Motorists give green light to 20mph school zones

An overwhelming majority of drivers (94%) agree there should be restricted 20mph zones outside schools. While reduced speed limits outside schools proved popular, a blanket 20mph in place of the current 30mph speed limit didn’t meet with quite as much approval. Here’s the findings in detail…

Slow down for schools

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The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, asked 1,001 motorists for their opinions on 20mph speed limits and road safety. Motorists were asked which areas they thought should be a priority for 20mph zones – and both males and females unequivocally agreed the most appropriate area for a 20mph zones would be ‘near schools’. When it was suggested that all current 30mph zones should be replaced with a new 20mph speed limit, however, motorists weren’t quite as keen on the idea…

No go to 20mph zones

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20mph zones are commonplace across the UK and some councils and road safety campaigners are now calling for the current 30mph urban speed limit to be replaced by a 20mph limit - but of the 1,001 motorists questioned, the majority were broadly against this idea. The majority of males (53%) and just under half of females (47%) disagreed with the plans – figures which bear out the results of a poll MoneySuperMarket conducted last year, which found almost a third (31.6%) of motorists were not in favour of permanent lower speed restrictions. The IAM study also found it was predominantly younger drivers who were most likely to be against a blanket 20mph speed limit: 55% of 17-24-year-olds registered their disapproval. At the other end of the age spectrum, drivers in the 55-64 bracket were most likely to be in favour of locked-in 20mph zones, with 34% saying they’d welcome the reduced speed limit.

Speed limit or speed zone?

What the findings of this study highlight most is drivers aren’t as negative about 20mph speed limits as some would have us believe, and there is widespread support for a 20mph limit outside schools. There are some objections though, as Simon Best, IAM chief executive, points out: “Many drivers still need to be convinced it [20mph speed zones] 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.”

Local control

Local councils can introduce 20mph speed limits and zones without obtaining consent from the secretary of state, but there is a distinct difference between speed limits and speed zones – namely that speed zones are a collection of streets with a set speed limit, while speed limits are set for individual roads. And while 20mph limits can be introduced without any form of traffic calming, they’re often not as effective as 20mph speed zones, which use increased publicity, driver awareness, community involvement and a large degree of self-enforcement to ensure drivers stick to the speed limit. Over to you – do you think widespread 20mph zones around schools is a good idea? Or is it not enough – should the current urban speed limit of 30mph be cut to 20mph? Let us know…
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*total number of under-16s involved in accidents between school rush hours in the morning and afternoon in 2012 in Great Britain.

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