The Alliance of British Drivers says the schemes have "no road safety benefit whatsoever".

A drivers’ group has launched a campaign against the introduction of blanket 20 mph speed limits in the UK’s towns and cities.

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) says it is kick-starting the ‘20’s Senseless’ campaign to combat the “misinformation” being spread by those who want the limits introduced. The organisation claims “anti-car activists” are “wasting millions of pounds nationwide” on the new speed limits.

According to the ABD, a study into 20 mph limits by the Department for Transport (DfT) showed 20 mph limits provided “no road safety benefit whatsoever”. The organisation pointed out that the study said the 20 mph limits caused “no significant change in the short term in collisions and casualties”, and the reduction in median speed after the introduction of lower limits was just 0.7mph in residential areas and 0.9mph in city centre areas.

20 mph sign in London

However, the DfT report also showed that Brighton had seen a “statistically significant” reduction in road casualties, although the authors admitted that “the extent to which the findings are transferable to other locations is unclear”. Furthermore, the report said 20 mph limits were “generally supported”, and some areas were seeing an increase in the number of people walking and cycling as a result of the 20 mph limits.

The ABD, though, says the study showed drivers that “enormous amounts of money are being wasted” on 20 mph limits, and the government should instead encourage “more effective” road safety measures. The group claims road safety policies should be based on evidence, and although it admits that 20 mph limits may be useful in some areas, it says the blanket introduction of limits a “simplistic solution”.

20 mph speed limit painted on road

In particular, the ABD wants the government and councils to focus on the training and education of drivers, as well as the way in which roads are engineered. These measures, the group says, would be a “better” way to spend the money invested in 20 mph limits.

In a statement, the ABD said: “The ABD is not opposed to the use of 20 mph speed limits where it might be of benefit or where compliance will be high, but it is not the solution to all road safety problems and simply sticking up signs is a waste of money. The simplistic solutions proposed by advocates of wide area signed-only 20 mph schemes do not work to reduce the [number of people] killed and seriously injured (KSI) on our roads to any significant extent. Money is being wasted on them that could be better used to reduce KSIs in other ways.”

20 mph sign shown on London Bridge

But Rod King, the founder and director of the '20's Plenty for Us' campaign, said the ABD's objections were not "new" and said the organisation's stance betrayed "prejudice" against those in favour of more "civilised" road use.

“20 mph limits are the global standard where pedestrians and cyclists mix with motor vehicles," he said. "This is supported by the World Health Organisation, OECD, Global Network of Road Safety Legislators and many global and national non-government organisations. In many countries, 30 km/h (18.5 mph) limits are standard across cities, towns and villages. Already, 21m people in the UK live in authorities that have already set or are setting 20 mph for most residential and city-centre streets. This delivers across a wide range of community aspirations including reducing road danger, enabling active mobility, child mobility , elderly mobility and reducing emissions and car dependency.

"The ABD has always opposed initiatives that brings further regulation to the way motor vehicles are used on our roads. This opposition to the adoption of 20 mph limits is neither new nor brings anything new to the debate. We have never advocated 'blanket' 20 mph speed limits, but instead for 20 mph to become the default with higher exceptions decided by local traffic authorities. Their labelling of supporters of 20 mph limits as 'anti-car activists' betrays their own prejudice against anyone wanting a more civilised use and sharing of roads through slower speeds. Sensible authorities at local and national level will continue to implement wide-area 20 mph limits to make their places better places to be for their communities and residents.”

Van in Melbury Abbas village Dorset activates electronic speed limit sign