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Will lowering the speed limit save lives?

I notice that the government is looking at reducing the speed limits in an attempt to reduce the number of deaths on the road (see BBC News: Plans to cut traffic speed limits).

Whilst the aims are laudable, will the measures they suggest actually make much difference? There are many roads which I consider dangerous (some of which I’ve seen several accidents on others I’ve seen extremely dangerous driving), but it’s not because they have high speed limits. The roads I’m thinking off all have 30mph speed limits; the problem is that people drive well above those speed limits.

I also know roads that have had their speed limits cut after fatal accidents, but I don’t believe those accidents were due to the speed limit of the road, but due either to driving far in excess of the speed limit that was in place or through inappropriate driving.

I welcome the suggestion of 20mph zones in built-up areas, near schools and playgrounds etc. but that will only reduce the risks where drivers slow down below those speed limits. The idiots that drive at 60mph in a 30 zone will still pose as much risk if the zone is dropped to 20mph.

On one particular location the speed limit drops from national to 40mph, then later to 30mph. As well as the normal 30mph signs there is a 30mph written on the road, a caution children crossing sign, a caution school sign, a caution pedestrian crossing sign, an active flashing 30mph sign, a reminder 30mph sign, flashing beacons on the crossing, and yet still lots of drivers would be unable to stop if a child stepped out onto the crossing that pedestrians have right-of-way on. Clearly these drivers have no regard for the risks they are placing these young children in (nursery and primary school).

I’m not really a fan of speed cameras. Cameras are used to indiscriminately prosecute people for driving a little over the speed limit, where the dangerous drivers get away with it because they know where the speed cameras are. I can think of places where speed cameras would be useful, but more often they appear to be placed where they will catch drivers out, rather than actually making it safer for road users and more importantly for pedestrians.

For example I know of mobile camera sites on a 70mph 3-lane A-road where the majority of drivers are within about 10mph of the speed limit (about 14% over the speed limit). This appears to be far less dangerous than a 30mph road outside a school with a pedestrian crossing where drivers fly past at 40 to 50mph (30 to 60% over the speed limit), which as far as I know has never had a speed camera positioned there.

To tackle the dangers on the road needs driver education, and prosecuting the individuals that are a menace to pedestrians and other road users, not just installing more signs that these dangerous drivers can ignore.