Speed limit likely to be cut on ‘many’ rural roads

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe with Moyagh Murdock, CEO of the Road Safety Authority, after he announced details of a new document entitled 'Guidelines for Setting and Managing Speed Limits' at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Dublin.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe yesterday predicted “many” rural roads are likely to see their maximum speed limit cut from 100km/h to 80km/h under new guidelines.

The guidelines also call on local authorities to “give serious consideration” to reducing speed limits from 50km/h to 30km/h within housing estates, where houses are fronting the roads, and near play areas.

Mr Donohoe said he continued to believe “very strongly” that local authorities must retain the power to determine speeds in housing estates — despite calls for a mandatory 20km/h speed limit by Roseann Brennan, whose six-year-old son, Jake, died after being knocked down by a car near his home in Lintown Grove, Kilkenny, last June.

The minister said the lowest speed local authorities can introduce under the law was 30km/h, but new legislation he was bringing through the Oireachtas would allow councils to have a 20km/h speed limit.

Mr Donohoe was speaking at the launch of Guidelines for Setting and Managing Speed Limits.

Under the document:

National roads less than 7 metres in width and more than 3km in length should have a maximum limit of 80km/h — while those over should be 100km/h zones.

A new road sign — a white circle with black diagonal stripes — will replace the 80km/h sign on narrow country roads, but the maximum speed will remain unchanged.

Urban speed zones will be determined by their function (arterial, link or local road) and their context (commercial or housing areas).

Mr Donohoe said a website, www.speedlimits.ie, would go live in the coming weeks, with a map giving limits on all roads.

Asked whether he expected a significant reclassification of areas from 50km/h to 30km/h, Mr Kelly said he thought there would be “more change” regarding rural roads, where limits would be determined by new criteria — regarding their width and length.

“You are likely to see a reclassification from 100km/h to 80km/h on many of these,” he said.

He also revealed new signage on country roads that legally have 80km/h speed limits, but where drivers need to exercise caution.

“This new generic sign is in use internationally,” said the minister.

“This sign means that drivers must use their judgement when using the road in question but must not exceed 80km/h.”

The signs are expected to be erected in April.

Moyagh Murdoch, RSA chief executive, said 80km/h country roads with “grass growing up the middle and clearly incapable of taking two cars had brought the system into disrepute”.

She said they would be running online, mobile and print media advertising campaigns backing the changes.

Mr Donohoe said Roseann Brennan had made “a very important contribution” in raising the profile of speed in residential areas. However, he said 20km/h was “just over 12 miles an hour” and the “level of motion has to be credible”. He thought 30km/h was “credible” and this was shown by international best practice.

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