20’s Plenty for the NHS – A 20mph Limit Emergency National Measure Frequently Asked Questions FAQ

  • Traffic is right down, surely we don’t need this? Public health doctors say we do. Speeding is increasing on clearer roads. Slower speeds are the first ask in the medic’s lower the baseline campaign to reduce the baseline load on the NHS. Last year 100,000 people were injured on 30mph roads.
  • Will a 20mph speed limit really help the NHS? Crashes are happening now that can be avoided by slower speed limits. Pre-lockdown, 35,000 people were admitted to hospital a year from road crashes on all roads and 100,000 were injured on 30mph roads. Every crash victim fewer potentially also saves a Covid-19 (or other unwell patient) from being unable to access the best care whilst the NHS is overburdened. The slower speed benefits are hugely factored up now. Secondly, lower speeds help protect key workers when travelling and us all when exercising
  • Aren’t road casualties decreasing due to less traffic? Not as much as you’d expect. Supt Andy Cox, head of roads policing in London says that there is some very high speeding happening and that he has not witnessed a drop in speed-related crashes[1]. It’s not true that less traffic equals less collisions. This is what drivers who are currently breaking the speed limit think. But it is false and at the root of anti-social behaviour on our roads.
  • Who and how many people could be helped? Fewer people injured frees up resources for those with other medical needs. Especially when the NHS is so overburdened. Less distress for patients, families and emergency service staff. Places that have already done default 20mph limits with signs report 20+% fewer injured. Estimates vary on the A& E and hospital admissions avoided by an Emergency National 20mph limit –. Public health experts predict there would be many hundreds fewer injured in the next 3 months and thousands in the next year.  The numbers of people benefiting are factored up by all those helped by ambulances, A & E, medics and hospitals having more capacity. Plus everyone’s family would face less fear and risk, especially when walking or cycling.
  • Who can set a 20mph emergency limit? The Prime Minister or his cabinet members in England. The First Minister and cabinet in Scotland or Wales. It is set via a "Statutory Instrument" rather than a Bill. This would require due parliamentary approval but given the urgency associated with such a move we would expect a supporting government to be able to enable this quickly.
  • Would every road that was previously 30mph be included? Yes. All 30mph limits on lit and unlit roads would become 20mph (even if previously signed as 30mph on entry signs from roads with other limits). Note that 30mph roads do not generally have limit repeater signs as it’s the National Limit.
  • How would drivers be told? Government announcements through the media and press conferences, reported by the press, TV and radio widely. Perhaps Government texts.
  • Would driving at 20mph be voluntary? No. Drivers will be required to drive slower. It’s a rule not a suggestion. Reductions in speed would be motivated by messaging telling drivers it’s the right limit to help the NHS
  • Will road signs change now? That’s where the public announcements come in. Just like in 1974 when the 70mph rural road limit was changed to 50mph in order to save fuel. This will save far more precious resources – people’s lives and our NHS resources.
  • Can emergency vehicles go faster? Yes, just as now.
  • What will it cost? Costs are minimal. A national speed limit change as an emergency measure does not require signage changes in the short term or a legal process like traffic regulation orders. In the medium term there may be costs to resign certain roads to exempt them from 20mph back to 30mph
  • Who supports a 20mph National Speed limit? Public Health England, the Association of Directors of Public Health, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, EU, World Health Organisation, Transport for London and many more organisations and people The UK Government signed the Stockholm Declaration this February as global best practice. This science-based policy is popular with the public too, especially now the value of our NHS is being so appreciated.
  • What will happen to signs in the future? We expect most roads would stay at 20mph and some would be signed back to 30mph on a road by road basis. Or, the Government can announce the end of this emergency 20mph measure and revert back to roads being signed as before. Of course that “back to normal” would include the 100,000 casualties per annum.
  • What’s the effect on walkers and cyclists? It protects key workers walking and cycling to work and other children and adults exercising on foot or bikes. Some crashes are avoided, or are much less serious. Survival rates from injuries to vulnerable road users are five times better if hit at 20mph than at 30mph.  Older people walking and cycling especially benefit.
  • High speed speeders won’t take notice anyway. Why bother? Evidence says when most drivers reduce speeds casualties fall overall. This will also have the support of the public to protect NHS resources.
  • What about enforcement? When a driver goes slower, drivers behind are more likely to reduce their speed too due to pacer car effects. Drivers will be asked to voluntarily comply for the good of the NHS. The police are already noticing the increase in driver speeds and in places such as London are redoubling their efforts to tackle speeding both on arterial roads and on 20mph and 30mph roads.
  • How much longer will my journey take? Hardly at all. Parts on previously 30mph roads will be a little slower. Evidence before lockdown of wide 20mph limits was that total trip time was not much affected when minor roads went 20mph (not main roads). However, when all urban lit roads go 20mph, yes there will be a slowing down of total journey times. This is less than people first imagine as some of the trip time is due to slowing for lights, junctions, other hazards etc.
  • How long would the Emergency 20mph National Speed Limit apply? During lockdown and ideally, until the NHS has cleared its backlog of postponed treatments too - many months or longer.
  • What happens after lockdown ends? Travel patterns will have changed. We expect there will be far fewer public transport users until there is a vaccine for Covid-19. More will be walking and cycling to get about. Car use will rise, maybe even further than before lockdown. A 20mph National limit will be a great help in protecting people going to work and about their lives after lockdown – see our future travel patterns blog at http://www.20splenty.org/nhs_blog
  • Are other countries agreeing to 20mph limits? Wales agreed a 20mph national limit being phased in over time.
  • Have road speeds gone down before in a crisis? Yes, In the 1974 Oil Crisis the UK’s maximum limit was set at 50mph to save fuel for economic reasons. The Isle of Man has set a 40mph limit due to Covid-19 to save hospital admissions for health reasons.
  • If drivers don’t obey will they be fined? Some will. The police will probably only enforce high speeders. Even without much active enforcement, places implementing 20mph limits have previously found that speeds and casualties significantly reduce.
  • Is this about revenue raising? No
  • Will pollution rise? No. 20mph limits are less polluting, not more than 30mph limits according to the World Health Organisation.
  • What about my civil liberty to drive at 30mph? The extent of “civil liberty” is to drive within the speed limit set by the government. This will be 20mph. For the good of the NHS, driving slower is in everyone’s interest.
  • How cost effective is this policy? Highly cost effective. Implementation costs are minimal (a Government announcement). There is a small cost to drivers of the slight inconvenience of trips taking marginally longer. Benefits are of both a significant reduction to casualty levels plus freeing up NHS resources at a time when the NHS is overburdened. Each casualty reduced could mean many others accessing better care. In Bristol alone, their 20mph limit scheme is saving £15m every year just in casualties avoided[2].
  • Who are spokespeople to talk to for a quote or interview? Dr Robert Hughes, Prof Sunil Bhopal and Rod King MBE. Also available are: Prof Adrian Davis, Edinburgh Napier University and Dr. Sarah Jones, Public Health Wales. Please contact Rod King at [email protected] or 07973 639781
  • What can I do to help put this in place? Pledge to drive at 20mph. Write a letter to your MP, press and radio, (templates at http://www.20splenty.org/nhs_letter_templates). Upload a short support video (landscape view, under 140secs) to https://www.dropbox.com/request/RihzBcLPNmvOd2VyaU1g,  buy 20’s Plenty for the NHS stickers to display. http://www.20splenty.org/nhs_wheelie_bin_sticker_campaign
  • Where can I find out more? http://www.20splenty.org/lower_baseline  and www.lowerthebaseline.org
  • How do I donate to, or join, the Lower the Baseline or 20’s Plenty for Us campaigns? Go to https://www.20splenty.org/nhs_donations Joining 20’s Plenty for Us is free – email [email protected]  on twitter follow @lower_baseline and @20splentyforus



[1] https://twitter.com/SuptAndyCox/status/1246366875405213696?s=20

[2] https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/875541

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