New 20mph speed limits will 'delay' response times for emergency services amid driver anger

20mph speed limit sign

The new speed limits were introduced in September

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 13/10/2023

- 15:27

The Welsh Government has been steadfast in its support of the 20mph speed limits

Fire service officers have said new 20mph speed limits could affect response times in Wales, warning that delays could be seen when attending emergencies.

Wales became the first country in the UK to introduce default 20mph speed limits on residential, restricted roads in September.

The move was met with widespread backlash from drivers and politicians, but the Government pushed ahead with the changes regardless.

The guidance on the Welsh Government website states that police, fire and ambulance services are allowed to exceed speed limits to respond to emergency calls.

WATCH NOW: Locals give their opinions on 20mph speed limit roads

The introduction of new 20mph speed limits does not change that and “should not” affect their response time.

Police forces said response times would not be affected and could even make it easier to respond with other vehicles on the road going slower.

However, Paul Jenkinson, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s head of response, said: “The reduction in speed to 20mph may cause a slight delay in our response times to incidents.

“However, given the exemption from the speed limits in law, fire appliances (engines) can go above the speed limit.”

Stuart Millington, the assistant chief officer at North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, echoed the opinion of Jenkinson.

He said: “We did provide a consultation response in relation to the 20mph response, and it was debated, and we provide information on what that would mean for reduced response times for on-call firefighters.

“Of course, whole-time firefighters have exemptions. When we are in a fire engine, we can exceed speed limits.

“But when our staff are responding from their home address or from work to the fire station, then they do have to apply to those 20mph restrictions.

“So we did provide feedback and make our representations, but ultimately we have to apply the law.”

The backlash to the law changes has been clear with a petition calling for the speed limits to be removed attracting more than 460,000 signatures.

This makes it the most signed petition on the Welsh Parliament website in history and smashed past the 10,000-signature benchmark needed for the Petitions Committee to consider a debate.

The creator of the petition, Mark Baker, claimed the law would cause “absolute carnage on the roads”.

Estimates show that the lower speed limit could result in 40 per cent fewer collisions and save between six and 10 lives a year.

According to police data, 51 per cent of collisions happened on 30mph roads in 2022, with 20mph roads in London seeing a huge drop in accidents.


20mph speed limit sign

More than 460,000 drivers have signed a petition calling for a speed limit U-turn


A person is around five times more likely to be killed when hit by a vehicle travelling at 30mph than they are from a vehicle travelling at 20mph.

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