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Celebrating the health benefits of the new 20 mph speed limit

Published: 18 September 2023

As a new week of school and work begins with a 20 mph speed limit in place, public health experts are welcoming the health benefits it will bring. Evidence shows that not only will 20mph reduce the risk of traffic crashes, it can also help people feel safer to walk and cycle more. That in turn will improve people’s physical health by helping to fight obesity and improve their mental well-being.

It’s hoped that in the long term, it will reduce the number of vehicles on the road, resulting in less damage to the environment and improve air quality. Swapping car journeys for active travel will also make local shops and businesses more viable.

The switch from 30mph to 20mph doesn’t make a significant difference to journey times; the increase in journey time for urban travel is just 17 seconds per mile and could be less in rural areas.

Dr Sarah J Jones, Consultant in Environmental Public Health at Public Health Wales said; “Travelling at 20 mph has been shown to reduce the risk of crashing and the severity of crashes that do still happen. It also produces less noise pollution and reduces fuel consumption. It encourages people to walk and cycle, helping to fight obesity and improve mental well-being. All of these are likely to contribute to improvements in health and reduction in the demands for health services.”