Speed Limits Review body publishes report & recommends new appeals system

Speed Limit Review 4
• 80kmh signs on narrow country roads will be removed
• New ‘rural speed limit’ signs will be introduced to replace them
• New appeals mechanism for inappropriate speed limits
• Every speed limit will be audited every five years
• ‘Silly signs’ which may encourage inappropriate speeds will be removed
• Road work speed restrictions will be limited to construction period
• Variable speed limits, average speed detection, and in-car satnav speed warnings will be piloted

The Speed Limits Working Group has published its recommendations to reform the speed limit system and ensure that every speed limit in Ireland is both safe and sensible.

It recommends a new appeals mechanism for inconsistent speed limits, the removal of misleading 80kmh speed limits on narrow country roads, and the end of ‘silly signs’ in inappropriate locations. Every speed limit in the country will be audited every five years by the National Roads Authority or the local authority, and speed limit guidelines will become binding. The goal is to ensure that the speed limit on any given road is a fair reflection of the road conditions.

The Working Group was set up by Minister Varadkar and asked to address inconsistencies in Ireland’s speed limits, which can vary significantly between roads and counties, and even on the same stretch of road. It was also asked to find the most appropriate speed limit for country lanes, which currently have a default limit of 80kmh, regardless of road condition.

“I set up this Working Group to ensure that speed restrictions everywhere are both safe and sensible. Everyone has come across speed limits which are either too high or too low, and which don’t seem to make sense,” Minister Varadkar said.

“This detailed report sets out a new approach, and the Department will now work with the NRA, local authorities, the Gardaí, and the AA to implement its recommendations. I also want to thank the Working Group for producing such a comprehensive study. If people are going to respect speed limits, then we need to ensure that speed limits respect the motorist. But we must also ensure that every limit is safe and sensible.”

Conor Faughnan of the AA said: “Irish Motorists have been hugely supportive of road safety policy in recent years. AA members are continually telling us that they support speed enforcement but that many speed limits across the country are set incorrectly. The updated policy announced today is a huge step forward in addressing those anomalies. It will allow for a consistent and rational approach across the entire network which is very necessary and very welcome.”

Summary of report’s recommendations

• A new Appeals System will be put in place to address inconsistent speed limits. This will allow interested parties or members of the public to appeal a given speed limit to the local authority. The authority must consider the issue within a given timeframe. If dissatisfied with the local authority response, the appeal can be escalated to a review body. This will comprise an independent board of experts and would meet regularly to assess individual cases. That body will assess the speed limit against the requirements of the Guidelines for the Application of Speed Limits, and will be empowered to instruct a local authority to change a speed limit if it is found to be inappropriate.

• 80 kmh signs on narrow rural roads will be replaced with a generic sign that does not display a numeral. The limit will remain at 80kmh but the new sign will be the ‘black circle with diagonal’ which is in use internationally under the Vienna signage convention and which was used in Ireland prior to 2004. That sign means that the driver must use their own judgement but must never exceed 80kmh in any event.

• The Road Safety Authority will run an awareness campaign on the new rural speed limit signs, and other measures, and will update the Rules of the Road.

• The National Roads Authority and local authorities will review and update speed limits on a five year cycle to ensure appropriate fit and compliance with the Guidelines. The Department of Transport is currently mapping every speed limit in the country on to a computer database.

• So-called ‘silly signs’ – such as a 100kmh speed limit on a dangerous corner where a lower speed would be more appropriate – will be removed. Inappropriate ‘repeater’ signs are already being removed.

• The Guidelines for the Application of Speed Limits will be improved and made binding.

• A voluntary pilot of in-car speed warnings, where drivers can choose to be warned by their satnav system if they exceed the speed limit, will be offered to motorists.

• Trials will be run of variable speed limits which can be adjusted according to weather conditions, the volume of traffic, the time of day, or the day of the week.

• Average speed limits will be introduced on motorways or other long-distance fixed roads to determine whether a vehicle has driven faster than the maximum speed limit over a given length of road.

• The rules for the setting of temporary speed limits to allow for road works will be updated. This will allow City and County Managers to apply speed limits at road works more responsively, and flexibly – for example to apply lower limits only while works are underway.

• The Department of Transport will appoint an existing official to oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations.