Police admit to not enforcing 20mph speed limits

By Sam Dansie | Tuesday, March 5, 2013 2.20pm

A senior police officer admitted yesterday that 20mph speed limits – in place in residential areas in many of the UK’s biggest cities – are not being enforced.

The revelation was made in front of the Get Britain Cycling inquiry, by Mark Milsom of the Association of Chief Police Officers, who told the cross party peers and MPs, “We are not enforcing 20mph speed limits at this moment in time.”

His admission was described as “unacceptable” by the co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, Ian Austin MP, who called for the police and Crown Prosecution Service to take a harder line against dangerous driving.

Austin said: “I think all too often we see the people responsible for really serious injuries or deaths on the roads get away scot-free or with derisory sentences, and I think there needs to be greater emphasis on cycle safety from the police and the CPS.”

Today, the ACPO moved to play down Milsom’s comments, saying that most 20mph zones carry traffic slowing measures and that it’s up to local forces to apply a “proportionate approach to enforcement of 20mph limits, based on risk to individuals, property and the seriousness of any breach.” They added that, where officers saw a wilful violation, the association would expect a prosecution.

The cost of enforcing the limits has been cited as a reason that forces might overlook offences. In November 2012, Tom Cuddeford, deputy chairman of the West Midlands Police Federation, said the city’s road policing unit had been cut back and that it was “unlikely they [police] will be able to proactively target these zones”.

A 20-year study of 20mph limits found that an extra 10mph of the current UK urban road limit reduced casualties by 42 percent.

The 20's Plenty for Us lobby group estimate that more than 8m people in the UK live in local authority areas that have implemented 20mph zones. In pushing for expansion of the limit, they quote European Road Safety Observatory statistics that state that Britain has the highest percentage of pedestrian fatalities in Europe, at 22.5 percent.

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