CAMPAIGNERS say research which suggests children cannot accurately judge the speed of cars travelling faster than 20mph has added weight to their efforts to reduce speed limits in York.

A study by vision scientists at the University of London found primary school-age children, between six and 11, may not be able to tell that a car is approaching if it is going faster than 20mph.

The study measured more than 100 children’s ability to detect approaching cars in a road-crossing scenario.

It found adult pedestrians could make accurate judgments for vehicles travelling up to 50mph, but primary school-age children’s judgements became unreliable once the approach speed went above 20mph.

Anna Semlyen, York’s 20’s Plenty campaign manager, said the research was “conclusive” evidence that speed limits needed to be lowered in York.

She said: “It’s no surprise to me that this is true. We cannot address child road safety by simply teaching them to pay more attention.

“Child pedestrians can’t judge approach speeds as well as adults. It’s simplistic to blame children and suggest they ‘run out’ without checking.

“But this study suggests it’s drivers going too fast that create errors, as it is then impossible for children to make correct judgments. It’s up to adult society to protect families through 20mph limits where people live and for drivers to obey the signs.”

Professor John Wann, who led the research, said the simplest solution was in traffic regulation. “This is not a matter of children not paying attention, but a problem related to low-level visual detection mechanisms, so even when children are paying very close attention they may fail to detect a fast-approaching vehicle. The vehicles that they are more likely to step in front of are the faster vehicles that are more likely to result in a fatality. Travelling one mile though a residential area at 20mph as opposed to 30mph will only add 60 seconds to journey time.”

A consultation on making York a 20mph city was submitted to City of York Council on November 12.