The only vehicles that speed limits don’t apply to are those used for fire brigade, ambulance or police purposes while responding to an emergency.
For everyone else, speed limits are a maximum, not a target, and a lower speed may be more appropriate depending on the road layout, traffic and weather conditions.
Mandatory speed limit signs are circular. The road sign for a maximum speed limit shows black numerals on a white background with a red border.
Minimum speed limit sign
You may come across a mandatory minimum speed limit.
- At the start, the sign has white numerals on a blue back ground.
- At the finish there’s a similar sign crossed through with a red diagonal line.
National speed limits
As a general rule, the speed limit is 30mph unless signs say otherwise.
National speed limits for cars, motorcycles, car-derived vans and dual purpose vehicles, indicated by a circular white sign with a diagonal black bar, are:
- 60mph (50mph if towing) on a single carriageway.
- 70mph (60mph if towing) on a dual carriageway.
Different national speed limits apply to other categories of vehicle.
Expect to see the national speed limit sign at the point where a lower limit ends.
- The maximum speed limit on motorways is 70mph (60mph if towing) unless signs indicate otherwise.
- Variable speed limits apply on some 'smart' motorways. The signs indicating these are mandatory speed limit signs but produced by lamps, and when not in use they show a blank grey or black face. Limits are likely to be enforced by cameras.
Don't forget that your speed will dramatically alter your stopping distances. The faster you're going, the longer it will take you to stop.
Local authorities can set their own limits to address specific local needs. (20mph zones are increasingly common in built-up areas or around a school.) Signs must be clear.
20 mph limits
20mph limits can be introduced where there are significant numbers of pedestrians or cyclists.
Successful limits should be self-enforcing through design (traffic calming) and signing rather than having to rely on additional police enforcement though the police may consider targeted enforcement where there is deliberate offending or disregarding and the limits are clear.
In 2013 the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS) introduced a speed awareness course specifically tailored to speeding offences in 20mph limits where, at the discretion of the police, offenders who are either "mistaken or simply unaware of the limit" would benefit from education.
Speeding offences are enforced by the police using fixed, mobile or average speed cameras and are generally dealt with using the Fixed Penalty Notice system.
- The minimum penalty for speeding is generally a £100 fine and three points on your licence.
- In some areas, at the discretion of the police, and for more minor speeding offences only you might be offered a speed awareness course.
- You’ll not be able to attend a course if you’ve done one within the past 3 years.
- The course will cost more than the original fixed penalty but if you complete it, you’ll not get the three points on your licence.
NPCC guidelines for speed limit enforcement
If you've heard of the 10% plus 2 rule, it's not a myth. The National Police Chiefs Council (formerly ACPO) publish guidelines though police officers can always use discretion.
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Penalties for the most severe speeding offences
If you get a court summons or end up in court because you don't accept an offer of a fixed penalty, the magistrate will have to follow sentencing guidelines.
From 24 April 2017 the fines for the most severe cases of speeding increased from 100% of your weekly income to 150%, up to a maximum of £1000, or £2500 if the offence was on a motorway.
Penalties are divided into three bands depending on the offence and any mitigating or aggravating factors.
3 points and a penalty of around 50% (between 25% and 75%) of your weekly income, applies to the lowest level of speeding offence:
- 21 to 30mph in a 20 limit
- 31 to 40mph in a 30 limit
- 41 to 55mph in a 40 limit
- 51 to 65mph in a 50 limit
- 61 to 80mph in a 60 limit
- 71 to 90mph in a 70 limit
4-6 points or 7-28 days disqualification and a penalty of around 100% (between 75% and 125%) of your weekly income, applies to more serious offences:
- 31 to 40mph in a 20 limit
- 41 to 50mph in a 30 limit
- 56 to 65mph in a 40 limit
- 66 to 75mph in a 50 limit
- 81 to 90mph in an 60 limit
- 91 to 100mph in a 70 limit
6 points or 7-56 days disqualification and a penalty of around 150% (between 125% and 175%) of your weekly income, applies to the most serious offences:
- 41 and over in a 20 limit
- 51 and over in a 30 limit
- 66 and over in a 40 limit
- 76 and over in a 50 limit
- 91 and over in a 60 limit
- 101 and over in a 70 limit
Penalties are likely to be higher for offences:
- in bad weather, near schools or in areas where there are pedestrians or high levels of traffic
- if you were towing or carrying passengers
- if you were driving a lorry, bus or taxi, or driving for hire or reward.
25 April 2017