A carrot and stick approach to 20mph limit enforcement

Road safety 20mph

How best to enforce 20mph limits given how few motorists appear to have the driving skill or inclination to keep to them?

Most drivers might be respecting the new 20mph speed limit on many Welsh roads, according to independent transport consultants Agilysis, but the firm’s CEO Richard Owen struck a note of caution when speaking to the BBC: “Although the majority of motorists are sticking to the limit, there will be concerns about the minority who haven’t adjusted their speed choices enough. Understanding which roads are seeing lower levels of compliance could be critical in targeting education and enforcement to achieve better compliance.”

The benefits of 20mph speed limits are numerous, but according to research by TfL, up to 87% of drivers in London break a 20 mph speed limit when they have an opportunity to.

Traffic engineers in Canada are forgoing the traditional approach of camera enforcement and fines in favour of traffic lights that go green only when approaching traffic keeps to the 20mph limit.

Initial results from a trial in Canada sound promising. Before the lights were installed, the road had an average vehicle speed of 25 mph, but since its introduction that dropped to 18 mph.

Local mayor, Doreen Assaad, told StreetsblogMASS: “Fines might be effective, but it’s effective after the fact. The beauty of FRED is we reward good behaviour, and it’s immediate. It doesn’t record any private information, it just detects that the vehicle is coming and measures its speed. So it’s a carrot instead of a stick.”

Twenty is plenty

Here at the ETA, we’re proud to have helped coin the phrase ‘Twenty’s plenty’ and thrilled that over the years it evolved into 20’s Plenty for Us, a campaign group we continue to support.

Given the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads, there is no justification for 30 mph as the national speed limit. According to 20’s Plenty for Us, “The 30mph limit that was plucked out of the air in 1934 as being better than no limit, is no longer fit for purpose. It is unjust, unjustifiable and needs to be consigned to history.

20mph poster

The introduction of 20mph speed limits in areas of London has contributed towards a 50 per cent reduction in the number of children killed or seriously injured on the roads (see British Medical Journal) – these zones not only reduce casualty figures, they improve quality of life by transforming streets into areas where people are happy to cycle and children are able to play.

The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover  and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.






  1. Peter King


    I take your point that some drivers reluctant tto to obey speed limits but it’s not always the motorist fault. I’ve witnessed pedestrians just walking into the road without looking some glued to their mobile phone. Children running into the road under no control even with parents and cyclist’s now seem to think they own the road riding groups 3 & 4 abreast exceeding speed limits. But it’s always the motorists fault and that is grossly unfair.

    • The ETA


      Being a competent driver involves anticipating hazards such as children stepping out unexpectedly – one of the reasons why 20mph zones are so vital in the areas where people live, work and go to school. Speed limits are not applicable to cyclists in law.

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