BLACKBURN with Darwen's top health expert is calling for a 20mph speed limit on the borough's roads to save lives.

Dominic Harrison, director of public health at the newly formed NHS Blackburn with Darwen Teaching Care Trust Plus, hopes to gain 'a public and political consensus' for declaring a ‘20mph borough’ through a debate.

He is suggesting the speed limit should be reduced from a default 30mph to a default 20mph on as many urban roads as possible, including residential areas and around schools.

Mr Harrison said the exception would be main or arterial routes into the town such as Barbara Castle Way, Bolton Road and Whalley New Road.

He said the current road system was 'producing child death and injury that is unfair, unjust, unethical, predicable and preventable'.

Mr Harrison said he estimated that introducing a 20mph limit could lead to approximately 2,000 fewer accidents over three years and 50 fewer deaths over a 10-year period.

He said: “If you look at figures from 2008-09 you find that despite the fact that many people are most concerned with injuries from child abuse or neglect, twice as many children are killed by cars and motor vehicles.

“People may be surprised by that, but what it shows is perhaps that some of our concerns are not directed to the areas where most deaths are occurring.

“I think the figures are so powerful that the question is really 'how many kids do you think it is okay to be allowed to be killed by the road traffic system?"

Research shows that the potential of death or serious injury for a pedestrian colliding with a vehicle drops massively when the speed of the vehicle is reduced from 30mph to 20mph, falling from a 50 per cent chance of death to around five per cent.

A 20mph limit in urban areas was put in place in Portsmouth in 2007. It has had mixed results so far, with some problems due to policing.

But Mr Harrison said he believed in 'compliance over enforcement' and said the scheme would only be a success if people wanted to adhere to it, rather than being forced to slow down by police and measures such as speed cameras and road humps.

A borough council spokesman said plans for a 20mph restriction would require thorough consultation with the public and other agencies.

He said: “These ideas are at an early stage so if they do become more than that the public will be the first to be asked for their views.”

Coun Alan Cottam, executive member for highways, said he was 'quite supportive in principle' but wouldn't subscribe to a 'blanket' ruling.

Coun Andy Kay, opposition member for highways, said a new limit would be difficult to enforce without traffic calming measures.

But he said: “We do need to have this conversation."

Alan Whipp, course co-ordinator of the East Lancashire branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said he agreed with the sentiment but that a ‘blanket’ measure 'would not work'.

He said: “It's completely unenforceable."

Nigel Humphries, of the Association of British Drivers, criticised the suggestion and said it was more important that people watched the road ahead of them and changed their speed accordingly than adhere to one particular speed.