Calls to reduce national speed limit on East Sussex’s unclassified roads

Calls have been made to reduce the national 60mph speed limit on East Sussex’s unclassified roads.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 2:25 pm

East Sussex County Council’s road safety team secured Public Health funding to address the high number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) on the county’s roads.

A programme has been testing the effectiveness of a variety of behavioural interventions to reduce KSIs within identified priority groups supported by the Behavioural Insights Team also known as the ‘nudge unit’.

Evidence indicated that the vast majority of KSIs and more than 90 per cent of collisions result from driver carelessness or error.

National speed limit sign

Behaviour change initiatives have been developed alongside a trial to improve road safety through targeted infrastructure and speed management schemes at high risk sites.

Members of the council’s place scrutiny committee were given an update on this work on Wednesday (March 17).

Three of the trials are intended to reduce both the severity and overall rate of re-offending.

The first saw an amended Notice of Intended Prosecution (NiP) letter and accompanying leaflet sent to a cohort of people caught speeding over a 12 month period using behavioural insight techniques.

Another ‘anniversary pilot’ saw drivers who had received at least one speed offence in the past three years sent a one-off letter designed to remind them of their offence and encouraged them to drive more safely in the future.

Analysis of the Operation Crackdown trial is due in the coming months.

Two further trials targeting motorcyclists and young drivers had to be postponed due to Covid.

The high risk sites trial has made physical changes to the way roads appear to drivers at certain sites, to test how this changes their behaviour.

Nick Skelton, assistant director for communities, said the amended NiP and leaflet had reduced re-offending, while the preliminary results from the high risk sites trial had shown a significant reduction in the average number of crashes and casualties with work still ongoing.

Chris Dowling (Con, Uckfield South with Framfield) said the popular perception when he talked to parish councils was the only factor in causing accidents was speed.  But he said this was only one alongside drugs, alcohol, or driver error.

He added: “We need to try to explain to the public and those who ask questions, yes speed is an issue but it’s not the only issue.”

Mr Skelton explained how research showed how many crashes occur when people are close to their homes and ‘automatic pilot switches on and that’s when accidents can happen’.

Work with the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership would continue, especially around education, engineering and enforcement. He also felt technology would have a role to play in the future as more insurers offer phone apps that increase or decrease premiums based on how well people drive.

At Wednesday’s meeting, John Barnes (Con, Rother North West) said it was ‘absurd’ their unclassified roads fell under the national speed limit of 60mph.

He asked if they could lobby through the Local Government Association for a blanket reduction to 40mph.

Bob Bowdler (Con, Hailsham Market), chair of the place scrutiny committee, said: “Wouldn’t it be great if East Sussex could lead a change to reduce that nationally?”