your guide to speed limit changes in the UK

your guide to speed limit changes in the UK

Speed limit laws were introduced as early as the 1930s, and have changed considerably since then. Having strict speed laws is imperative in order to reduce accidents and encourage safe driving. With UK-wide standard rules working alongside local council limits, it can be confusing for drivers. 

With more and more vehicles hitting the road every year, ensuring drivers remain safe is down to a number of rules and regulations, but one of the frontline methods is imposing a safe speed limit. It can be frustrating when rules change suddenly, so we’re going to talk you through some of the changes you can expect in the coming months, as well as going over the current speed limits.

How do I find the speed limit on a UK road?

If you want to find out what the national speed limits are for different areas/types of road, you can visit the Gov.UK website, where they are all listed by both road and vehicle type. 

Local councils may also decide to impose specific speed limits for certain areas, such as school zones or roads with sharp bends; these will be clearly signposted. 

It is worth remembering that vans and dual-purpose vehicles generally have a lower speed limit than cars.

What is the national speed limit on UK roads?

The national speed limit is 60mph on single carriageways, 70mph on dual carriageways and motorways. Restricted roads or roads in built-up areas are usually limited to 30mph. The sign that shows you are in a national speed limit area is circular with a black diagonal line going through it.

If you are caught not adhering to the speed limit, you will face a penalty. If you are caught by a speed camera, you will be given a Notice of Intended Prosecution and a Section 172 notice. Once you have filled in and sent back the notice, you will either be given a Fixed Penalty Notice or a letter telling you to go to court. If you are pulled over by a police officer when speeding, they have the power to give you a verbal warning, a Fixed Penalty Notice, or they will order you to go to court.

You can plead guilty or not guilty to a Fixed Penalty Notice. If you plead guilty, you will be given a minimum fine of £100 and receive 3 points on your licence. If you plead not guilty, you will have to go to court. If the court finds you guilty you are likely to face a much larger fine (up to £1000).

What is the speed limit in a residential area in the UK?

Residential areas in villages, towns, and cities all adhere to a maximum 30mph UK speed limit. This is due to a number of factors; residential areas can be busy, with people coming and going from houses and driveways, children may dart between cars, or vehicles may be performing manoeuvres in the road. In order to ensure all drivers and pedestrians are safe, sticking to this low speed is important.

There is a 20mph limit that is imposed in certain residential areas where there is a high density of pedestrians, including in the vicinity of local schools, but these are not as widely used as the 30mph limit and will be clearly signed.

What are the new speed limit laws in the UK?

There are a couple of new speed limit laws coming to effect soon. Highways England will be introducing a reduced speed limit on motorways in four areas across England to try and improve roadside air quality. Going from the current national speed limit of 70mph down to 60mph on certain stretches of the UK’s busiest motorways will hopefully reduce the levels of nitrogen dioxide that is released. 

Thought to be coming into place before October 2020, the following stretches will be tested with the new speed limit:

  • M6 - junctions 6 to 7
  • M1 - junctions 34 to 33
  • M602 - junctions 1 to 3
  • M5 - junctions 1 to 2

Another speed limit change coming to place is actually an increase. The speed at which you can drive through motorway road work sites is going up from 50mph to 60mph. This is a response to feedback from frustrated drivers who believe they can safely drive more quickly through these areas. The hope is that it will cut journey times and help the flow of traffic in areas that are currently being turned into smart motorways.

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