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THE MORNING LEAD

Massive overhaul of Irish speed limits will see 30 km/h maximum on many roads

Increased driver penalties have been recommended to Government to enforce proposed speed limit changes.

 A SPEED LIMIT of 30 km/h is to be recommended for many roads across Ireland in one of the biggest overhauls of speed limits the country has ever seen.

The speed limit of 30 km/h will apply to all urban centres, residential roads, and anywhere with a lot of pedestrians or cyclists. In practice, this will include many parts of Dublin as well as town and city centres across the country. 

The recommendations are in a review of speed limits, seen by The Journal, which is to be published today by the Department of Transport.

There would be exceptions for national, regional, arterial, and key public transport routes, where it’s recommended the speed limit will be 50 km/h.

Certain ‘transitional’ routes would have limits of 60 km/h, while higher limits will still apply on motorways, some dual carriageways and other main routes. 

In rural areas, the report says default speed limits should remain as they currently are on most rural roads – but drop to 80 km/h on national secondary roads, where the limit is currently 100 km/h.

On local roads, the limit would drop from 80 km/h to 60 km/h on many routes. 

It is understood that the Government’s view is that while a reduction in speed limits will help reduce road traffic accidents, it will only be effective if introduced alongside an effective communications campaign and significant enforcement measures. 

As part of these enforcement measures, a nationwide rollout of average speed cameras and increased driver penalties will also be considered.

Expected next year 

The report was written by a working group comprising people from the NTA, the RSA, An Garda Siochána and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, among others, who were tasked with reviewing the framework for speed limits on Irish roads.

It is understood that the Government hopes to have legislation in place in the first three months of 2024 and that the new speed limits will be implemented later that year.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport Jack Chambers said the review has been carried out over the past two years.

The review’s publication comes after a number of tragic road fatalities across the country.

So far this year there have been 127 deaths on Irish roads, which is 23 more than the same period in 2022 and 38 more than the same period in 2019.

One-third of deaths this year have been people under 25. Approximately a quarter (29) were pedestrians.

Average speed cameras and enforcement

The report says that enforcement of stricter speed limits is a challenge partly because of the extensive road network.

It recommended that in order to enforce these proposed new limits, a pilot rollout of mobile average speed cameras should be implemented across the country, specifically in at-risk locations such as roadworks, schools and shared use zones.

Average speed cameras, which are currently used in the Dublin Port Tunnel, measure the time of travel by a vehicle between two points on the road and calculate the average speed. 

Used internationally for some time, average speed cameras have been successfully used in Ireland on two sections of motorway to date and have shown an improvement in safety and speed reduction, according to the report.

As well as improving safety, average speed cameras can help reduce emissions as drivers will both drive within the speed limit and at a consistent speed which has been shown to improve efficiency compared to constant acceleration and braking.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has said that the use of speed detection cameras on Irish roads will increase by 20%, with the Minister adding that she would be supportive of any measures that would “change people’s behaviour”.

Emissions

The report says that the main objective of the Speed Limit Review is to improve safety on Irish roads and reduce road deaths, with environmental considerations seen to be a co-benefit.

The relationship between the speed a vehicle is travelling and the level of greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2, that are produced is roughly ‘U-shaped’ – this means emission rates are at their highest at lower speeds and reduce as speeds increase to between 60km/h and 80km/h. After this they begin to increase again.

The report notes that as more cars are electrified over the coming years, any potential reduction in emissions associated with the speed limit changes will diminish.

It also points out that a reduction in speed limits will have a positive impact on noise pollution which has wide-ranging adverse health, social and economic effects.

It also says that the speed limit for a road is the maximum legal speed, but “not necessarily the safe speed at which a vehicle should be driven”.

The report suggests that the changes should be brought in within the next two years, beginning with the 30 km/h limit for urban roads.

In order to effectively implement the new speed limits, the report recommends that a definition of ‘built-up area’ and ‘urban area’ be set out in legislation.

There is no current definition of an urban area for the purposes of setting of speed limits, however a methodology for defining villages and small clusters was developed for the Guidelines for Setting and Managing Speed Limits.

Today’s report recommends that an updated definition should be developed for defining an Urban Area that builds upon the existing approaches.

With additional reporting by Christina Finn

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Jane Matthews and Christine Bohan
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