Green light for 20mph residential speed limit campaign
A drive for a 20mph speed limit across residential areas of Northern Ireland has stepped up a gear.
The Assembly has approved proposals which will now be examined in detail at committee level before moving on to become legislation.
But the roads minister has warned paying for new signage for motorists will cost at least £6m - and potentially as high as £26m.
Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said the costs would put further pressure on his department which is already facing severe budget cuts.
The Ulster Unionist minister said his costings were based on similar schemes which had been carried out in Portsmouth and Edinburgh. He was commenting on SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey's Private Member's Bill which passed its second stage towards becoming law without a formal vote.
Mr Ramsey said the sole objective was to save lives after five people were killed last year within a 30mph speed zone.
"In 2014, a total of 79 prematurely bereaved families were forced to deal with the consequences of a fatal road collision," he told MLAs.
"Some 523 serious road traffic collisions were recorded by PSNI between January and November 2014. Of those deaths, provisional figures for 2014 show that five pedestrian deaths occurred on urban roads where the limit was 30mph.
"I am not saying that this legislation would have any impact if implemented on those particular highways, but it is a starting point."
But the DUP's Alistair Ross said the Institute of Advanced Motorists had suggested the numbers of accidents in 20mph zones have gone up in the last 12 months.
Alban Maginness of the SDLP argued that effective legislation imports values into society that change behaviours - such as no-smoking laws which 10 years ago "were unimaginable".
Another DUP MLA Trevor Clarke, chair of the Assembly committee which monitors road speeds, claimed, however, that Mr Maginness' comparison was "ridiculous".
He added: "We have got 30 and 40mph limits, and there is no evidence to suggest that reducing them will actually help.
"Indeed, the 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70mph zones are there, but the enforcement is not."
He added: "The ban on smoking in a public place is, however, easy to enforce."