is at Annex
(iii) Road re-classification
The Government's Road Safety Strategy suggested
that a hierarchy of roads defined by function might help in setting
speed limits and improve consistency nationally from area to area.
As a first step DTLR commissioned a working group to consider
the development of a rural road hierarchy for speed management
and it recently reported its findings (Silcock et al 2001). We
will build on their recommendations in conjunction with other
work in hand or planned arising from the Road Safety Strategy
to develop better speed management measures for rural roads. More
detail is at Annex 7.
(iv) Physical measure to separate pedestrians
Physical separation of traffic and pedestrians
is appropriate in certain circumstances. For example barriers
are erected on fast stretches of road to prevent pedestrians crossing
at dangerous points. But, in the vast majority of cases it is
neither possible nor desirable to separate completely traffic
and pedestrians and ways are sought to help the two groups co-exist
safely. The mixed priority route demonstration is an example of
the philosophy of redesigning road space so that pedestrians have
a safer environment whilst maintaining access for vehicles. Within
town centres and other areas with a mixture of land uses, planning
guidance already recommends that priority should be given to people
over traffic. Well designed pedestrianisation schemes generally
prove popular and commercially successful, and local authorities
should consider traffic calming and reallocating road space to
promote safe walking and cycling and to give priority to public
Several promising engineering based solutions
to speed management problems are emerging, and existing ones such
as speed cameras are being adopted more widely. These include
digital speed cameras linked with automatic number plate recognition
equipment to monitor and enforce longer stretches of road than
conventional speed cameras. DTLR sponsored research suggests that
mandatory Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) which uses in-car
systems that control vehicle speeds to the prevailing speed limit
could reduce fatal accidents by 37 per cent. This rises to 59
per cent using a mandatory dynamic speed limiter that adapts to
road conditions (Carsten and Fowkes 2000). ISA may have a future
role to play in managing vehicle speeds and improving road safety,
but more research is needed into the effects of such a system
on driver behaviour. However, this technology is many years off
and the Government has no plans to seek mandatory speed limiters
Car design can help mitigate the consequences
of accidents caused by speeding with devices such as seatbelts,
airbags, stronger passenger compartments and energy absorbing
car fronts. As mandatory design changes, these have to be introduced
on a Europe-wide basis because of single market implications.
More on Technology is at Annex 6.
(vi) Education to improve drivers' and motor
cyclists' behaviour and pedestrian and cyclist awareness
Safe speed choice is now a key element of novice
training for car drivers and motorcyclists. We want to improve
the quality of training for all drivers and will continue to improve
the driving test. Drivers should be equipped with the right skills
and the right attitude to drive safely and responsibly. We are
currently developing a test of hazard perception ability, which
will form part of the theory test from October 2002. The associated
training will also focus on the need for safe speeds and appropriate
separation distances, in order that the driver will be able to
respond to hazards in good time. It is hoped that this measure
will affect speed choice by alerting new drivers to the potential
for hazards in the traffic environment.
DTLR has a long established commitment to increasing
public awareness of the dangers of speeding through national publicity
campaigns that are also supported in the Regions. These usually
comprise hard-hitting television and radio commercials that make
clear the consequences of speeding. To obtain maximum effectiveness
anti-speed campaigns are developed and timed to fit into the overall
road safety publicity programme. Campaigns are monitored for their
effectiveness and to inform future approaches.
Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to
injury in collisions at any speed. Initiatives aimed at improving
riding skills include raising speed awareness. Motorcyclists are
required to undergo more extensive training than car drivers,
the hazard perception test is being introduced for all test candidates
and the standards of motorcycle instructors will be improved.
Publications and videos offering guidance to motorcyclists are
being issued. It is recognised that reducing excessive and inappropriate
speeds in urban areas offers great potential to reduce death and
injury among all vulnerable road users, particularly cyclists
Most speed management initiatives and interventions
benefit cyclists, including traffic calming, 20 mph zones and
improvements to road engineering. Better enforcement also improves
compliance with significant safety benefits and casualty reductions
among cyclists from the resulting lower vehicle speeds.
As for cyclists, most speed management policies
also offer significant safety benefits to pedestrians. One of
our priorities is to create a safer and more pleasant environment
for pedestrians through better enforcement of speed limits coupled
with tougher penalties, encouraging schools and LHAs to work towards
developing safer journeys to school, and introducing further lower
speed zones in residential areas.
A concerted effort to reduce child pedestrian
casualties is already having a positive effect, and our performance
has improved so that the UK is now average among EU countries.
More generally we are working to educate drivers, through better
training and testing, to increase awareness of their responsibilities
towards all vulnerable road users. There are many national and
local initiatives and measures to improve the safety of cyclists
and pedestrians. See Annex 3.
(vii) Changes to speed limits
Research shows that decreases in speed limits
alone are relatively ineffective, generally only about a quarter
of the reduction in speed limit is realised in actual changes
to speed. Also, small changes in limits are more effective in
influencing drivers' speed than large changes (Finch et al 1994).
DTLR recommends that to achieve desired reductions in speed, changes
to speed limits be accompanied by measures such as engineering
and enforcement, coupled with education.
Given the research evidence and experience DTLR
does not support blanket changes to national speed limits, but
these are always kept under review. Instead it will aim to revise
the guidance on setting local limits to achieve appropriate, consistent
standards across the country that reflect, as far as possible,
the needs of all road users. DTLR is investigating the use of
a methodology based on a new approach to appraisal of road schemes
to ensure that when limits are set for road safety purposes the
wider impacts are also assessed. The guidance will cover measures
local authorities should apply to achieve appropriate vehicle
speeds, and should be combined with the development of a simpler
method of making speed limits by reference to a speed management
(viii) What specific policies should be implemented
The Government's Road Safety Strategy (DETR
2000b) sets out its policies on speed management and this is currently
being implemented with several commitments already fulfilled.
These include an expansion of the use of 20 mph zones, mixed priority
route demonstration schemes, Home Zones, expansion of safety camera
enforcement by netting off fine revenue and work underway on improving
rural road speed management.
D. THE EXTENT
(i) Whether LAs, DTLR, HA, Police and Home
Office are providing a co-ordinated approach, and what they should
There are many instances of good co-operation
between relevant bodies working together in setting speed limits
and their enforcement. The most complex example is the Safety
Camera Project Board in which the following are involved: DTLR,
The Highways Agency, Lord Chancellor's Department, HM Treasury,
the Home Office, the Crown Prosecution Service, Scottish Executive,
National Assembly for Wales, ACPO and local authority representation
by the CSS and LGA. See Annex 5.
Other examples include the joint working of
local highway authorities with the Police Service at local level
to undertake crime and disorder audits, and to develop countermeasures
in response to public concerns. Day to day traffic management
and speed matters are undertaken in partnership and DTLR, through
its Regional Government Offices, works closely with LHAs on a
number of road safety issues. LHAs and Health Authorities are
working together to share information on road accident casualties
and to develop appropriate education and other interventions.
There are also examples of joint working with the Department of
Health on initiatives to increase the wearing of bicycle helmets,
and with Education Departments to develop safer journeys to school.
The issues of speed management in rural areas
are being tackled through co-operation with the Countryside Agency
and local groups.
Local authorities in England and Wales have
a statutory duty to produce a Local Transport Plan (LTP). Guidance
to local authorities sets out the requirements for these plans
which cover all forms of transport and must include a local road
safety strategy with supporting local casualty reduction targets.
Resources for road safety are no longer ring fenced, but contained
within authorities' integrated transport block allocation. More
detail at Annex 1.
On trunk roads the Highways Agency works with
other highway authorities to manage speed through engineering
and enforcement. On the motorway network operated by the Highways
Agency there are several specially developed and installed systems
to ensure the safe and efficient operation of these roads. These
are described in Annex 8.
(ii) Whether the sentences imposed by magistrates
and judges on those convicted of speeding offences have in all
cases been appropriate and what other approaches ought to be considered
Apart from drink driving, the problem faced
by successive governments is that road traffic offences are not
widely regarded by society as being as serious as other crimes.
Speeding in particular, despite being a criminal offence, is often
viewed as no more serious than illegal parking. Serious attempts
are being made by DTLR, The Home Office and road safety organisations
to alter that view through national and local publicity campaigns.
There are other ways the criminal justice system
can educate offenders and deter speeding rather than just punishing
after the event. The success of rehabilitation courses for drink
drivers, and driver improvement schemes for minor offences in
lieu of prosecution suggests that a similar approach might work
for habitual speeders and people who lose their licence for speeding.
Research in this area is planned with an international review
to be undertaken as a preliminary step to consider development
of driver improvement schemes to address a wider range of offences
and as a court disposal.
Magistrates in England and Wales have guidelines
on how to assess appropriate penalties. The Government's Road
Safety Strategy referred to the possibility of tougher penalties
for speeding and possibly creating a new offence to deal with
motorists who drive far in excess of the speed limit. This has
been considered in the context of a Review of Road Traffic penalties,
led by the Home Office. More on penalties and sentencing is at
(iii) Whether motor manufacturers, the national
press, TV programmes about motoring and advertisers have shown
an appropriate attitude to speed, and how they should change
DTLR is keen to see responsible behaviour by
drivers and other roads users portrayed in advertising. The Independent
Television Commission's Code of Advertising Standards and Practice
contains detailed regulations governing the responsible depiction
of driving in television advertisements. Compliance with the Code
is continuously monitored by the ITC. Ways to encourage the advertising
and motor industries to promote the portrayal of more responsible
driving behaviour in advertising are being considered. Because
of the broader availability of television advertising from sources
outside the UK, the European Commission is considering a Europe-wide
code of practice for car advertising and DTLR is co-operating
E. THE ROLE
Speed management strategies are seen as key
to implementing speed management policies in a consistent way
across the country. The DTLR is committed to improving the safety
of both rural and urban roads by introducing the measures that
research has shown to be effective, to carrying out further research
into speed related problems and to issuing up-to-date guidance
on good practice.
Gloucester "Safer City" has shown
that urban safety management strategies can work and we need to
redouble our efforts to develop successful rural speed management
strategies. The Department was a co-sponsor of and contributor
to work by the Institution of Highways and Transportation who
have published Guidelines for Rural Safety Management (1999).
The OECD published Safety Strategies for Rural Roads (1999), and
officials from DTLR were on its working group. The ECMT is currently
developing a report and recommendations for rural road safety,
and DTLR is participating in this work. The common theme is the
need for integrated safety management and the development of speed
strategies able to deliver real changes in speed and reductions