Experimental 20 mph speed limit in Dundee – is it a good thing?

Road showing 20mph speed limit

Since May 2018, traffic in and around “The Glens” area in Dundee has been subject to an experimental 20 mph speed limit which is set to be reviewed next May where it may become permanent and rolled out in other areas of the city.

This reduced speed limit was introduced by Dundee City Council in direct response to the area’s residents’ concerns about road safety, noise and air pollution following a city wide consultation in 2016.

One of the roads subject to this 20 mph speed limit is Johnstone Avenue, which is a busy route very close to St Johns High School and Kings Park School.

95% of the residents of Johnston Avenue who responded to the consultation were in favour of reducing the speed limit to 20 mph limit. This is not really surprising when residents have reported seeing cars being driven at speeds of up to 70 mph in the area.

This is clearly reckless behavior and fortunately an exception rather than the norm. Still, speeds of up to 40 mph in this area would not seem to be uncommon.

The main concern with regards to road safety is the risk vehicles driven at excessive speeds pose to pedestrians in the area – and school children in particular. This is a valid concern.

This year, Transport Scotland reported a rise in the number of pedestrians killed in road traffic accidents in 2017. Last year, they reported the highest number of child pedestrian fatalities in the last ten years, clearly highlighting the need for change.

Research has shown that the risk of death for pedestrians struck by cars increases significantly the faster a car is travelling.

Around 95% of pedestrians struck at speeds of below 20 mph will survive.  At speeds between 20 to 40 mph, nine out of ten pedestrians are killed.

And it is not just pedestrians who benefit by a reduction in impact speed: the probability of serious injury to a belted front seat car passenger is three times greater at an impact speed of 30 mph than that at 20 mph.

But while lowering the speed limit in and around “The Glens” was popular, only 51% of those who responded to the 2016 consultation were in favour of implementing a 20 mph speed limit in general in Dundee.

To be effective, however, reduced speed limits have to make sure drivers slow down and there is some skepticism as to whether they actually do.

Currently, the reduced speed limit in the area is only using signs and road markings. Without further traffic calming measures and enforcement, Dundee City Council are relying on motorists taking heed of the speed limit reduction and slowing down.

One representative from the council is suggesting that it was for residents in the area to set an example by adhering to the 20 mph limit around their homes.

The effectiveness of the experimental 20 mph limit in and around “The Glens” is yet to be seen. 

If drivers adhere to the speed limit, it will more than certainly reduce the risk of fatal and serious injuries to other road users, which can only be a good thing.

Let’s hope that they do.