- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Feature, Media
6 February 2013
Last week I was driving through Carmarthen – I was on the journey from Pembrokeshire to Cardiff – at about the time that children were finishing school.
How did I know? The flashing signs told me that I was in a 20 mile an hour zone. Naturally, I obeyed the signs, but not everyone did. At one point I was being followed by a man who was driving close to my back bumper. He was obviously impatient to be following someone driving at 20 mph in what at any other time is a 30 miles an hour limit.
But 20mph zones are there for good reason: official figures show that in 2011 pedestrian casualties represented 21 per cent of Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) road traffic casualties in Wales. Meanwhile, around a third of all pedestrian casualties are school children on a journey from or to school.
I was alerted to this issue a few years ago when pupils from Saron Primary School, supported by the local County Councillor, Peter Cooper, contacted me asking me to support their campaign to reduce the speed limit outside their school.
The children said they felt unsafe with cars whizzing about, and their experience is backed up by research. In a study, road safety charity Brake found that 43 per cent of children aged seven to 11 said they had been hit or nearly hit while walking or cycling.
We know from safety campaigns and TV adverts what a vital difference a reduction from 30mph to 20 mph makes. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents estimates that a pedestrian has a 90% chance of surviving being hit by a car at 20 mph, falling to 50% chance at 30 mph and to 10% at 40 mph. And Welsh Government research suggested that 20mph zones could reduce road casualties by approximately 40 per cent.
Carmarthenshire Council has made a good start with 37 schools in 20mph limits or zones across the county. The Welsh Government has given money to create five more 20mph Carmarthenshire schools this year.
But across Wales 30mph is still the norm around schools. That is why I am calling for a debate in the Assembly about the need for more 20mph zones.
I am sure that the man who was too close for comfort driving behind me last week would have been convinced by the evidence that I had seen. Common sense and compassion are usually enough to persuade us that restrictions on behaviour are sometimes needed. Other times we need the law to change the way people act.