Public Release: 

Speed limit must be reduced to prevent 'unacceptable' levels of pedestrian deaths


Reducing the speed limit to 20 mph in urban areas [Editorial]

Speeding kills around 1200 people on UK roads every year: 140 of those deaths are child pedestrians. If any impact is to be made on these "unacceptable" figures, speed limits in built-up areas must be reduced to 20 miles per hour, argues Paul Pilkington, public health specialist for the South West Region, in this week's BMJ.

Almost three quarters of motorists exceed the current 30 mph (48kph) urban speed limit, and two thirds of all serious or fatal accidents happen in areas with the 30 mph limit, contends Mr Pilkington. He provides plenty of evidence to show that lower speeds can cut deaths and the number of traffic accidents by around two thirds. Experiments in the UK and in Europe using the lower 20 mph speed limit have shown dramatic falls not only in the number of casualties, but also in air and noise pollution. Mr Pilkington says that there is also mounting evidence of public support for such a move.

But he cautions that decisions to lower speed limits should not be arbitrary or driven by political motives. Rather, they should be "based on sound, established road safety principles," as recommended by the Association of British Drivers, and should be accompanied by more stringent attitudes to driving offences in the law courts.



Paul Pilkington, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London. Email:

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