Communicating the 20mph scheme

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Purpose 20mph speed limits are being introduced to residential areas and outside schools as a response to road safety concerns. The Communications Service plans to run a campaign to support the introduction of the 20mph speed limits.

This research was commissioned to help understand how to clearly communicate the introduction of the 20mph speed limit to the public and what can be done alongside the introduction of 20mph signs to support the new speed limits.
Subject Communications
Road safety
Commissioned by Road and Transport Safety Team and Communications Service
Geographic area Burnley
West Lancashire
Method Focus group
Consultation with Life in Lancashire panel
Date 18/10/2011 - 27/10/2011
Undertaken by Corporate Research and Intelligence Team


Key findings The main findings from the focus groups were:
- Participants were generally supportive of the introduction of 20mph speed limits in residential areas.
- Understanding of the scheme was low among participants (despite some being actively involved in communities) - there was little awareness that it is happening, what the reasons for it are, why it is happening now and how it will be monitored.
- Participants felt that enforcement is key in getting the scheme to work. Many felt that there is no point spending money on changing the speed limits if they are not enforced. There was also a lack of clarity as to how the scheme will be
- Education was seen to be very important, from young children to those at college. Participants suggested working with schools to teach road sense and with colleges to educate the drivers of the future. It was also suggested that
school children could be asked to design posters to promote the scheme.
- Several participants mentioned the effectiveness of the county council's speed awareness courses and suggested they should be used as part of the scheme.
- Most participants felt that acceptance of the new speed limits will take time. Once all residential areas are 20mph, people will be more aware of it and will know that the limit is 20mph in residential areas.
- The community roadwatch scheme (members of the community working with police to monitor speeding in their area) was felt to be hard to implement with all groups mentioning fear of reprisal. Participants felt this shouldn't be used for enforcement as that is the job of the police. It was suggested that it might work with school children or to gather evidence in an area for more formal enforcement.
- Groups liked the idea of restorative justice (speeding offenders visiting schools to be told how speeding can affect the children) and felt it could work with victims of road accidents as well as with school children. There was some
concern though that if restorative justice is needed then the offence has already taken place.
- Several groups suggested using tried and tested publicity campaigns from other areas that have already adopted 20mph areas rather than trying to come up with something new.
- Three potential messages that the Communications Service is considering using were shown to the groups. The messages on the posters shown to the groups were thought to be too long and participants felt that a shorter message would be more effective.
- When asked, groups suggested using a graphic, shock-tactic style message for the communications campaign but, when showed the options, preferred the softer, gentle reminder approach.
Outcomes We recognise that 20mph speed limit areas are a long term plan and that changing drivers┐ attitudes and behaviours is not going to happen overnight.

We have developed a long-term communications plan to raise awareness of the scheme. So far, we have updated the 20mph website with clear information about why, where and when the scheme is being implemented, the benefits of the scheme and also some `mythbusters┐. Find out more at

As was suggested, we have also run a 'gentle reminder' awareness campaign using the national `20's plenty┐ message. This included radio adverts, bus stop adverts and press coverage. We have also developed a range of materials including pull-up banners, car window stickers, stickers, posters, and reflective jackets for school children.

Many participants felt that enforcing the 20mph speed limit is key in getting the scheme to work. We are currently working with Lancashire Police and local communities to carry out enforcement through a number of schemes.

Education was also seen to be very important, from young children to those at college. We are working closely with schools and have developed a toolkit for them which can be downloaded from our website. Children at several schools have been involved in designing banners for their school gates to tell drivers to slow down.

Project document(s)


Contact information

For more information about this research contact:

Rebecca Robinson
01772 537787

Mick Edwardson
01772 530290


Related information

Find out more about the 20mph speed limit introduction here: