Cutting the speed limit to 20mph in residential streets would be the cheapest way to save lives, the MSP behind the plan has argued.
Giving evidence on his Bill, Mark Ruskell faced questions about the “enormous cost” of forcing councils to reduce the default speed limit, but said that it was the most cost-effective way to protect children, pedestrians and cyclists.
The Scottish Green MSP told the Rural Economy Committee that the human cost of collisions should be considered as well as the financial burden on local authorities.
Recounting how a child at his school died after being hit by a car on the street outside his house, Mr Ruskell said: “The impact on the whole school community and the family was huge and it stays with me to this day.
“If you look at not just the impact of fatalities but the impacts of severe injuries as well, the lifetime costs in terms of care but also the impacts of near misses.”
Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles said that the cost for Edinburgh to implement the 20mph speed limit was almost £1 million and added: “It will cost rural councils a hugely-disproportionate amount of money to implement this.
“It will be an enormous cost.”
Mr Ruskell argued that there is a rural weighting in his bill to help local authorities and suggested: “the Scottish Government could equalise some of those costs.”
“A low-cost intervention is to reduce the speed limit to 20mph,” he said, adding: “Reduce speed from 30 to 20mph and that’ll result in a modest, but substantial, reduction of speeding casualties.”
He described the current situation, where some councils have reduced the speed limit in certain areas, as “piecemeal and confusing for drivers”.
He added: “There is a clear opportunity here for Scotland to take the lead – as we’ve already achieved on the public smoking ban – and make a public health intervention that will make our streets safer for generations to come.”
The Bill would cut the limit on restricted routes – those with street lighting
which are not classed as either A or B roads, but MSPs highlighted some confusion with the proposal.
Conservative MSP Jamie Greene said: “No one has been able to answer some basic questions such as how many restricted roads are there in Scotland, what is the total mileage of those, what percentage of roads are restricted roads?”
Mr Ruskell replied: “This is a question that needs to be answered at a local level.”