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MUCH RUSH OVER SPEED; Slowdown over 20mph residential limits urged.

MORE haste, less speed is needed when it comes to implementing 20mph zones, it's claimed.

This was one of the key findings at a conference examining speed management.

But Elizabeth Dainton, research development manager at the Royal Automobile Club Foundation, said more research was needed before 20mph zones are comprehensively rolled out across the country.

The expert warned that policy development should not speed ahead of understanding, local considerations and public acceptance.

A new study found that 95 per cent of all pedestrian casualties and 92 per cent of cyclist casualties were killed or injured on built-up roads with speed limits under 40mph.

But speed was not the only factor which leads to these accidents, as driver behaviour and speeding were responsible in only 26 per cent of all cases.

Failing to look remained the biggest cause of collisions, being to blame for nearly 68 per cent of all accidents.

It was argued that driver training and education were as important as reducing speed when it came to improving UK casualty figures.

Ms Dainton outlined the aims, objectives and history behind 20mph zones.

She highlighted the finding of one of the most extensive studies into the subject, which revealed that average speeds fell by 9mph and annual accidents by 60 per cent in select 20mph zones.

Yet while casualty reductions for current 20mph zones were impressive, there were limits to their overall use she said.

"These include enforcement. Traffic calming measures are needed if existing speeds are high, but these are unpopular.

"Physical enforcement is the only option available due to low levels of traffic police and a lack of camera enforcing technology.

"While three-quarters of the public support 20mph zones in residential areas, no research is available to assess whether a more comprehensive network of zones would be welcomed," she added.

Physical traffic calming measures were disliked by 57 per cent of the public, she said, while cameras were also a bone of contention for many, which was likely to make the introduction of average speed cameras to enforce 20mph zones difficult.

Roads for movement are also needed: 20mph zones may reduce casualties in some circumstances, but the economic vitality of an area also needs to be considered.

The expert stressed: "Reducing road casualties in the UK must remain a priority, and speed limits have an important role to play.

"It does not follow that 20mph zones should be implemented without adequate consideration being given to local circumstances and public opinion."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 13, 2008
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