Surrey County Council has announced a UK first. It plans to pilot speed limits of 20mph and 30mph on roads that were previously 60mph.
It believes the default speed limit of 60mph is often inappropriate for many rural roads.
The county’s pilot area covers 80 square miles south of a line from Guildford to Dorking.
Rural roads have long been seen as the country’s most dangerous. However, most country roads still have a default 60mph limit, which has remained in place since 1977.
But these types of roads often present the dangerous conditions. Difficult corners, the prospect of high speed head-on collisions, a lack of passive safety and obstacles such as trees at the side of the road are cited as common issues.
In total, rural roads have an annual toll of about 10,000 deaths and serious injuries among motorists, cyclists and walkers.
It is also claimed most road deaths (57%) in Britain, despite accounting for 43% of traffic.
Up until now, most speed reduction trials had seen 30mph roads become 20mph rather than tackle the acute problem of 60mph rural routes.
However the Surrey trial comes after local government directors through ADEPT criticised the 60mph national speed limit on single carriageway rural roads, stating it was ‘of particular concern’.
Matt Furniss is a Surrey County Council cabinet member for transport, infrastructure and economy. ‘This project is an important opportunity for us to improve the safety of our rural roads in the south and southwest of Surrey,” says Matt. He believes it will “ensure that the most appropriate speed limit is applied to each”.
He describes the current national speed limit as “inappropriate for these types of roads”.
“Evidence suggests that implementing lower speed limits should reduce the number and severity of road collisions, whilst also helping to support our active travel programme, improve air quality, and address concerns over excessive vehicle noise.’”
At present there are no details of when the trial would begin.