The UK Department of Transport (DfT) has proposed cutting speed limits and overhauling driver training and testing processes in a major push to curb the death toll on Britain’s roads.

By 2020 the government plans to reduce the number of road collision fatalities by 33%; the number of serious injuries by 33% and the number of children killed or injured by 50%.

The new measures to reach these targets will ensure that all roads have the right speed limit recommended by local authorities and could include 20mph limits in around schools and in residential areas to protect cyclists.

Speed limits on single carriageway rural roads will also be reviewed.

Alongside changes to speed limits the UK DfT is also changing the driver training and testing procedures by adding a road safety qualification and improving the theory and practical tests.

Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said that although improvements had been made it was intolerable that eight people where still dying on the road every day.

“We want to make Britain’s roads the safest in the world. That will mean improving vehicles and the road network as well as helping drivers and other road users to be as safe as possible,” Fitzpatrick said.

Other proposals published today in the DfT’s draft road safety strategy for 2010-2020 – A Safer Way: Consultation on Making Britain’s Roads the Safest in the World include:

* A new independent expert panel to identify issues and trends from fatal accidents and provide an annual report on road safety to Ministers and Parliament.

* Roll out of a new voluntary pre-driver qualification in safe road use for 14-17-year-olds. Successful completion will provide a partial credit for the theory test, allowing learner car drivers to take an abridged test from October this year.

* Introduce case studies into the theory test to better assess whether learners have understood driving or riding theory, also from this October.

* Develop a new vocational qualification for van drivers, helping them to enhance the skills they need to drive for work.

* Improve the practical test by introducing an assessment of a candidate’s ability to drive independently without detailed instructions from the examiner, as well as requiring the supervising driver to accompany the candidate during the test to help unsuccessful candidates understand feedback.

* Improve the content of the Pass Plus scheme to maximise both take up and the incentives offered by insurers to drivers who complete the scheme.

* Launch a trial of the new Learning to Drive syllabus, which sets out all the aspects of driving that are needed to be a safe driver.

* Bring forward proposals to modernise driver training including providing learners with more information to help them to choose an instructor.

By Daniel Garrun.