Transport Scotland, the national agency in charge of the roads in Scotland, has announced the introduction of 20mph speed limits across main roads in and around five major Scottish towns.
While Edinburgh introduced similar speed limits across the city earlier this year, this is the first string of limits placed on trunk roads. It’s also the first time the national transport agency has implemented such a policy. The limits in Edinburgh were implemented by the local authority.
The A77 at Maybole will be the first road affected, followed soon after by similar roads in Largs, Biggar, Langholm and Oban.
The past few years have not been kind to motorists on Scottish roads and there is widespread support for change. Regarding the new limit on the A77, South Ayrshire, councillor John McDowall said:
“Maybole has a narrow main street and this coupled with very high volumes of traffic means there are real concerns about road safety.
“I am sure pedestrians and cyclists will appreciate the new speed restrictions, and motorists should understand the overarching policy is to keep people safe.”
However, with limits such as these there is always the problem of enforcement. Brighton was one of the first cities to introduce widespread 20mph limits but due to a lack of enforcement, driving standards quickly returned to where they had been before the introduction.
Police Scotland, however, claim they are ready to to work closely with Transport Scotland on the project, though what this work is and whether it includes active enforcement remains to be seen.
Among the onlookers and commentators are several if not dissenting then definitely sceptical voices.
Chief among them is policy and research director at the Institute of Advanced Motorists Neil Greig who claimed the effectiveness of 20mph limits remained to be seen. He said:
“Detailed information on the exact extent of 20mph limits is not properly recorded so it is difficult to judge their true effectiveness.
“Squeezing long-distance car and lorry traffic through historic village high streets always requires compromise, and these new limits will make things better for residents.
“However, the only long-term solution for each town is a by-pass. In places like Maybole, a by-pass has been talked about for decades and progress must be accelerated.”
While we don’t doubt that Neil knows his stuff, the best option seems to be actually recording detailed information first and then judging the effectiveness of 20mph limits.
Conversely, director of pedestrian campaign group Living Streets, Stuart Hay, argues that such limits are the way to reduce accidents. Hay said:
“20mph zones are the single biggest measure that will reduce road danger and improve the walking environment.
“Evidence suggests 20mph zones are popular when they come into force and are especially important to vulnerable road users. Well done to Transport Scotland and the communities that have campaigned for lower speed limits.
“This is the first time such a limit will be introduced to a trunk road in Scotland and it will bring major improvements to the walking environment. We look forward to the results of this pilot and hope it will support further roll out across the trunk road network.”
Hayley Birch penned an article for the Guardian last year in the wake of Transport for London’s announcement that it was to pilot 20mph limits on some of its busiest routes.
Her article pulled together various studies, including Brighton’s 20mph trials, Steer Davies Gleave’s study into traffic calming measures and an umbrella review of 20mph zones by academics at Durham University.
The evidence is irritatingly inconclusive. The first two showed very little change in long-term driving habits but the latter actually suggested they helped prevent accidents.
While it’s incontrovertible that a car travelling at 20mph will undoubtedly do less damage than one travelling at 40mph, the real question remains: do 20mph zones effectively encourage people to drive at slower speeds?
And sadly, the answer to that seems to be we simply don’t know.
Common Motoring Offences in Scotland
Below we have included a brief synopsis of some of the most common motoring offences motorists are charged with in Scotland.
Careless Driving arises where a person drives “without due care and attention” or “without reasonable consideration for other road users”. This is an area which has generated a great deal of case law as just about every driver has, at one time or another, driven without due care and attention.