As children head back to school we reveal the extent of dangerous speeding in 20mph areas

  • Four in 10 (40%) of drivers admit to ‘sometimes’ breaking the speed limit by at least 10mph
  • More than a quarter of drivers ‘regularly’ speed in areas designed to keep children (and other vulnerable road users) safe

A new survey by Brake and Direct Line has revealed how many drivers are speeding on roads where lower limits are in place to keep children and other road users safe.

Four in 10 (40%) of drivers admit they sometimes travel at 30mph or more where there is a limit of 20mph. More than a quarter (26%) of drivers say they do this at least once a month and just over one in five (21%) admits to driving much faster than the 20mph speed limit on a weekly basis. Most 20mph zones and areas are in the vicinity of schools and homes where many children will be regularly walking and cycling.

In 2014, 53 children under 16 were killed and 2,029 were seriously injured on British roads: that’s almost six children seriously hurt or killed every day. The majority (80%) were on foot or bicycle at the time.[i] 

Speed limits are put in place to keep all road users safe, especially vulnerable ones like children, and can make the difference between life and death. If a child runs into the road three car lengths ahead, a driver travelling at 30mph will not be able to stop in time, and will still be travelling at 28mph when they hit the child. A driver travelling at 20mph should just be able to stop in time, providing they are paying attention, have well-maintained brakes, and are driving in dry conditions.

There is plenty of evidence to show that lowering traffic speeds, and lowering limits to 20mph specifically, reduces casualties and creates a safer road environment, especially for those on foot and bicycle, but of course this only works if limits are adhered to. 

Analysis of 75 20mph limit sites in Scotland found casualties dropped by 42%.[ii] The World Health Organisation recommends 20mph limits as a key measure to improve pedestrian safety and save lives.[iv]

Case study

Tommy Kenny was just 10 years old when he was tragically knocked down and killed on a pedestrian crossing on a 30mph road in London. He was thrown approximately 60ft on impact, leaving him with multiple traumatic injuries so severe that he stood no chance of survival. The police investigator said that the driver was doing between 30-39mph when he hit Tommy. If the limit had been set to 20mph rather than 30mph, Tommy might still be here today.

Tommy's aunt, Michelle Kirby, said: “Tommy was a much loved son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin with the best years of his life ahead of him. Our lives fell apart when he died and he is missed hugely by his whole family. He was a very bright, fun-loving and cheeky boy with a unique personality and a vivid imagination. He loved dinosaurs, Steven Gerrard and Doctor Who. 
If we are honest with ourselves, most people have to admit to creeping over the speed limit at times. Yet we've all seen the harrowing adverts on TV showing the horrific results of what speed can do to a child. If you drive at 20mph, you have a good chance of being able to stop in time if you need to, such as if a child runs out in front of you. We all need to slow down, and we can all do that today. One can only imagine what pain Tommy's parents, Lynsey and Lloyd, have gone through and will do for the rest of their lives.”

Alice Bailey, campaigns advisor for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “All parents want to know their children are safe while travelling to and from school and playing outdoors. 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[CF1] . 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.”

Rob Miles, director of car insurance at Direct Line, said: "Adhering to the speed limit is such a simple way of helping to make our roads safer and is within all drivers’ gift. We urge drivers to be conscientious and to remember that speed limits exist for very good reasons and that it is a legal requirement to observe them.”

Q.1 Within the past year, have you driven at 30mph or faster in a 20mph speed limit?

No, never                                            60

Yes, less than once a month              14

Yes, about once a month                      5       

Yes, about once a week                       8

Yes, several times a week                    9

Yes, once a day or more                      4

Q.2 Within the past year, have you driven at 40mph or faster in a 30mph speed limit?

No, never                                            60

Yes, less than once a month              16

Yes, about once a month                      4

Yes, about once a week                       8

Yes, several times a week                    9

Yes, once a day or more                      3


Notes to Editors:

Tommy’s mum Lynsey is available for interview

Please contact Alice at Brake on 01484 550063 or on

Or email the news inbox on

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity educationservices for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

About Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting

[i] Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2014, Department for Transport, 2015, table RAS30062

[ii] 20mph speed reduction initiative, Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, 2001

[iv] Pedestrian safety: a road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners, World Health Organisation, 2013

Tags: 20mph research speed traffic speed limit speeding vulnerable road users