20mph limits in firing line after rise in accidents

20mph zones have been introduced across much of Portsmouth
20mph zones have been introduced across much of Portsmouth
A crash has led to delays on a major Portsmouth road

UPDATE: Man survives bridge fall onto the M27 near Whiteley

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THERE have been calls for a rethink of Portsmouth’s 20mph zones after figures showed a big jump in the number of serious injuries.

The government’s Department for Transport has released data on the number of people killed or seriously hurt which shows a 57 per cent increase last year from 2010.

It reveals the city had the second largest rise of any in the UK – behind only St Helens which showed a jump of 62 per cent.

Lobby group the Association of British Drivers seized on the figures as showing that Portsmouth’s introduction of 20mph zones in most residential roads hasn’t improved road safety.

Spokesman for the organisation Brian McDowall said: ‘We don’t object to 20mph speed limits, we are just against the kind of blanket approach taken in Portsmouth.

‘It forces all drivers down to the speed of the lowest common denominator and is not necessary.

‘Speed is not as big a factor in accidents as other things, it is nowhere near the dominant factor.

‘But whenever there are crashes councils always rush to lower the speed limit without looking at the evidence.’

But leader of the council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said without knowing where the accidents took place no conclusions could be drawn about the speed limits.

‘It is very rare that serious injuries are caused on residential roads, it’s almost always in main roads.

‘If they were in 20mph roads then we will have to look at that, but we would need more information.

‘There are two completely different issues here.’

Tory transport spokesman Luke Stubbs said he thought the 20mph speed limits were justified, but probably didn’t have much of an effect on the number of accidents.

‘Statistics go up and down so it can be hard to just take one year as evidence for anything,’ he said.

‘And most of the roads in Portsmouth where the limit is 20 are so full of parked cars that most people drive at around that speed already, with or without the limit.’

No one was killed on Portsmouth’s roads in 2011, as opposed to two people the year before, but the number of serious injuries jumped from 89 to 143.

Overall the annual number of people killed in road accidents has increased by three per cent, from 1,850 in 2010 to 1,901 in 2011.

Acting assistant head of transport at the council Amber Kerens-Bathmaker said: ‘It’s true that there was a worrying rise in serious injuries on our roads in 2011, compared to 2010. However, serious injuries have been falling in Portsmouth for 10 years and this was the first rise in that time.

‘We’re investigating what caused this rise and are taking it very seriously.

‘It’s important to point out that these figures are for all roads in the city, including the busy main roads which are not 20mph.’