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Speed limit row divides road safety groups

Speed limits drive a wedge between road safety groups with most hailing them as life savers while others see them as a distraction from the real killers on the roads.

National road safety charity Brake welcomed the proposed reductions in speed limits, saying they would help save lives.

But Safe Speed, a road safety organisation which is against the use of speed cameras, said focusing on speed limits missed the real issues at the heart of the problem.

Claire Armstrong, of Safe Speed, said: "Inattention and frustration are the two biggest killers on the road in this country.

"Speed is a small factor, not a big issue. The authorities are concentrating on the wrong things."

She said speed limits failed to address the core problems caused when people failed to drive appropriately for the conditions, were not responsible or who did not have a good attitude.

"Driving at the right speed, appropriate to the conditions, so you can stop in a distance you can see to be clear, makes you a safer driver," she said.

"If you're frustrated or inattentive, then that's when accidents happen."

She said reducing speed limits made driving more dangerous and was "appalling".

"Reducing the limits from 60 to 50, or 30 to 20, will only mean drivers will pay less attention when it's clear and apparently safe than when they're driving at a higher speed," she said.

"Switching from responsibility to regulation doesn't work and has not worked.

"We don't measure safe driving in miles per hour.

"Every driver is going to be looking down at their speedo, instead of concentrating on the road.

"What we need is for drivers to drive more responsibly, not more regulation or more targets."

She said it was as if the authorities could not think of anything else to do.

But Mary Williams, chief executive of the national road safety charity Brake, dismissed this argument as "a load of nonsense".

"You being the personal judge of your marvellous driving and therefore you being the best person to judge how fast you can go... You can't possibly judge yourself," Ms Williams said.

She said a child could unexpectedly run on to the road from behind a bush or out of a driveway.

"Just because the child does it, they don't deserve the death penalty," she said.

"The limits are there to protect us. It's very, very difficult to predict the unforeseeable."

She said there was "no doubt" that speed limits save lives.

"The faster you go, the less time you have to react, the harder you hit," she said.

"A 20mph limit is a life-saving maximum speed in urban areas, and it's been proven without doubt on the continent.

"It's a socially responsible and protective measure, and it protects the most vulnerable in our society, particularly children and the elderly."

The charity also condemned the decision by Tory-run Swindon council to do away with fixed-point speed cameras last year as "a very dangerous experiment with people's lives".

Swindon became the first town in the UK to announce it was removing the cameras after Peter Greenhalgh, the councillor responsible for the town's highways, objected to central Government receiving the cash from fines while Swindon Council had to pay for the upkeep of the cameras.

This news will be celebrated by motorists across the land, chief among them Jeremy Clarkson, presenter of BBC's Top Gear who has in the past voiced heart-felt support for Mr Greenhalgh on his programme.

Although Mr Greenhalgh was hailed as a hero by Top Gear, road safety groups were not impressed.

But he said 70 people had been killed on the streets of Swindon in 2007/08 - proof speed cameras were not making roads safer and the reason why council cash should be spent on other safety measures like training for motorists, better street lighting and reduced speed limits.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers described the move as "an interesting step in broadening the approach to improve road safety and to save lives".

Belfast Telegraph

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