Page last updated at 10:32 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Lower speed limits advised for road accident blackspots

20mph speed limit road sign
Ministers want to build on the country's improving road safety record

New advice to councils to cut the speed limit on roads with accident blackspots is being published by the government.

Ministers want the speed limit of 60mph on selected main roads in rural areas lowered to 50mph.

They are advising local authorities to introduce gradually 20mph limits in all residential areas and near schools.

The government says more ambitious targets are needed for reducing deaths as it enters the final year of its decade-long road safety strategy.

More than 32,000 people have died on British roads in the past 10 years but the country's record has improved.

The government's target of cutting deaths and serious injuries by 40% by the end of 2010 has already been met but ministers are planning more ambitious goals.

Poor driving

On Wednesday they will issue guidance to councils urging speed limits of 50mph, rather than 60mph, along the entire length of any rural single-carriageway A road with a history of accidents.

The government also says the standard limit should be 20mph around homes and schools and in other areas where pedestrian and cycle traffic is high, such as near parks.

Adrian Brown, BBC News

For an everyday activity, travelling by road is probably the riskiest thing many of us do on a regular basis.

On average, some seven people are killed every day on the roads in Great Britain. Hundreds more are injured, many of them seriously, often with life changing consequences.

In 2008 alone, 2,538 people died and nearly a quarter of a million were injured. In the past 10 years, the death toll has amounted to 32,298.

As such road crashes are the largest single cause of accidental death for people aged between 5 and 35 years. read more here

In the past, councils wanting to implement a 20mph limit on groups of roads have had to do so in "zones", along with traffic calming measures such as speed humps.

The same limit without traffic calming measures was recommended only for individual roads.

The Department for Transport now says it will allow 20mph limits to be used more widely without the need for additional traffic calming measures.

The move follows a trial scheme on roads in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Road safety minister Paul Clark said it would allow 20mph limits to be imposed on roads where physical traffic calming measures were not possible or practical.

He said: "Allowing councils to put 20mph speed limits on more streets without speed humps or chicanes will mean that they can introduce them at a lower cost and with less inconvenience to residents."

BBC transport correspondent Tom Symonds says the move will not be popular with those opposing tighter restrictions on motorists.

But safety experts say deaths are still not falling fast enough, partly because of poor driving.

The BBC News website has launched an interactive map which plots the location of every death on the roads in the last decade.

For the first time it allows users to examine accident blackspots near where they live.

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