Welsh speed limit change: RAC urges caution relying on sat navs as controversy surrounds road speed change

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Drivers should 'pay full attention' to signs rather than electronic devices

Drivers are being advised not to rely on sat navs to determine the speed limit when limits are reduced from 30 to 20mph on Welsh roads starting this Sunday (17 September).

Following the change, the RAC has said drivers should "pay full attention" to signs rather than electronic devices.

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According to Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford, the lower speed limit will safeguard lives and save the NHS £92 million annually.

The majority of Welsh roads that are currently 30mph will be reduced to 20mph, though local councils may impose exceptions. The new signs have reportedly been vandalised in places like Conwy, Gwynedd, Newport, Torfaen, Wrexham, and Flintshire.

The Welsh Conservatives, who are opposed to the rollout, have cited Welsh Government documents that estimate the cost to the country’s economy of increased journey times from lower average vehicle speeds at anywhere between £2.7 billion and £8.9 billion.

(Photo: PA Media)(Photo: PA Media)
(Photo: PA Media) | PA Media

On Thursday (14 September), Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said having such a 20mph limit as the default for many roads is “crazy”, after acknowledging there are circumstances where it is a good idea.

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RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “It’s vitally important that drivers are fully aware of the arrival of the 20mph limit in Wales, and pay full attention to all road signage. And, until sat nav systems have been fully updated, they shouldn’t rely on them to know what the speed limit is on any particular stretch of Welsh road.”

Williams said compliance with 20mph limits is “quite poor” and it would be “more effective to target areas where they are most needed” such as on residential roads or in areas where there is high footfall.

He added: “Even if compliance with new 20mph limits is poor, it should lead to an overall reduction in speeds which will have a positive effect on road safety.”

Drakeford told BBC Breakfast: “It is a major change. It will need time to bed in. It is not a change that is being introduced in order to make life difficult for people and therefore the enforcement authorities will approach it in that way.

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“(They are) very well used to doing it, (they) enforce speed limits of all sorts in every part of Wales. The approach will be a reasonable one in which we give people a chance to get used to the new regime.

"And then, as the police say, people who flagrantly and deliberately are not prepared to obey the rules that everybody else will be following, then that will be a different matter.”

He added that there is “incontrovertible” evidence that “driving more slowly in built-up urban areas saves people’s lives”.

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