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Most motorists 'don’t want' 20mph zones

Drivers are against the idea of a blanket 20mph speed limit on urban roads, according to research published by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).

Half of drivers from the UK are against a blanket 20mph speed limit with under a third willing to embrace the idea and a fifth are undecided.  Male drivers are more likely to be against the idea than female. 

The report counters research from Brake last month, which said eight in ten drivers were in favour of the schemes.

Fifty-five per cent of young drivers were against 20mph zones as a speed limit for towns while thirty-four per cent of older drivers were in favour.

Drivers are very supportive of lower speed limits outside schools, with ninety-four per cent of respondents agreeing that this would be a good idea. Areas with high numbers of pedestrians such as parks (34 per cent), hospitals and shops were the next most popular with 21 per cent of drivers in favour.  Only eight per cent of respondents opted for 20 mph near cycle lanes.

Over three quarters of drivers believe that 20mph speed limits help to increase safety for pedestrians; however, only a fifth saw it as a positive advantage for cyclists.  Pollution and noise were not seen as important benefits.

Using 20mph speed limit signs only to enforce lower limits was twice as popular as physical traffic calming measures and three times more popular than the use of speed cameras. Only a fifth of drivers think enforcing 20 limits should be a police priority.

Sixty-eight per cent of drivers would like to see a specially tailored re-education course for drivers caught doing up to 30mph in a 20mph zone.

There is a difference between speed limits and zones.  Councils have the power to introduce 20 mph speed limits and zones without obtaining consent from the Secretary of State. 

Speed zones are a collection of streets with a 20 mph limit whereas speed limits are set for individual roads. Some local authorities have set 20 mph speed limits on a number of individual roads so creating blanket coverage of residential areas with a 20 mph speed limit.

20 mph speed limits can be introduced without any form of traffic calming. In many areas they are being used across the whole area. Whilst not as effective as 20mph speed zones they can still produce significant lowering of speeds over a wide area for very little cost. Compliance is increased by publicity, driver awareness and community involvement. This can and does play a large part in self-enforcement.

IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “Drivers are not as negative about 20mph speed limits as many commentators would have us believe.  Those responding to our survey found it quite easy to stick to 20 and there is large scale support for 20mph outside schools.” 

“However, most drivers don’t want 30mph zones to be replaced with 20mph in towns.  Many drivers still need to be convinced it would be a benefit.  Re-education is also much more popular than prosecution.  The total number of under 16s involved in accidents between school rush hours in the morning and afternoon is 6,106.  Good design and widespread consultation is the key to the successful use of 20mph zones as a road safety tool because limits that match the road environment enforce themselves.”

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  • Andy Titterton - 16/05/2014 11:50

    Living in a village of some 170 or so speed humps, the last thing I want is to compound the problem with a 20mph limit as well. If our council have members educated enough to be able to read the article, it will be an almost certain thing! On a serious note, my limitation on a 20mph limit would be no more than about 500 yards either side of school gates. 20mph is a very low limit, and my opinion is that if someone isn't intelligent enough to be prepared to slow down near marked or obvious danger spots, they shouldn't be driving. A 20mph limit shouldn't be needed, but it seems to be a way of authorities being seen to be doing something.

  • GrumpyOldMen - 16/05/2014 11:50

    This makes a lot more sense than the Brake survey. Turkeys voting for Christmas? Zones are a great idea and allow sensible deployment as opposed to a blanket "no-hopscotch" approach. Still don't get why Humpsville council decided to build a seconday school on a 6-lane (soon to be 4-lane) main artery. Make that 20 and see what reaction you get. Mind you, with just 4 lanes, 20 in rush hour will be optimistic so I guess they might. Maybe that's the plan.

  • Village Speedwatch Coordinator - 16/05/2014 12:29

    I suspect that the reason that most drivers don't want 30 mph zones to be replaced with 20 mph zones is that they already struggle to drive within the current 30mph limit! In my village there are some that struggle to drive below 60 mph in the 30 mph limit and many more between 40 - 50 mph. Where reduced limits are warranted (outside a school) they should be more rigorously enforced. The problem with adopting a "commonsense" approach is that many drivers don't have any, in my experience... For the record, of the 500 or so drivers that have been captured speeding in my local area in the past few months, the clear majority have been women - I have all the statistics if anyone can make use of them?

  • Mark - 16/05/2014 12:36

    We don't need speed humps anyway to slow you down and wear out your suspension. With the state of our roads nowadays there already enough potholes to slow you down and damage your car at the same time.

  • Rob - 16/05/2014 13:18

    Unfortunately I think just applying a 20 mph restriction is not enough. About 1 month ago a road near where I live was made into a 20 zone. It is a narrow road used by commuters as a short cut and there is a school with inconsiderate parents double parking and even parking on the zig zag lines. For some reason the commuters think it is ok to speed on this road, so the Council changed it to a 20 mph. It hasn't made any difference, people ignore the 20 mph restriction and still speed. We are talking at least 40 mph near a school, which in my view isn't acceptable. If people can't adhere to speed limits or use common sense then speed bumps and/or cameras seems to be the only solution. I don't want that but it is better than a kid being killed.

  • Adam L Smith - 16/05/2014 17:16

    I think go for it, what is it going to take to get into our thick heads that some areas in the uk need the speed limit lowering becuase some idiots ruin it for everyone else, only until we kill someone or cause a drastic change to someones life, we then may change our own personal minds on this or what if something has happened to your family? Read this article again after it really effects you and you will have a different answer, we all are quick to moan at something but never man enough to shut up and take responsibilty, stop moaning, you will still get to your destination.

  • Bern Meister - 16/05/2014 17:28

    Reducing speed to 20mph where needed sounds like a good idea. Criminalizing the motorist in a place where no crime previously existed does not sound like a good idea. The continual adding of rules and regulations to everyday life will eventually clog life to a standstill!

  • Brian Steer - 16/05/2014 20:03

    I think most drivers are not aware of speed limits, either tailgating or overtaking in or just before the 20 zone ends! They are in a hurry to get to their funerals!

  • DriveawayRay - 18/05/2014 08:57

    It has to be remembered that speed limits are not a target and driving should always be appropriate to the road and the conditions. Changing the speed limits to 20mph regardless of the road is mindless. There will be occasions where 20mph will be too fast and likewise there will be many where it will be too slow. All this is doing is to frustrate the driver and cause more danger.

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