The government minister in charge of the Isle of Man’s roads is seeking legal advice after the coroner of inquests suggested that the absence of a national speed limit could contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.
As iomtoday reported earlier this week, Coroner John Needham was speaking at the inquest of motorcyclist Davy Jones who died a year ago after hitting a stationary bin lorry at the end of the Cronk-y-Voddy straight.
Mr Needham described the island’s government as having a ‘permissive attitude in choosing to have no speed limit on certain roads’ and added it could be failing in its duty to protect the lives of its citizens and visitors under Article Two of the European Convention on Human Rights.
He said director of highways Richard Pearson said it was a political decision following public consultation in 2006 which was against the advice of the police and officers of the highways department.
‘As coroner at previous inquests I have resisted entering into the political decision regarding a national speed limit for the Isle of Man. However the facts of this case are sufficiently stark such that I am duty bound to raise the issue that a lack of a national speed limit appears to be a policy of Government which is putting innocent lives at unacceptable risk.
‘That decision is for the politicians but I am duty-bound to raise the issue.
‘I also raise the point that a decision may be unpopular but ultimately the state has to act responsibly in a grown-up fashion to protect all people sometimes from risks that they wish to impose upon themselves,’ he said.
Infrastructure Minister David Cretney said he had no plans to introduce a national speed limit or re-open public consultation.
‘My department regularly and systematically reviews road safety and implements measures which are targeted, practicable and evidence-based,’ Mr Cretney said.
He added his department believed imposing limits on all roads, which the police considered could not be easily enforced and which consultation suggested were not supported by the most people, would not produce improvements in road safety.
He said statistics suggested driver error was to blame for 70 per cent of collisions. Other factors were dangerous driving and inappropriate use of speed. Hence, he said, resources focused on prevention education and enforcement.
He added his department was committed to improving road safety and ran a comprehensive programme of safety and education campaigns, responding to trends in recorded road accidents.
Outside towns and villages, the island has few speed limits. In the UK, the national limit is 70mph on motorways and dual carriageways and 60mph elsewhere. So if the island followed the UK, it would have a 60mph national limit.