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Road traffic accidents are the largest cause of serious injury in children

Credit: Matthew Horwood

“It’s simple, slower speeds save lives! Every year in Wales we see the devastating impacts road traffic collisions have on children and their families. They are the biggest single cause of serious injury in children who are typically walking or cycling.”

Those were the words from University Hospital of Wales’ Paediatric Emergency Consultant, Dr David Hanna. He was speaking to the Chief Medical Officer for Wales during a visit to the hospital, ahead of the introduction of a 20mph default speed limit on restricted roads across Wales from Sunday 17 September.

Twenty people are killed or seriously injured on Welsh roads every week, according to the latest police recorded collision data. That’s more than 1,000 lives lost or seriously affected by collisions every year, with huge impacts on their families and friends.

International evidence also shows that on average, a person is around five times more likely to be killed when hit by a vehicle travelling at 30mph compared to 20mph.

Credit: Matthew Horwood

And, according to Dr Hanna children are at more risk than adults. He added:

“Children have less road awareness than adults and can be difficult to see. They also tend to be struck higher on the body than adults due to their smaller height, and more likely to suffer severe injuries as a result. So, the 20mph limit will help reduce the number of collisions and severity of injuries.”

Speaking at the visit to the Emergency Unit at the UHW, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Frank Atherton said:

“We’re now just over a month away from the biggest change in community safety we have seen in Wales for a generation. Reducing speeds not only saves lives, but helps us to build stronger, safer communities.

“Evidence from across the world shows that vehicle speed is one of the main reasons why people do not walk or cycle, with one in three Welsh adults saying that 20mph would increase their likelihood to walk or cycle more.

“So, not only will slower speeds save lives and reduce injuries, it will also help to keep people healthier and reduce the burden on the NHS.

Dr Sarah Jones, Consultant in Environment Public Health, Public Health Wales added:

“Making the change from 30mph to 20mph could result in 40% fewer collisions every year, with 6 to 10 lives saved and between 1200 to 2000 people avoiding injury. In casualty prevention this would save an estimated £92m in the first year alone.”