OXFORD’s 20mph speed zones should be abolished because they distract drivers, it has been claimed.

Institute of Advanced Motorists consultant Mark McArthur-Christie said drivers spent too much time watching speedometers and should instead be trained to drive more slowly.

It comes as the institute released figures showing half of drivers were against blanket 20mph speed limits on urban roads.

Mr McArthur-Christie, from Witney, who is also a former lobbyist for the Association of British Drivers, said: “There is no doubt that the more hazards there are the slower you need to go and there are more in urban areas.

“But on roads like Botley Road and St Giles they are not helpful because they are places where it is perfectly safe to go at 30mph.”

Anna Semlyen, campaign director of 20’s Plenty for Us and a former Oxford University student, said the survey carried out by Institute of Advanced Motorists was “a nonsense”.

She said: “McArthur-Christie’s claims are rubbish. You have got to look at your speedometer whatever the limit may be. There is no proof that people are more dangerous at 20mph. In fact, you are more safe because your stopping distance is shorter.

“The institute asked drivers the wrong question and all this is just scaremongering.

“Nobody is asking for a blanket limit of 20mph to be imposed.

“Getting rid of the 20mph zones in Oxford would be a very misguided idea – there really is no disadvantage to them. In residential areas 30mph is just too fast.

“It is wrong to have children living on streets that are 30mph, because their parents will want them to stay inside their homes.”

Mr McArthur-Christie said: “It is also an issue for me when I’m cycling because it means drivers are alongside you for far too long, looking at their speedometers and not me. That is worrying, especially when turning left. You get compliance but at a risk to safety.

“We should instead be sending people on speed awareness courses and training them to drive slower naturally. The issue needs to be re-examined completely. The 20mph zones need to be reversed and we should not implement any more.”

Sections of major city centre roads and residential streets across Oxford were made 20mph zones in a £250,000 move by Oxfordshire County Council on September 1, 2009. St Clement’s, Botley Road, St Giles, High Street and The Plain all saw accidents fall from between 22 and 66 per cent in the four years that followed.

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