Wales Figured Out a Very Easy Way to Make Driving Safer

States and cities in the U.S. are exploring something similar

Driving in Cardiff
Slower driving often means safer driving.
Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

It’s been 40 years since Sammy Hagar released the single “I Can’t Drive 55,” which chronicled his principled objections to the 55 mph speed limit. To the best of our knowledge, Hagar has not yet written an ode to driving through Wales, but recent events might prompt him to change that — and prompt him figure out what type of vehicular activity rhymes with “20.”

Late last year, Wales implemented a 20 mph speed limit by default on what are known as “restricted roads,” which can generally be found in residential areas. Now, some data has emerged about the results of that policy — and, shockingly enough, it appears to have made those roads safer. As Sarah Butler reported at The Guardian, the U.K.-based insurance company Esure saw a drop in claims once the lower speed limit went into effect.

“During a time when we usually see [vehicle damage] claims rise, they dropped and have continued to do so in the first quarter of 2024,” Esure’s head of motor vehicle underwriting, Rob Clark, told The Guardian. “The restriction is clearly having an impact.”

Wales isn’t the only area that’s explored the idea of lowering residential speed limits. Earlier this year, Vox’s Marin Cogin wrote about the growing international movement towards a 20 mph speed limit. Among the locations cited in Cogin’s article were New York, Oakland and Washington, D.C.

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That isn’t to say that these measures are universally beloved. The Guardian pointed out that in Wales, Conservatives have campaigned on rolling back some of the speed limit changes. Vox’s reporting on the movement for slower speed limits found New York’s implementation of a similar law took nearly a decade. It’s worth noting, though, that some lawmakers have retained the ability to lower speed limits even further; New York’s implementation of the law could lead to speed limits dropping to 10 mph on some streets.

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