A step towards safer suburbs

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) marked the opening of Road Safety Week by pointing out that Ireland is falling behind Europe in setting 30km/h speed limits in cities and towns. 

As of yesterday, 117 people died on Irish roads this year. This is 22 fewer than in the same period last year but darkening evenings may cause a spike in that graph.

Making the argument for lower urban speed limits RSA chief Moyagh Murdock pointed out that “30km/h limits... mean a safer, healthier, greener, prosperous, quieter and better quality of life for people.” Anyone living an area where local authorities have installed speed ramps to try to slow traffic will empathise with that argument.

Ms Murdock offered examples of this slow-and-safe policy. Grenoble is a 30 km/h city; Paris plans to expand 30km/h limits by 2020; the Spanish government wants 30km/h to become the default limit and around 40% of Switzerland’s population live inside a 30km/h zone.

This is not rocket science but it would be a huge cultural challenge in a society where many of us imagine we are far better drivers than we really are and where cavalier driving habits are routine — especially around of mobile phone use.

Lower speed limits seem a positive response to ever-busier roads. They would make driving — and cycling — safer and less stressful. Unfortunately, the standard caveat applies— there’s no point in making rules unless they are enforced.

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