Campaigners welcome 50mph plan

ROAD safety campaigners have welcomed news that the government is considering cutting speed limits on most rural single-carriageway roads from 60mph to 50mph.

ROAD safety campaigners have welcomed news that the government is considering cutting speed limits on most rural single-carriageway roads from 60mph to 50mph.

But Norfolk's transport chief warned that the policy was a 'blunt instrument' that could prove counter-productive, while the the AA said there should be no blanket reduction, and instead called for a targeted approach.

Ministers believe the potentially unpopular move may be needed to cut the number of deaths among motorists and pedestrians.

Currently the speed limit on almost all single-carriageway roads outside of towns is set at 60mph, except for at accident blackspots.

However, road safety minister Jim Fitzpatrick is said to have been struck by figures showing that these parts of the network were more prone to crashes.

Mr Fitzpatrick is looking at reducing limits in a bid to improve the UK's road safety record, which used to rank among the best in the world, but has slipped in recent years.

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The 50mph limit would apply automatically unless the local authority could prove it was safe for the road to remain at a 60mph.

In 2007, there were 2,946 deaths and 30,000 serious injuries on British roads, with speed being a factor in 29pc of them.

The government has brought forward a range of proposals to try to boost safety, including imposing six penalty points on motorists who break speed limits 'excessively', and punishments for using mobile phones while driving.

According to Norfolk County Council, 60pc of fatal and serious accidents between 2005 and 2007 occurred on non-built-up single- carriageway roads where the national 60mph speed limit generally applied. For fatalities alone, that rose to 74pc.

Liz Voysey, spokesman for road safety campaign groups Brake and RoadPeace, said: 'I support these proposals because drivers are unable to risk-assess themselves.

'But there's no point in doing anything without enough police or speed cameras. It's got to be backed up by enforcement.'

Mrs Voysey, of Dereham, lost her daughter Amy Upcraft, 19, in a road crash on the A47 in March 2004.

Adrian Gunson, the council's cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: 'I have very grave reservations about a blanket approach which would be a very blunt instrument for dealing with blackspots.

'To have any effect it would need a lot of extra enforcement - for instance, speed cameras - and I don't think it would encourage respect for the speed limit.'

He said there was a danger that a blanket 50mph limit could encourage drivers to travel at that speed, rather than use common sense and drive at a sensible speed for the road.

'I'm aware of 50mph speed limits selectively imposed where all the professional advice is that they will reduce accidents. We have intro-duced quite a number in Norfolk, and even some 40mph limits.'

County Hall spokesman John Birchall said the authority had received no prior warning or official notification of the proposal, but would respond during consultation later this year.

'Some rural main roads with a poor accident record are already subject to a 50mph limit,' he said.

'Norfolk County Council is looking into these issues as part of its rural road safety demonstration project in north-east Norfolk. We are already taking action to improve drivers' chances of recovery after losing control, or limiting the effects of an accident. Verge clearance has already started on the A148, and there a proposals for recovery strips and the use of crash barriers where obstacles cannot be removed.'