You might not realise it, but today is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. This takes place on the third Sunday in November every year in acknowledgement of victims of road traffic crashes and their families. It is estimated that, worldwide, 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured.

The theme for this year is “Speed kills – design out speeding”:

For some years now, Pedal on Parliament have been advocating that the statutory speed limit for built-up areas in Scotland be lowered from 30mph to 20mph. We also believe that speed limits be lowered on rural roads by introducing a statutory 40 mph speed limit on unclassified and single-track roads. This would, undoubtedly, save lives and make Scotland a better place to live. Not only would it be relatively cheap to do, but this is also within the gift of the Scottish Parliament.

The power to vary speed limits was devolved, along with the power to vary the drink-driving limits, as part of the Scotland Act (2012). The Scottish Government is exercising the power to change the drink-drive limit, from 5th December 2014 the permitted blood alcohol limit for driver to be cut from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood. However, the powers to vary speed limits have, so far, only been used to raise the speed limit for heavy goods vehicles using the A9. This is a retrograde step as Holyrood does not have the power to change the Laws of Physics, and therefore in no way will this change in speed limit make the A9 a safer road.

At 20mph just 3% of pedestrians or cyclists are killed

The difference just a few miles per hour makes

It has been known for well over 30 years that, as traffic speed increases, so does the risk to pedestrians and cyclists:*

  • Hit by a car at 20 mph, 3% of pedestrians will be killed, 97% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 30 mph, 20% of pedestrians will be killed, 80% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 35 mph, 50% of pedestrians will be killed, 50% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 40 mph, 90% of pedestrians will be killed, 10% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 50 mph, >99% of pedestrians will be killed, only <1% will survive

Many drivers don’t consider the fact that, at 30 mph, a vehicle travels 44ft (roughly three car lengths) every second and, at 20mph, a vehicle travels 29.3ft (roughly two car lengths). The average reaction time of drivers is between 1 and 1.5 seconds – it takes time to stop and drivers must think ahead before they can safely react to the situation. Lowering the speed limit gives drivers more time to think, and therefore reduces the frequency of collisions in the first place. For anyone who thinks that they are a good driver and that it wouldn’t happen to them, we suggest that they read about the experiences of this GP.

Once again, we call on the Scottish Government to lower the statutory speed limit in built up areas from 30mph to 20mph to save lives. If you agree with us, write to your MSPs today and tell them so.

* A note on the data:

At POP we try to be a thorough as possible when it comes to the robustness and relevance of the data we use. So we were initially concerned about using the 1979 data cited in our figures and infographic here. After much discussion and research, we found that the more recent studies looked only at the risk to adults, but not to children and other vulnerable people (for example over the age of 70).
ROSPA cites various studies with different absolute survival rates for each collision speed, but all show the same trend. The risk of injury and death is significantly diminished by reducing vehicle speeds from 30mph to 20mph. Therefore this is what we should strive for, if we want to make our cities more friendly. Our use of the study we chose serves to illustrate that using the most relevant figures for the whole population available to us.
World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims