Addressing the Conservative Party Conference today (2 October), Transport Minister Mark Harper outlined the Government’s new ‘plan for drivers’, supporting the party’s ‘proudly pro-car’ stance.
In his speech, the Minister said Government would ‘change the DfT’s guidance, requiring councils to only use 20mph zones where there's a good reason, and underlining that 30mph is the default speed limit on urban roads.’
In response, Brake, the road safety charity, challenges the Government to come up with a plan that prioritises and promotes safe and healthy communities for every road user, and to implement measures that put an end to road deaths and injury. We note that the new plan makes very little mention of the heartbreak that road crashes cause to road victims and their families, nor suggests how the Government plans to support them.
Brake has long campaigned for a world where everyone can make safe and healthy journeys, every day. We know that to achieve this, we must put the safety of people and communities at the heart of every decision made about our roads.
Every day, five people die on roads in the UK. Last week, the Department for Transport released its latest road casualty statistics, revealing that 1,711 people were killed on British roads in 2022 – a 10% increase on 2021 figures - and a further 28,031 people were seriously injured .
The road casualty statistics also showed that 303 people were killed by a vehicle being driven too fast.
At Brake we see first-hand how road crashes devastate families and their surrounding communities. Our National Road Victim Service saw a 30% increase in referrals last year, and the trend continues in 2023.
One of our top priorities is to see the default speed limit lowered to 20mph in built-up and residential areas – we consider this a vital step towards reducing the number of deaths on British roads, and evidence shows that this ‘pro-community measure’ reduces crashes by 25%, reduces the severity of crashes and actually encourages people to walk, cycle, and wheel more [2,3]. It’s a move that is also backed by the United Nations and the World Health Organization, which states: “30 km/h (20mph) speed limits where people and traffic mix make for streets that are safe, healthy, green and liveable.” 
We’d like to clarify that lowering the default speed limit is not the same as a ‘blanket’ introduction of 20mph limits. We urge the Government to change their language and explain this approach appropriately.Lucy Straker, campaigns manager, Brake
We’d like to take this opportunity to clarify that lowering the default speed limit is not the same as a ‘blanket’ introduction of 20mph limits. In Wales, where 20mph speed limits became the new speed limit on most residential roads last month, local councils retain the right to assess the suitability of the speed limit on individual roads, and to adjust if necessary. We urge the Government to change their language and explain this approach appropriately.We also call on Government to publish a framework for supporting road victims on a national scale.
In November 2023, Brake is hosting #RoadSafetyWeek, the largest UK road safety campaign. This year our theme is ‘Let’s talk about speed’ and we invite everyone to join us for a national conversation on the social acceptability of speeding.
We extend that invitation to the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Transport Minister Mark Harper MP so we can work out together how to ensure that in 2024 our road casualty statistics are moving us towards Vision Zero.
- Department for Trtansport (2023) Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain: Annual Report 2022 and associated data sets
- Phase 1 20mph interim monitoring report (tfw.wales)
- New data shows significant improvements in road safety in London since introduction of 20mph speed limits - Transport for London (tfl.gov
- World Health Organization (2021) Campaign launched to make 30 km/h streets the norm for cities worldwide. https://www.who.int/news/item/22-03-2021-campaign-launched-to-make-30-km-h-streets-the-norm-for-cities-worldwide