Four fifths of drivers regularly break the speed limit in 20mph zones, with more than one in ten doing more than 30mph.
Figures released by the Department for Transport show that 81% of drivers broke the limit at nine sites across the country – with 15% topping 30mph and 1% travelling at over 40mph in 20mph zones.
The report also shows one in 10 drivers exceed motorway speed limits by at lease 10mph, and 1% hitting 90mph.
In 30mph zones there has been some progress, with a two per cent drop in the number of speeding cars since 2011, but more than half (53 per cent) of car drivers still break the limit.
However, Department for Transport research said the figures are based on locations that “may not be typical of most 20mph road”.
Rod King, founder of campaign group 20’s Plenty for Us, said the low-limit roads featured in the research are arterial and “have very little in common with most residential and high street roads where communities set 20mph speed limits to make them safer and more comfortable”.
Edmund King, president of the AA, told The Times: “These statistics indicate that blanket 20mph speed limits aren’t particularly effective. Where they are targeted, like outside schools these lower limits work because people can see the point of them.
“But if 20mph limits are simply imposed over a whole area, people just don’t believe in them and it’s no surprise they then fail to comply.”
Drivers are most compliant on single carriageway roads though where the national speed limit applies, with 8 per cent breaking 60mph.
A DfT spokeswoman said: “Research shows that 20mph zones in the right areas can save lives and we have made it easier for councils to introduce them. It is for councils to set speed limits in their area and police to decide how best to enforce them.”
The UK’s first 20mph limit was introduced in 1991 and rules were loosened to allow local authorities to make decisions on introducing zones.