Get comfy with 20mph

When it comes to speed, many people who drive either don’t think they’re at fault or – if they do sometimes go slightly over the speed limit – convince themselves that, for one reason or another, it isn’t a big deal.

Most people understand the dangers of excessive high speeds, especially as the risk of fatality is so great if the driver loses control, and because high-speed, multiple-occupancy tragedies are more likely to make the news. Speeding is, after all, listed as one of the ‘Fatal Four’, along with drug/drink-driving, using mobile phones at the wheel and not wearing seatbelts.

Collisions at slower speeds can, though, be just as catastrophic. If you hit someone at 30mph, they are likely to suffer serious injuries, or die. If you’re doing 20mph, they’re likely to live. It’s that stark.  

When you’re used to driving at 30mph, a 20mph zone may (at first) feel unfamiliar because of old habits. The speed needle creeps up, and before you know it, you’re breaking the law.

We thought we’d offer a few points that might help to make it easier to get more comfortable with driving at lower speeds, whatever the limit.

  • It’s safer. If you do hit someone with your car, you’re less likely to kill them or inflict life-changing injuries and trauma.
  • You can be the most experienced, careful, focused driver in the world but unexpected things happen. Bins blow over, dogs run out, someone stumbles, a teen swerves on their bike, a child runs out… At 30mph, if you have to do an emergency stop, you will still travel around six car lengths before you come to a halt. You’re much more likely to collide and, if you do, the outcome will probably be a lot worse than if you’d been going even slightly more slowly. At 20mph, that stopping distance is halved; if you do hit someone, they’re more likely to live.
  • Vehicles travelling at lower speeds change the whole feel of a neighbourhood. People are far more willing to walk, to let their children walk, to cycle. The Council is doing so much to encourage active travel (walking and cycling) to address all kinds of issues (climate change, air quality, health etc); simply by deliberately driving more slowly, you are genuinely helping.
  • Even if you don’t have the option of walking or cycling yourself, you will still benefit directly by driving in a way that helps others to do so: the more people feel able to shift away from car-dependency, the less congestion, better air quality, less stressful journeys for those who do not have the luxury of that choice.
  • At speeds of more than about 20mph, research shows that children trying to cross a road simply cannot accurately judge how fast a car is coming, because of a dangerous ‘looming’ illusion. They just can’t tell that a distant car might be approaching far too fast for them to cross.
  • 20mph zones have almost no impact on overall journey times, so it’s a win-win.
  • By driving slowly, you’re setting an powerful example to all those around you – in cars and out – that this is normal. Maybe next time other drivers drive there, they, too will be more comfortable going slower, too.
  • You’ll quickly get used to it. Before long, 30mph may start to feel uncomfortably fast.

If you want to help spread the ‘No Need To Speed’ message a bit further in your own neighbourhood, why not borrow one of our portable Speed Indicator Devices (the smiley face machines that flash up your speed?) You can read more about this project in this post.

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