Road Safety Week 2023: 'Let's talk about speed' | Fieldfisher
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Road Safety Week 2023: 'Let's talk about speed'

Nick Godwin

This year's Road Safety Week, sponsored by the road safety charity Brake, focuses on speed awareness, with the slogan 'why do we still think it's ok to speed?'.

The message coincides with ongoing discussion around the widespread adoption of 20mph default speed limit currently being trialled in some parts of London and more recently throughout Wales from September. 

Under the change, most roads in Wales that currently have a 30mph speed limit are switching to 20mph, a move hailed by Wales' deputy minister for climate change as 'the biggest step change in community safety for a generation'.

One of the arguments against 20mph is that although it is often popular with residents, poor compliance can lead to pedestrians and cyclists having a false sense of security, with the police lacking the resources to enforce compliance by punishing drivers who speed. 

The UK government is currently said to oppose 20mph becoming the default speed limit across Great Britain any time soon, with former roads minister Richard Holden actively voicing his opposition to Wales’ decision to implement the new limit in urban areas, perhaps in response to the move being perceived as anti-motorist .

While the jury is still out on whether lowering speed limits in towns and cities reduces the volume of traffic collisions on our roads, there is no doubt that when crashes happen, a lower impact speed substantially reduces the seriousness of injuries sustained by those unlucky enough to be involved.

Road collisions devastate lives. Not just for the victim, but often for their families as well. As serious injury specialists, we deal with the fall-out from these cases day in, day out. 

It is estimated that one in four crashes that involve a fatality is caused by someone driving too fast. And for those who are injured, the severity of their injuries will almost always be greater the higher the speed. 

There is a huge difference in impact on the seriousness of a person's injuries between 30 mph and 20 mph. A pedestrian hit by a car at 30 mph can be as much as five times more likely to die than if they are hit at 20mph. 

Those who suffer head trauma in a collision are far more likely to sustain life changing traumatic brain injury (TBI) where the speed on impact is at or above about 20mph. This could be the difference between a near or full recovery from a TBI, with no lasting consequences and living with a life-changing TBI requiring life-long care and support.  

We see this every day in our own practice. Many of our clients could have avoided injury completely or would have escaped serious injury if the vehicle that hit them had been travelling at a lower speed. 

In broadly normal road conditions, at 20mph, it takes only about three car lengths (approximately 12 metres) for a car to come to a complete stop once the driver has recognised the hazard and taken measures to bring their vehicle to a stop. Contrast that with the time it takes to stop in similar circumstances and road conditions when travelling at 30mph: this stopping distance doubles to about six car lengths, or 23 metres. 

This can mean the difference between a crash being completely avoided or the injuries substantially reduced. The difference for victims and their families can be equally stark. 

Read about our road traffic accident claims and hear from clients.