Wales politics

20mph speed zones urged in Wales to protect children

More 20mph zones should be introduced on roads in built-up areas to protect pedestrians, and particularly children, say a group of Welsh assembly members.

The Welsh government has provided 20mph zone funding for councils, but does not have the power to change speed limits.

A debate took place in the Senedd chamber on Wednesday.

The zones are a familiar sight outside many schools, but AMs say they could be introduced in other built-up areas or places where children play.

Ministers have cited the example of the Sandfields estate in Port Talbot where injuries from road accidents fell 48% over three years after a blanket 20mph speed limit was imposed.

Councils were given £11.5m this year to introduce more zones, with ministers saying that slower traffic would make roads safer and encourage people to walk and cycle.

Children aged eight to 11 and those aged 12 to 15 are the two age groups most likely to be killed or seriously injured as pedestrians.

Since 2002, around 1 in 4 of child pedestrian casualties were pupils on their way to or from school.

'Pretty stark figures'

Labour AM Joyce Watson, one of the four backbench AMs tabling the debate, said 20mph zones could be imposed around school gates at peak times when children were likely to be around.

"It's not going to add a lot of time to your journey," she said. "These figures are pretty stark.

"If you have got a play park and they have to cross the road you have to reduce the speed limit. It's common sense."

She said local authorities were taking very different approaches to 20mph zones around the country.

"In Ceredigion County Council, there are only six schools that have an enforced or advised 20mph zone," she said.

"Compare that with Wrexham who have a programme of action over the next three years - all [roads] outside their school gates will have 20mph zones."

Another AM behind the call, Conservative Byron Davies, a classic car enthusiast, said that "pedestrians come first".

"That used to be the message that was in the highway code," he said.

"That seems to have gone and the car seems to be dominant in our world."

Clive Green, a community councillor in Carmarthenshire who has campaigned for road safety, told BBC Radio Wales the speed limit was no use without enforcement.

"The school I've been concerned with is Drefach near Cross Hands and it's on a dangerous bend," he said.

"It's only recently that the 20mph speed limit has been introduced there.

"I'm sorry to say after talking to parents and talking to school crossing officers, it's still being ignored because there's no enforcement."

Motoring journalist Zog Ziegler said every child killed or injured was, of course, a tragedy but he did not see the need for 20mph zones all around cities.

"I think 99% of us, when we drive past a school, I will probably drive less than 20mph especially if the children are all pouring out of the back of their mother's Ranger Rover outside the school gates," he said.

"I will slow right down, I will even stop to make sure they cross the road safely. Nobody wants that on their conscience.

"I don't think we need to have pan-city 20mph limits."

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