Belfast Telegraph

PSNI opposes 20mph plan: police and Assembly disagree on lowering speed limits

By Noel McAdam

The PSNI is on a collision course with the Assembly over proposals to reduce speed limits in residential areas.

Senior police chiefs have revealed they are opposed to a widespread 20mph limit – despite evidence it would save lives.

The top-level officers also warned that the measure, currently being considered by MLAs, would be very difficult to enforce.

A Private Member's Bill has completed its first stage at Stormont and will shift into its second stage in the next Assembly term.

The legislation is being brought forward by SDLP Pat Ramsey, whose brother and sister-in-law were killed in a car accident in 1995. His Bill aims to cut traffic speeds in specific areas, including school entrances, play parks, unclassified roads and city centres.

But PSNI Chief Inspector Diane Pennington said: "One of our main concerns with the proposals in the Private Member's Bill is that it is a blanket approach to all unclassified roads.

"We would prefer to follow the model that this is a bottom-up approach – that there is a demand coming from the community, primarily in residential areas, for the speed limit to be lowered."

And in correspondence with Mr Ramsey, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin argued that simply changing speed limit signs would "risk high levels of offending, with many unaware of their behaviour who may well have complied if it looked like and felt like the limit".

"Such an approach will simply leave the police with a large-scale enforcement issue which cannot be contained."

ACC Martin added yesterday: "If roads have a 20mph limit but look and feel like a '30' there is likely to be a high rate of non-compliance with the limit. This is the risk of setting a 20mph limit on all roads which are currently 30.

"Also, if a limit is to change on a specific road there needs to be widespread promotion of this change to ensure compliance. The best way to do this is if the desire comes from the neighbourhood in which the road is located."

Foyle MLA Mr Ramsey, however, said he would be concerned that such a 'bottom-up' approach would lead to many similar roads having different speed limits.

"This Bill is about making our roads safer in residential areas and potentially saving lives. I believe that is a goal all communities would share," he said.

Mr Ramsey also pointed out his Bill includes a mechanism allowing for two years of education and communication.

He said this would alleviate concerns of high levels of offending by drivers unaware of the new limit.

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