Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 11:55 UK

Plans to cut traffic speed limits

Ministers say they are on course to meet current road casualty targets

Proposals to bring down speed limits in areas of Britain where there is a higher risk of accidents have been announced by the government.

Reductions from 30mph to 20mph in urban locations and 60mph to 50mph in the countryside are being considered.

Road safety minister Jim Fitzpatrick said the way people learn to drive and are tested is also set for reform.

The plans are part of a new strategy to reduce road deaths in England, Scotland and Wales by one-third by 2020.

Safety research

Mr Fitzpatrick said in a statement: "We've already made real improvements to the safety of our roads - there are now almost 17,000 fewer deaths or serious injuries in a year than there were in the mid-1990s. But it is intolerable that eight people are still dying on our roads each day.

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"The major changes to the driver training and testing process will create better-prepared drivers while our plans for the next 10 years aim to make the roads and vehicles they use safer and so prevent many of the terrible crashes which cut short lives and tear families apart."

Places such as Newcastle, Portsmouth, Oxford and Leicester already use 20mph speed limits in residential areas, and other local councils will be given new guidance to cut speed limits in residential areas and outside schools.

There will be a new section in the driving test where candidates will be asked to drive without being directed by the examiner.

Young learner drivers who opt to take a new pre-qualification course will be allowed to sit a shorter driving theory test.

Andrew Howard, head of road safety for the AA, welcomed the proposals.

Mr Howard told the BBC: "They're all sensible ideas, they're all practical ideas.


"I think the great thing that has come out of the announcement this morning has been that we're talking about very much a horses-for-courses approach."

Road safety researchers say only one in 40 people who are hit by a vehicle at 20mph dies, compared with one in five at 30mph.

Robert Gifford, of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: "The 20mph zones are proven to save lives and that is especially important when thinking about children and the elderly."

Responding to the government's consultation announcement shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said what was needed were "targeted plans aimed at specific problem groups or specific areas".

Ms Villiers added that the Conservatives would "reform the driving test to encourage novice drivers to be better drivers, but without imposing excessive increases in the cost of learning to drive or hitting young people with unreasonable new restrictions on their mobility".

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