Government Publishes Speed Limit Review Report
The Speed Limit Review is a significant piece of work which aims to address the fragmentation and inconsistency of speed limits on roads all over the country. Consistent and appropriate speed limits across the road network, as called for by the final report, will contribute to increasing road safety.
The Speed Limit Review, which is a high impact action under the Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030, makes a number of recommendations. Key proposals include:
- Default speed limit on national secondary roads to reduce from 100km/h to 80km/h.
- Default speed limit for the network of local and rural roads throughout the country to reduce from 80km/h to 60km/h.
- Default speed limit on urban roads, which include built up areas as well as housing estates and town centres, to reduce to 30km/h.
Arterial roads and radial routes around urban settings would be able to remain at 50km/h. There are no proposed changes to the default speed limits on motorways, national primary roads or regional roads contained in the review. The framework allows for some appropriate, upward variations where a road is deemed to be safe and good quality on assessment by local authorities.
There has been a remarkable transformation in safety on Irish roads in recent decades. Between 1997 and 2021, the number of annual road deaths fell from 472 to 137. This reduction was achieved despite the number of vehicles on our roads increasing significantly in the same period.
After many successful years bringing road deaths down, however, there has been an alarming increase in fatalities more recently. In the year to date, there have been 130 deaths on Irish roads–an increase of 25 compared with the same time last year. Every single death is a tragedy for the victims’ families, friends and community.
Reducing speed has been fundamentally proven to significantly reduce the risk of death or serious injury in road collisions. The World Health Organisation has estimated that a 5% reduction in average speed could result in a 30% reduction in fatal collisions. Furthermore, the evidence shows that 50% of pedestrians struck by a vehicle travelling at 60km/h will be killed, compared to 29% of pedestrians struck by a vehicle travelling at 50km/h and 5% of pedestrians struck by a vehicle travelling at 30km/h.
Speaking about the report, Minister Ryan said, “this report is being published at a critical time, when fatalities on Irish roads are increasing at an unacceptable rate and after a particularly painful period of time when we have lost too many young people and families who all set out on their journeys expecting to arrive safely. The devastation and loss is being felt right across the country and we have to take action to make our roads safer and more predictable for everyone who uses them. We committed in the Programme for Government to review and, where appropriate, reduce speed limits to address road safety issues and ensure greater compliance. The implementation of the recommendations in this report will contribute to making Irish roads safer for all road users.”
Minister Chambers said, “the marked rise in road fatalities this year has been a source of serious concern to all of us. There is no doubt that speeding is a significant contributing factor to many collisions. Implementing the recommendations from the Speed Limit Review will allow for a consistent approach to setting of speed limits across the country. The recommendations in this report will help us to achieve the Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2021–2030 goal of halving fatalities and serious injuries by 2030 and advance towards Vision Zero.” These measures need to be part of a range of initiatives to drastically improve road safety. I have met with Justice Minister Helen McEntee to discuss enforcement action on our roads. We will be ending the anomaly in our penalty points system and we’re expanding the GoSafe contract. I am also working with the Road Safety Authority so we effectively target the right cohort with our communications campaigns.”
Changes to the default speed limits will require primary legislation and it is envisaged that the necessary legislation could be passed in Q1 2024. Statutory guidelines will also be updated such that implementation of the Review’s recommendations can commence during 2024.