Councils should be given far more freedom to impose 20mph speed limits to cut the number of deaths on Britain’s streets, an influential Commons committee said.
MPs including Mark Pritchard (Con The Wrekin) attacked the “scandal of complacency” which led to 3,000 road deaths each year.
They called on the Government to let councils impose lower limits and traffic calming in residential areas, near schools or in shopping centres.
The demand came in a report published by the Transport Select Committee, following a three-month inquiry into road safety.
In a new report, the committee said go-slow zones were common in parts of Germany, but Britain lagged.
The MPs said: “Ways must be found to satisfy the desire of local communities for safer streets. We recommend local authorities be given the powers and resources to introduce 20-mph limits much more widely.”
They said they were concerned the number of people suffering serious injury on roads was significantly higher than official figures.
Calling for a review of the gathering of road casualty statistics, the report said: “There is a significant body of evidence the methods for recording road-traffic injuries are flawed.”
The committee said it was particularly concerned about the high accident rates among male drivers, younger drivers and on rural roads, and expressed deep concern about the continuing links between poverty and road deaths.
It recommended the drink-drive limit be lowered, roadside breath test devices approved and tougher penalties for alcohol-related offences.
The death toll on the roads should be seen as “the major public health problem of our age”, said the committee’s chairman, Louise Ellman MP.
She said: “The number of deaths and injuries on our roads far outweighs the deaths and injuries in other transport modes or work-related accidents. We need to start seeing this not only as a collection of individual tragedies but as the major public health problem of our age. The deaths of three thousand people and injuries to a quarter of a million are a staggering annual toll for mobility.”
Motorists’ assocation the AA backed tougher speed limits, but urged the Government to introduce reforms slowly.
Andrew Howard, the AA’s head of road safety, said: “Although we agree with the committee’s view new measures, new initiatives and a new framework for targets are needed to reduce Britain’s road death toll, these should not be imposed without public understanding and approval.It is also essential there are adequate police resources to make them meaningful and respected.
“Residential 20mph zones are a case in point: people need to appreciate the value of them in their own and neighbouring residential streets, before there is wide use on busier through roads in towns and cities. So we should let residential cul-de-sacs become 20mph zones now.”