A new campaign to introduce 20mph speed limits outside West Midland schools launches today.

As schools open for the new term, a survey by road safety charity Brake has revealed that an overwhelming majority of drivers - nearly nine in ten (89 per cent) - would support the special speed limit outside schools to protect children on foot or their bike.

Brake, children's charity NCH and the Children's Play Council are all calling on local authorities and the Government to introduce the 20mph zones in the West Midlands, as well as the rest of the UK.

Latest figures released by the Government show that every 30 minutes a child is hurt or killed while walking or cycling on UK roads.

Pedestrian and cyclist casualties peak in the early morning - between 8am and 9am - and then again in the afternoon between 3pm and 6pm.

A spokeswoman for Brake said: "Introducing 20mph zones outside schools can make the difference between life and death.

"Hit at 20mph, a child has a 95 per cent chance of survival, compared with a 55 per cent chance if hit at 30mph, and a 15 per cent chance at 40mph."

The charities claim the Government has repeatedly declined appeals from road safety campaigners to prioritise the safety of children by introducing 20mph zones outside all schools.

However, the Scottish Executive has provided funding to all local authorities for part-time 20mph zones around all schools and by the end of 2004, 845 zones were in place.

Mary Williams OBE, chief executive of Brake, said: "It's a tragedy that our children are being put at risk right outside their own schools and that many parents are afraid to let their children walk or cycle to school because it's too dangerous.

"This has all sorts of implications on children's health and the environment as we see increasing levels of traffic on the school run.

" The Government repeatedly puts traffic flow before the safety of children and communities - yet this survey shows that drivers almost unanimously support 20mph zones around schools to protect our children from potentially lethal fastmoving traffic."