Local councils are to have the power to introduce 20mph maximum speed zones in towns. They will also be able to reduce rural speed limits from 60mph to as low as 40mph.
Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: “It's vital that speed limits are suitable for local conditions and councils are best placed to determine what these limits are, based on local knowledge and the views of the community.
“To help, we are publishing updated guidance for consultation. This includes a number of initiatives introduced to improve road safety, including making it easier for local authorities and communities to put in place 20mph schemes or to use common-sense measures such as variable speed limits outside schools.”
He added: “Road safety is a top priority and the guidance, along with the speed limit appraisal web tool, will help councils make evidence-based decisions to introduce local speed limits that reflect the needs of all road users.”
While sensibly-targeted 20mph zones in urban areas are unlikely to cause controversy – although some proposals do seem to defy common sense – the idea of a 40mph limit on some rural roads is likely to ignite fierce arguments. Rural roads with houses are already subject to lower limits than the national 60mph restriction – so which will have the lower speed limit imposed?
While there are certainly some rural roads where 60mph is too fast to be safe, there are also sections where even 40mph is too much. So the question is – where will this stop? Will every stretch of road be given its own speed limit, with motorists subsequently spending more time looking for road signs than concentrating on road conditions or hazards?