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National speed limit changes: all you need to know

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December 16th 2022 info

Features like the ultra-low emission zone in London have already been rolled out in an attempt to make roads safer and minimise fuel emissions. However, more wide-spread changes are now being introduced to speed limits across the country.

Below, we discuss some of the main speed limit changes happening across the UK, and why they’re being brought into effect.

Changes to 50mph in 70mph areas

With the current fuel and economical crises, many motorways and dual carriageways are seeing an introduction of a 50mph speed limit in place of the previous 70mph. The main purpose of this reduction is to decrease fuel consumption.

Not only will this save individual drivers money, but the effect on the environment could be vast. For example, lowering the speed limit to just 60mph reduces fuel consumption by 10%, and only adds two minutes to the journey time. According to the license bureau, drivers typically tend to overestimate when they will arrive at a destination when travelling at a higher speed, lulling them into a false sense of punctuality.

In fact, driving at higher speeds involves much more speeding up and slowing down to match the rest of the on-road traffic than travelling at a slightly slower, consistent speed. Therefore, doing so tends to consume more fuel, and release more emissions.

Changes to 20mph in 30mph areas

While fuel consumption and environmentalism are still important here, safety is the main concern for changing the speed limit in built-up areas. According to the BBC, changing 30mph speed limits to 20mph could reduce collision fatalities by almost half.

Some of the most recent changes have been brought about in Wales:

Between 1993 and 2022, the number of road collisions in Wales annually has fallen from approximately 10,000 to 4,000. However, the Welsh government is committed to making roads even safer still, and this is highly likely to have a knock-on effect to the rest of the UK.

In 2018, 50% of all road collisions, and 40% of road collisions involving a serious injury or death, occurred on roads with 30mph speed limits. As a result, the government is considering how they can adapt these roads to be safer for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.

The Welsh government claim that the reduced demand for emergency services and hospital treatments that should come with the 20mph limit, £58m will be saved over the next 30 years.

What have the responses been?

Over recent months a new 20mph speed limit is being rolled out across Wales to replace 30mph in many areas. In places where the lower speed limit has been trialled, responses have been mixed from drivers. While some are okay with it because it’s safer for pedestrians and better for the environment, others find the lower limit is unnecessary, inconvenient, and can even make areas more dangerous when drivers are impatient.

Despite this, the 20mph law was passed in July this year, and will replace the standard 30mph residential speed limit across the country as of September 2023. Scotland is set to follow suit in 2025.

Are 20mph speed limits enforceable?

Just as any other speed limit is enforceable, so are 20mph limits where the speed limit is clearly marked. This means that any offenders may be prosecuted.

When do speed limits apply to my vehicle?

The four types of road that have standardised speed limits are built-up areas, single carriageways, dual carriageways, and motorways. For cars, motorcycles, car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles, the standardised speed limit is 30mph, 60mph, 70mph and 70mph respectively to each area. However, it’s important to know that if you’re in a different vehicle or are towing another, this standard speed limit may well vary.

The gov.uk website has an official list of the standardised speed limit in each of these areas, dependant on your vehicle.

New car speed limiter law

Further to these speed limits, manufacturers are now taking matters into their own hands. Resulting from research conducted by the European Transport Safety Council, speed limiters are now being seen as mandatory.

Officially arriving in the UK around halfway through 2022, we’re now seeing many cars being produced with Intelligent Speed Assist or Assistance (ISA) modules to regulate how fast you’re allowed to travel, the objective being to reduce road collisions and fuel consumption.

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