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‘You must not drive faster than the speed limit for the type of road and your type of vehicle.’ The government’s stance is pretty clear, and yet millions of motorists break the speed limit every day.

a blurry image of a busy city street: Speed limits and the law © Provided by Motoring Research Speed limits and the law

According to Department for Transport statistics, 50 percent of cars exceeded the speed limit on motorways in the first quarter of 2021. That compares to 56 percent on 30mph and 13 percent on 60mph roads.

When the RAC explored the reasons given for breaking the speed limit, drivers were asked to select up to three answers. The top reason was ‘I drive according to the speed of other road users’. A case of following the crowd, then.

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Around 1,000 people are caught speeding every day, but by sticking to the following limits, you’ll avoid a run-in with the police, a fixed penalty notice (FPN) and points on your driving licence.

National speed limits

Vehicle Built-up areas (mph) Single carriageways (mph) Dual carriageways (mph) Motorways (mph)
Cars, motorcycles, car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles 30 60 70 70
Cars, motorcycles, car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles when towing caravans or trailers 30 50 60 60
Motorhomes or motor caravans (not more than 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight) 30 60 70 70
Motorhomes or motor caravans (more than 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight) 30 50 60 70
Buses, coaches and minibuses (not more than 12 metres overall length) 30 50 60 70
Buses, coaches and minibuses (more than 12 metres overall length) 30 50 60 60
Goods vehicles (not more than 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) 30 50 60 70 (or 60 if articulated or towing a trailer)
Goods vehicles (more than 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) in England and Wales 30 50 60 60
Goods vehicles (more than 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) in Scotland 30 40 50 60

Locally set speed limits

Local councils can set their own speed limits in certain areas. These will be clearly signed.

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Examples include:

  • A 20mph zone near a school, in a built-up area, or in a pedestrianised zone.
  • A 50mph limit on a road with a high record of accidents, or with sharp corners, roundabouts and hidden dips.
a sign on a pole: 20mph speed limit sign © Provided by Motoring Research 20mph speed limit sign

As you will have noticed, 20mph limits are becoming increasingly widespread in urban areas. They now cover the majority of London streets, for instance.

Vehicle-specific speed limits

There are specific rules for vans, car-derived vans, dual-purpose vehicles and motorhomes.

Most vans have a lower speed limit than cars and must follow the limits for good vehicles of the same weight. Vehicles weighing less than two tonnes (loaded) may qualify as a car-derived van or dual-purpose vehicle. These have the same speed limits as cars.


Video: The scene of a fatal hit and run in Digbeth (Birmingham Mail)

Motorhomes and motor caravans are classed as goods vehicles if they carry products for exhibition and sale, are used as a workshop, or are used for storage.

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Speeding penalties

a sign on a pole: 30mph sign © Provided by Motoring Research 30mph sign

The minimum penalty for breaking the speed limit is a £100 fine and three penalty points. Accumulating 12 or more points within a period of three years could lead to a disqualification.

If you’ve been caught by a speed camera, you will be sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) and a Section 172 notice within 14 days. The Section 172 must be returned within 28 days, telling the police who was driving the car. You will then be sent a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) or a letter telling you to attend court.

If you’ve been stopped by the police, you face one of three outcomes: a verbal warning, an FPN, or an order to go to court.

Getting a Fixed Penalty Notice

Drivers who receive an FPN can plead guilty or not guilty. Pleading guilty results in a £100 fine and three points on the driving licence, or the opportunity to attend a speed awareness course.

First-time offenders can avoid penalty points by taking a speed awareness course. Research suggests these courses are a more effective deterrent for speeders than fines or points.

Doja Cat vows to be more 'choosy' over collaborations

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Drivers who plead not guilty will be summoned to court. The risk of doing so is an increased fine and more penalty points.

Safety camera partnership van © Provided by Motoring Research Safety camera partnership van

The size of the fine depends on what the speed limit was and by how much it was exceeded. It’s usually a percentage of the driver’s weekly income, up to a maximum of £1,000 (or £2,500 if driving on a motorway).

Drivers could also be disqualified from driving or have their licence suspended.

Courts operate on a ‘band’ system based on the severity of the offence. The system can be viewed here, but the following table provides a summary of the likely points and disqualification period.

Speed limit (mph) Recorded speed (mph) Recorded speed (mph) Recorded speed (mph)
20 41 and above 31-40 21-30
30 51 and above 41-50 31-40
40 66 and above 56-65 41-55
50 76 and above 66-75 51-65
60 91 and above 81-90 61-80
70 101 and above 91-100 71-90
Sentencing range Band C fine Band B fine Band A fine
Points/disqualification Disqualify 7 – 56 days OR 6 points

Disqualify 7 – 28

days OR 4 – 6 points

3 points

Statutory aggravating factors include:

  • Previous convictions, having regard to a) the nature of the offence to which the conviction relates and its relevance to the current offence; and b) the time that has elapsed since the conviction
  • The offence was committed while on bail

Other aggravating factors:

Grimes on her son X

  Grimes on her son X Popstar Grimes has opened up about her son X and revealed that he calls her by her first nameGrimes - real name Claire Elise Boucher - welcomed baby X Æ A-Xii with billionaire partner Elon Musk, 50 in May 2020 and she has revealed that the tot says "Claire" when he speaks to her rather than "Mama".

  • Offence committed on licence or post-sentence supervision
  • Poor road or weather conditions
  • Driving LGV, HGV, PSV, etc
  • Towing a caravan or trailer
  • Carrying passengers or a heavy load
  • Driving for hire or reward
  • Evidence of unacceptable standard of driving over and above speed limit
  • Location, e.g. near school
  • High level of traffic or pedestrians in the vicinity

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