You might not realise it, but today is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which takes place on the third Sunday in November every year as the appropriate acknowledgement of victims of road traffic crashes and the victims’ families. It is estimated, worldwide, that 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured. I was going to list all the people I have personally known who have died on the roads, members of my extended family, friends and acquaintances. But by the time I had got to 20, I was finding it all too depressing and so abandoned the idea. Too much loss, too much pain.
The theme for this year is “Speed kills – design out speeding”
For some years now, along with the Pedal on Parliament campaign group, I have been advocating the idea that the statutory speed limit for built up areas in Scotland should be lowered from 30mph to 20mph. This would undoubtedly save lives and make Scotland a better place to live. Not only would it be relatively cheap to do, but it is also within the gift of the Scottish Parliament. The power to vary speed limits was devolved, along with the power to vary the drink-driving limits, as part of the Scotland Act (2012). The Scottish Parliament has exercised the power to change the drink-drive limit, from 5th December 2014 the permitted blood alcohol limit for drivers will be cut from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood. This has to be a good thing. However, the powers to vary speed limits has, so far, only been used to raise the speed limit for heavy goods vehicles using the A9. This is a retrograde step as Holyrood does not have the power to change the Laws of Physics, and therefore this will in no way make the A9 a safer road.
As I have said elsewhere, it has been known for well over 30 years that, as traffic speed increases, so does the risk to pedestrians:
- Hit by a car at 20 mph, 3% of pedestrians will be killed – 97% will survive
- Hit by a car at 30 mph, 20% of pedestrians will be killed – 80% will survive
- Hit by a car at 35 mph, 50% of pedestrians will be killed – 50% will survive
- Hit by a car at 40 mph, 90% of pedestrians will be killed – 10% will survive
- Hit by a car at 50 mph, >99% of pedestrians will be killed – <1% will survive
Many drivers don’t think about the fact that at 30 mph, a vehicle travels 44ft (roughly three car lengths) every second and at 20mph a vehicle travels 29.3ft (roughly two car lengths). The average reaction time of drivers is between 1 and 1.5 seconds. Then it takes time to actually stop, and to stop safely drivers have to think ahead rather than just try to react to the situation. Lowering the speed limit allows drivers more time to think and therefore reduces the frequency of
accidents collisions. There are people out there who think that they are a good drivers and that it wouldn’t happen to them – I would suggest that they read about the experiences of this Hertfordshire GP, who used to think it wouldn’t happen to him.
Once again, I call on the Scottish Government to lower the statutory speed limit in built up areas from 30mph to 20mph, this will save lives. If you agree with me write to your MSPs today and tell them so.
This post also appears on the Pedal on Parliament website, in a slightly modified form.