Since the introduction of a 30km/h speed limit in 2022, driving through the Phoenix Park in Dublin has never been more relaxed and enjoyable.
The experience is similar across Irish towns, villages, and cities, where drivers are reducing their speed in response to new 30km/h speed limits.
One of those towns is Clonakilty in west Cork, the scene for Road Safety Authority’s (RSA) latest advertising campaign.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the benefits to people living in towns and communities across Ireland when the speed limit is 30km/h.
The campaign illustrates the safe interaction between a number of road users to raise awareness of how a lower speed limit in urban areas can lead to safer, greener, more liveable towns and communities.
The campaign supports the Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030, which aims to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on Irish roads by 50 per cent over the next 10 years. This means reducing deaths on Ireland’s roads annually from 144 to 72 or lower and reducing serious injuries from 1,259 to 630 or lower by 2030.
The strategy is the first step in achieving the 2020 Programme for Government commitment of bringing Ireland to Vision Zero. This is to eliminate all road deaths and serious injuries on Irish roads by the year 2050.
Across Europe, countries are introducing 30km/h limits. Spain set a national 30km/h limit for all urban roads with a single carriageway in May 2021. In Wales, a new national 20m/h speed limit for cities, towns and villages in Wales became effective in September 2023. Paris has set a 30km/h limit for most roads, with many French cities following.
The early results are very promising. The number of deaths and serious injuries in Brussels dropped by 25 per cent in the first six months of 2021 following the introduction of a 30km/h limit for most roads.
Scandinavian countries already have a de-facto 30km/h limit for most urban roads. Oslo and Helsinki recorded zero pedestrian deaths in 2022, with the 30km/h limit cited as a key reason.
The World Health Organization has estimated that a 5 per cent reduction in average speed could result in a 30 per cent reduction in fatal collisions. Having these discussions and raising awareness of the impact speed has on a person’s likelihood to survive a crash, will help to save more lives.
Research also shows that if hit at 80km/h, nine out of 10 pedestrians will be killed; and if hit at 60km/h five out of 10 will be killed.
However, if hit at 30km/h, just one out of 20 pedestrians will be killed.
Sam Waide, CEO of the RSA says: “Slower speeds save lives, and by complying with these limits, every road user contributes to a safer, more responsible road environment. I implore all road users to slow down and adhere to speed limits, including those in urban areas like 30km/h speed limits where they are in place.”
Following a prolonged period of success in reducing fatalities on Irish roads, there has been a recent disturbing increase.
In 2023, the Road Safety Authority welcomed Minister of State Jack Chambers TD’s decision to initiate a comprehensive review of speed limits.
“Slower speeds save lives, and by complying with these limits, every road user contributes to a safer, more responsible road environment. I implore all road users to slow down and adhere to speed limits, including those in urban areas like 30km/h speed limits where they are in place.”
Sam Waide, CEO, Road Safety Authority
The Speed Limit Review makes a number of recommendations. Key proposals include:
• default speed limit on national secondary roads to reduce from 100km/h to 80km/h;
• default speed limit for the network of local and rural roads throughout the country to reduce from 80km/h to 60km/h; and
• default speed limit on urban roads, which include built up areas as well as housing estates and town centres, to reduce to 30km/h.
The RSA believes the review can contribute significantly to making Irish roads safer and reduce road deaths.
RSA research shows that 64 per cent of motorists admit to routinely speeding, with one fifth speeding daily and more than half of motorists’ speed at least once a week.
Speeding does not result in drivers arriving at their destination significantly quicker. National records show that completing an average journey at 110km/h instead of 100km/h saves only 45 seconds. Completing an average journey at 60km/h instead of 50km/h saves only two mins and 44 seconds.
There is overwhelming evidence that lower speed limits make streets safer and more pleasant places for children and adults to live, socialise, work and play. When parents and children can walk and cycle in their neighbourhood, families benefit from healthier children, less and stress.
Lower speeds mean that people feel more comfortable to walk and cycle and it is safer for children to walk to school. Vulnerable road users such as older people, people with accessibility issues or people with additional needs will feel more able to travel independently.
Liz O’Donnell, chairperson of the RSA, adds: “Too many families have been devastated by road trauma and the loss or serious injury to a loved one.
“As we look to 2024, we in the RSA are determined to reverse the upward trend in road crashes. We have made great progress in road safety in the past and we can do it again if we all commit to it by being aware and vigilant and taking responsibility for the safety of other road users.”