Road Safety News

Drivers putting children at risk by ‘regularly speeding’: Brake

Monday 5th September 2016

More than a quarter of drivers ‘regularly’ speed in 20mph zones which are ‘designed to keep children and other vulnerable road users safe’, according to a new survey by Brake.

In the survey, published as children return to school following the summer holidays, 40% of drivers admitted they sometimes travel at 30mph or more where there is a limit of 20mph.

26% confess to doing 30mph or more in a 20mph zone at least once a month while 21% admit to driving ‘much faster’ than the 20mph speed limit on a weekly basis.

In 2014, 53 children under 16 years of age were killed and 2,029 seriously injured on British roads. The majority (80%) were on foot or bicycle at the time.

Brake says that speed limits are designed to keep all road users safe, especially vulnerable ones like children, and can make the difference between life and death.

The road safety charity says there is ‘plenty of evidence’ to show that lowering traffic speeds, specifically to 20mph, reduces casualties and creates a safer road environment, especially for those on foot and bicycle.

Alice Bailey, Brake spokesperson, said: “Speed limits are in place to keep all road users safe and if tragedy strikes and a child is hit by a car, the speed at which it is travelling could be the difference between life and death.

“20mph limits benefit our communities in so many ways, keeping them safer, cleaner and greener; when limits are lower, many more people choose to ditch the car completely and walk and cycle instead.

“If people feel they have to drive, the lower speed limit will have a negligible impact on travel times and bring so many other positive effects.”



Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:


You said "As most of us know, and I assume that you do too, 20mph limits are only installed where the speeds are already significantly less than 30mph, and they generally make very little difference to traffic speeds (1-2mph or so) and possibly only in the short term at that."

Well I do know that actually 20mph limits are NOT only installed installed where speeds are significantly less than 30mph. Many schemes have included roads with before speeds above 24mph and indeed where the prevailing speed has been between 25 and 29mph reductions of 3-6mph have been recorded.

So whilst a reduction in average prevailing speed from 28 to 24mph may not be quite as successful as could be possible, it is certainly beneficial and cost effective as a mechanism for reducing speeds and creating a less hostile environment for vulnerable road users.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (6) | Disagree (23)

Hi Charles, thanks so much for engaging with this story and for your incisive feedback. We absolutely strive to be evidence based and are reviewing the source of the information for the Warrington study right now. Our website is currently being updated and if this is indeed an error, as it appears to be, it shall be removed straight away. With thanks, Brake.

Agree (13) | Disagree (2)

Rod, you are erroneously reversing cause and effect in your implication that there "was a large and useful reduction in speed on 30mph roads when converted to 20mph". As most of us know, and I assume that you do too, 20mph limits are only installed where the speeds are already significantly less than 30mph, and they generally make very little difference to traffic speeds (1-2mph or so) and possibly only in the short term at that. That is then that: low speeds give rise to 20mph limits, not the reverse as you seem to be suggesting.
Charles, England

Agree (20) | Disagree (7)

Brake are not doing themselves any favours in the way way they are (mis)representing the data collected in relation to the implementation of 20mph limits.

I followed the link at the end of the first sentence in this item to the Brake press release and then the link on the 3rd word of that to the Brake report - arriving here:

That 'report', in its "The Facts" section, contains the unqualified statement that "A trial of 20mph limits in Warrington, Cheshire, found pedestrian and cyclist casualties dropped 36%". Clearly intending readers to assume the introduction of the 20mph limits was responsible for the 36% drop. It cites "20mph Speed Limit Pilots Evaluation Report, Warrington Borough Council, 2010" as the source of that claim. So searching that out I arrived here:

Can anyone else find support in that Warrington Borough Council report for the clear implication from Brake that the introduction of 20mph limits in Warrington resulted in a 36% reduction in pedestrian and cyclist casualties? They appear to have ignored the provisos and cautionary notes in the report and are presenting the unqualified and unmoderated naked before/after data as if it were evidence of anything.

And that was just the first claim I checked, who knows what I'd have found if I had time to trawl through all the others. On the face of it, it appears to me that Brake's agenda is driven by preconceptions and on cherry-picked data that to the untrained eye might appear to support those preconceptions, when they should be relying on scientific analysis and comparison of all the available data. We know that roads can be safer, but we need to be honest about how that can be realised.
Charles, England

Agree (29) | Disagree (6)

Rules and Regulations are often needed when natural behaviours of groups conflict resulting in detriment to one or all groups involved. I think that the situation of multiple road users may well fall into this scenario? So what we see is children moving around the highway network, often whilst playing out, and drivers negotiating the same network at the same time getting from A to B.

It appears to be the case, from my understanding of research, that human brains do not develop the ability to adequately compute multiple stimuli such as approaching vehicles and their speed, presence of ice-cream vans, footballs spilling onto the carriageway etc until well into early young aldulthood? As a result of the scenario described above we therefore have the potential to see pedestrians and cyclists behaving in unexpected ways leading to increased risk of collisions with motorised vehicles. So if we are led to expect younger road users to enter the carriageway unexpectedly wouldn't it seem the right thing to do to work towards slowing vehicles down so there is more "time" to avoid a collision, more chance to look out and avoid unexpected hazards and less kinetic energy to transfer if a collision actually occurs?

We can talk to children about the issues and give them help in identifying less risky behaviours but can we ever remove the risk completely? Probably not. What about the drivers? Again we can educate them and can sign lower speed limits but they themselves do not produce lower speeds. So we can have Police enforcement to enforce limits and trust that his may lead to changed attitudes and behaviours amongst drivers. We can use community based enforcement and publicity interventions as well to encourage drivers to travel more slowly.

However I believe that we cannot remove all the risks and situations which together lead to pedestrians being injured by vehicles. In addition I believe that it will still be possible to be run-over by an autonomous vehicle. We can work towards reducing risks and casualties to a minimum but I remain to be convinced we will ever have a time with no injuries on the highway. Doesn’t stop us from trying though!
Nick, Lancashire

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

In many instances of children being injured where a vehicle isn't speeding it is not only the driving that could be "too fast for conditions" but the speed limit as well. Most residential roads are totally unsuitable for a limit as high as 30mph because of how they are used by pedestrians, cyclists, residents and other drivers. They are places of "place" and not just "movement", and not just motor vehicles at that.

The societal advantages of driving above 20mph on such roads do not actually exist. With the stopping distance of a 30mph car being twice that of a 20mph car then no wonder that endorsing 30mph on residential roads creates an environment where collisions can occur by "non-speeding" cars.

I am reminded of the civil case between Rehman v Brady where a driver doing more than 25mph in a 20mph limit was deemed 100% liable for the consequences for hitting a child regardless of the negligence of child and mother in allowing the child to cross the road.

Whilst no-one doubts that compliance is an issue for all speed limits, that should not deter those with the responsibility to set speed limits from setting them at appropriate levels to fully take into account the needs of vulnerable road users, which is what the DfT guidance demands.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (11) | Disagree (23)

Dave: The article is specifically about drivers admitting to exceeding the posted speed limit of 20mph so, no, Brake are not 'confusing speeding with too fast for conditions'. Nice try though - I know you do like to play down the dangers of speeding. By the way, if 98.9% of child pedestrian injuries supposedly occur when motorists are not speeding, have you wondered why therefore, all these drivers are not able to stop in time and avoid contact?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (12) | Disagree (11)

Evidence will always be read in the way one wants it to be read, from whatever viewpoint one is looking from.
David Weston, Corby

Agree (9) | Disagree (5)

Is Brake confusing "speeding" with "too fast for conditions"? 19mph near children may well "put lives at risk" whereas 39mph on a clear road may not, even if there is a 20mph limit.

Also, is Brake aware that 98.9% of child pedestrian injuries occur when motorists are not speeding?

If Brake really do want to protect children on our roads, perhaps they could promote an evidence-led approach. Using scientific trials for all interventions, including 20mph schemes, would inform Brake and everyone else where society's cash should be spent to really save lives and prevent life-changing injuries.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (25) | Disagree (10)

In a recent DfT report on free flowing compliance at all speed limits the average was consistently 6mph or more lower on 20mph roads for ALL classes of vehicle compared to 30mph roads. Hence it would seem reasonable to suggest that whilst not ensuring full compliance, there was a large and useful reduction in speed on 30mph roads when converted to 20mph.

Compliance to speed limits generally would be enhanced by abandoning the idea that they should be conspicuously painted. It sends out a very dangerous message that compliance is only required in certain places.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (8) | Disagree (23)

What about 20mph zones at 11pm at night? I'd personally consider it not the right thing to drive at 20mph at such a late time of night in such a zone. Then again I come from a town where 20mph zones were put up without any thought with regards to adherence with the law regarding 20mph zones...
David Weston, Corby

Agree (21) | Disagree (6)

What a clever ruse to catch speeders - write to drivers and ask them if they speed! Were the respondents granted immunity from prosecution by any chance? If so - pity - an opportunity missed. Brake are simply re-stating what we already know. New methods to ensure compliance are what is needed - not more surveys.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (17) | Disagree (11)

We already have widespread problems with a large number of drivers not complying with long established 30mph speed limits in towns. Why, therefore, do we not expect the same problems to be experienced in 20mph speed limit areas? If schemes don't include engineering or enforcement, then many people will speed. It is not a case of should or shouldn't speed -- that is just rose tinted idealism. It is a simple fact for many drivers that if they can speed, they will. 20mph speed limit schemes need to include a solution for non-compliance to be truly successful.
Pat, Wales

Agree (28) | Disagree (4)