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Too many people do not know the correct maximum speed limit for the road they are driving on. It seems people are confused by the variety of signs or believe that there is, in fact, a higher default maximum speed limit: “I thought it was 40mph!”
You are obliged as a road user to refresh your understanding of the law by reading and re-reading the Highway Code. It is available free online at https://www.gov.uk/browse/driving/highway-code-road-safety or you can order or buy a hard copy.
I think the current edition has over 200 changes from the previous version - so it’s worth reading. Young people passing their test now will know more of the rules than the rest of us, they would probably put us to shame.
Speeding is not just those people who drive over 100mph on a Motorway. Doing 25 in a 20 is also speeding. Last year the Sentencing Guidelines were amended for speeding offences and it’s now more likely that you will be disqualified from driving for a short period than it was before.
The speed limit in many areas is now 20mph, possibly because cars are now bigger and faster than they used to be. Having represented many people in Court over the years, I understand that they feel they are good drivers (so will stop if a child steps out), that their car is new and equipped with all sorts of safety equipment (so can stop quickly) and that the speed limit is too low. All of those things may be correct but if you hit a child at 25mph you are likely to cause serious personal injury and at 30mph you are likely to kill the child. Now imagine being in Court and trying to justify or explain your speed whilst the parents of the child listen on. Most serious injury and fatal accidents happen in an urban setting and at relatively low speeds so between 25-40mph.
There are different, lower limits for those driving lorries or towing caravans or trailers. You should check the Highway Code. Below relates to the ordinary car.
If there are no speed limit signs and there are street lamps or street lighting, then the maximum is 30mph.
If you are on a Motorway - the road signs are blue - then the maximum speed is 70mph.
If you are on a dual carriageway - that is a highway with a barrier of any description down the middle - then the maximum speed is 70mph. If you could not roll a tennis ball from one side of the highway to the other - then you are on a dual carriageway. The number of lanes ie 4 or more, is not a determinate indicator.
If you are on a single carriageway road (there could be 4 or more lanes) it is 60mph if you have seen the National speed limit sign.
Otherwise, presume it is 30mph. This is the default position.
If you see temporary signage, whilst it might be frustrating you must stick to the limit - even if there is no-one working at the side of the road. It is not optional. Variable speed cameras are switched on and people are prosecuted for speeding through roadworks.
But the speed limit is just that - a maximum speed indicator. It isn’t a target. You must drive at a speed suitable for the prevailing road conditions be that rain, snow, congestion or the presence of other road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Motor vehicle users do not have more rights than other road users. The highway is a shared space and all users must occupy it with due care and courtesy.
You can check the Sentencing Guidelines for yourself. If you face disqualification turning up to Court saying how important you are or your job is or how much you rely upon your car just will not influence the Court. What might influence the Court depends very much on how your case is presented. Too many people do online research and think they’ve found a defence in the Magna Carta or in some self-appointed expert’s blog. I am going to let you into a little secret: there is no such thing as a loophole (and Magna Carta does not apply). There is the law - it’s set out in Acts of Parliament, Statutory Instruments, legal textbooks and in the Sentencing Guidelines. How it is applied by Courts - knowing how it is applied - is the basis of the Advocate’s magic.
I once listened to a defendant complain about the fact he was in Court because his van was yellow and so the Police picked on him. Surprisingly the Magistrates had no sympathy for him whatsoever. He should have tried a more subtle, nuanced approach. He should have spoken to me!
If you have been caught speeding, then you may now be facing 12 points and worried about disqualification, or you may be facing a court hearing. Either way, I can offer you help and advice. The difference between keeping your licence or losing it could also be the difference between keeping your job, being able to run your business, being able to pay your mortgage - or not!
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