More than 80 per cent of drivers ignore 20mph speed limits, shocking findings from statistics released by the Department of Transport show.

The reduced limits were introduced at 250 high-risk locations around the UK during the 1990s, typically near schools and in residential areas. However, motoring groups say that while these original zones were only imposed in places where a need has been identified by local communities, this requirement was lifted in 1999. Since then, a further 200 such zones have appeared without any local consultation taking place.

Reducing fatalities

The rationale behind 20mph zones is a compelling one. Research indicates that a pedestrian struck by a car travelling at 20mph has a 98 per cent chance of survival. At 30mph, this reduces to 80 per cent, and at 40mph, it plummets to five per cent.

The right balance

Luke Bosdet, an AA spokesman, commented that the main objective of the 20mph limits when first introduced was to get everyone driving through the highest-risk residential areas at less than 30mph. In that sense, the initiative was a success, but imposing the reduced speed limits in too many locations could do more harm than good.

Mr Bosdet said: “If local residents want them, they should get them, but the big question is whether they are being consulted. If they’re not, you’re not going to get adherence.”

Speeding trends

The lack of adherence to the 20mph limits runs contrary to a broader trend, which shows that fewer motorists are breaking speed limits on the whole. Only ten per cent of motorists exceed motorway speed limits by 10mph or more, and just one per cent by 20mph.

However, it is in residential areas that speeding is more of a problem, with more than half of drivers breaking 30mph speed limits. 

Most drivers ignore 20mph speed limits