A new survey 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 ten (40 per cent) of drivers admit they sometimes travel at 30mph or more where there is a limit of 20mph. More than a quarter (26 per cent) of drivers say they do this at least once a month and just over one in five (21 per cent) admit 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 per cent) were on foot or bicycle at the time.

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.

A trial of 20mph limits in Warrington, Cheshire found pedestrian and cyclist casualties dropped by 36 per cent. Analysis of 75 20pmh limit sites in Scotland found casualties dropped by 42 per cent. The World Health Organisation recommends 20mph limits as a key measure to improve pedestrian safety and save lives.

The survey was carried out by Brake and Direct Line.

Campaigns advisor for Brake the road safety charity, Alice Bailey, 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 it is travelling at 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.”

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.”