Lancashire takes an innovative approach to speed limit enforcement

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A child's poster asking motorists to drive slowly

A child’s poster asking motorists to drive slowly, as used by Lancashire County Council.

Lancashire County Councillor Tim Ashton is sold on the idea of 20mph as the default limit for residential areas, or ‘total 20’, as he calls it. Conveniently, he is also the Council cabinet member for highways and transport.

To tackle the assumption that speeding in residential areas is some kind of civil liberty, Councillor Ashton’s team has taken the unusual step of involving school children in the re-education of law-breaking motorists.

“One of the questions [the children] always ask is ‘is your reason for speeding more important than my life?’” said Amy Coulson from Lancashire County Council. “When there’s a little kid stood there, it really kind of hits home. We do have a lot of tears sometimes, by drivers.”

Education before prosecution

This type of intervention sits well with the police, who “would rather educate somebody before they prosecute them”, according to Road and Transport Safety Manager, Paul Binks. Soft measures are part of a campaign to win hearts and minds for total 20 and there seems to be a consensus among the council and the police that education and engagement will work for all but a hardcore of persistent offenders. Paul explained: “In Lancashire, as long as you’ve not any other speeding offences, you get the opportunity to go on a speed awareness course. We are going to get to the point where we’re going to do some enforcement in some areas, but what I wanted to make sure, in close liaison with the police, is that we’ve done all we can to try and provide education and engagement first.”

There are soft methods to persuade the majority of people, while the conventional approach is reserved for those who, for whatever reason, don’t respond. The police probably know some of them already – they hold a list of the county’s ten most prolific speeders, according to Councillor Ashton. “What we find is that people who speed in local areas actually live in those very same local areas,” he said. “You can almost class it as anti-social behaviour, and in fact the police do.”

Responding to a crisis

You may wonder what makes Lancashire so different from the rest of the country, that it should need such an intervention. Councillor Ashton had the same question when he took office in 2005. That year, the county had the worst road safety record of any in Great Britain, with 1,060 people killed or seriously injured (KSI). He claims his initiative is working because that figure has fallen year on year. In 2010, for instance, it was down to 806, according to Lancashire’s Road Traffic Collision research article, which uses DfT figures.

GMCC’s comment

Lancashire’s tactics are interesting and innovative. They’re a welcome change from the usual approach to ‘road safety’ which has targetted vulnerable road users, either through public service broadcasts designed to scare people to their senses, but which end up scaring them away from active travel altogether, or through the systematic installation of pedestrian guard-railing, or the endless promotion of hi vis.

The county seems to have realised that there have been enough road safety campaigns aimed at vulnerable road users; this latest plan is interesting because it focuses on the source of the problem, namely the motor traffic.


Councillor Ashton and his team spoke at the third regional seminar on active travel, organised by North West Active Travel Network, which GMCC attended in March 2013. The seminar also heard about Wigan’s plans for active travel in the town of Leigh, Trafford’s resurfacing of the Bridgewater Way and Poynton’s new shared space junction.


> Read about Wigan’s plans for active travel in Leigh

> Read about Trafford’s resurfacing of Bridgewater Way

> Read about Poynton’s shared space junction

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