Despite the initial outcry about the new default 20mph limit across Wales, it appears to be working.

Most motorists are still keeping to the new speed limit according to reports by the BBC.

However, there appears to have been a slight “bounce-back” after initial dramatic drop in speed when the limit came in.

Success of sorts

Independent transport consultants Agilysis went back to two sample routes in Cardiff and Wrexham a month on. It found speeds had dropped by 2.3mph.

However, in the first week there was a recorded a fall of 3.1mph, though this was a wider study.

The analysis involved TomTom data covering about 10,000 vehicle movements over one week along B4487 Newport Road in Cardiff and A5152 Chester Road in Wrexham.

In the first week, a much larger sample of nearly 30 million vehicle movements in Wales  took place.

It also showed speeds of the fastest drivers – the top 15% – dropped by 4.9mph after the first week but this has now reduced to  3.8mph in the more recent study.

The original research compared speeds before and after the new limit came in.

Keeping up the slow down

Richard Owen, chief executive officer of Agilysis and the report’s author, said: “The evidence on this smaller sample of roads indicates there is no room for complacency.

“Although the majority of motorists are sticking to the limit, there will be concerns about the minority who haven’t adjusted their speed choices enough.

“Understanding which roads are seeing lower levels of compliance could be critical in targeting education and enforcement to achieve better compliance.”

Watching the figures

Officially, there is no expectation that figures on vehicle speeds will be published before spring 2024.

Meanwhile, updated data from pilot areas is likely to be put out later this year.

Whilst the policy change was essentially agreed by all parties in the lead up to the change, the launch brought about some public protests, including a huge petition.

The Welsh Conservatives say that while they were in favour of a 20mph limit outside schools, hospitals and care homes, they did not believe a  “blanket rollout” was necessary. It has since described it as “disastrous, frankly ludicrous and a war on motorists”. This also coincided with the UK Conservative government announcing new policy aims in support of motorists as they begin to set themselves up for a likely general election next year.

Welsh government spokespersons are insisting the impact on journey times will be “small”.

Whats more, the change in limits has been strongly supported by organisations ranging from Friends of the Earth Cymru and Action for Children, to Sustrans Cymru


Stopping distances

Reducing road dangers

A 20mph national speed limit i likely to reduce road collisions, road deaths, noise and pollution. It is also believed to encourage more people to walk or cycle.

Latest official figures show more people were killed or seriously injured in 30mph zones in Wales last year than at any other speed limit.

Of the 1,014 people killed or severely hurt on Welsh roads in 2022, more than 40% (421) were hit on a 30mph stretch of road.

Of the 22,000 miles (35,171 km) of road in Wales, an estimated 7,700 miles (12,500 km) has changed from 30mph to 20mph.

But about 3% of 30mph roads have exemptions, after applications by local councils.