Tag Archives | speed limit

Just over the speed limit?

Although we all know speeding is illegal, it’s easy to break the limit unintentionally at some point, even if it’s only one mile per hour too quickly. But there’s no excuse, even if you drive one mph over the limit, you are still breaking the law. Speed limits are just that – a limit, not a recommended speed, and they are there for a good reason. In reality, if you do drive very slightly over the limit, the police may use their discretion, but don’t be lulled into thinking there is a ‘10% plus 2’ rule and your speeding is acceptable. In reality, there is a ‘10% recommendation’ and police officers are under no obligation to ignore your offence, even if it’s fractionally over the limit. One effective way to follow the limits and avoid fines and penalty points, is simply to imagine your driving instructor sitting next to you on every journey. You should be aware that once you’ve passed your test, you will be subject to the ‘new driver act’ whereby if you accumulate six points on your licence within the first two years of passing, you’ll automatically lose it. You will then be required to re-pass your theory and practical test and this will affect your insurance for the next five years. Why put yourself through this and compromise the safety of other road users when you can simply ease your foot off the pedal?

Double life of a street light

While we all take street lights for granted, as a driver, they play a doubly important role. Did you know that they also indicate the speed limit when no other signs are visible? Any road that has a series of street lights every 200 yards (182 metres) or less is classed as a 30mph zone unless there are signs saying otherwise. In some places, the lights may only be on one side of the road, so don’t get caught out and think the speed limit does not apply. Again, on some roads the speed limit could drop from 60 or 70mph to 30mph without any signs being present, other than the distance between street lights becoming closer. If you notice the gap between the street lights narrowing, this is an immediate signal to lower your speed. Street lights can be as close as 32 yards (30 metres) apart where there are multiple hazards such as junctions, tight corners, roundabouts or pedestrian crossings. If you get caught out, claiming that there were no speed limit signs won’t help. The Highway Code makes it your responsibility to know the rules and the onus is on you to be aware of the spacing between street lights.

In the 20mph zone

As London and other cities introduce blanket 20mph speed limits on certain roads, the likelihood that you unintentionally creep over this limit should be considered. Speed is always a personal choice, so don’t take a risk. Fortunately, there are several practical tips to help you remain legal at 20mph. Always leave plenty of time for your journeys and avoid feeling under pressure to ‘press on’. As well as making regular checks of your speedometer, get used to the sound and feel of your car engine at 20mph. Watch out for road signs, so you know when you’re in a 20mph zone. It’s easy to miss them when you’re negotiating busy junctions, so make a positive point of looking for these signs and for further signs that repeat the limit. If you know you tend to drive fast, work out what makes you do it. Are you in a hurry? Do passengers encourage you to speed up? Does your choice of music affect how fast you go? Once you recognise the factors, then you’re more likely to take control and stick to the lower limit.

Over the line

Many drivers mistakenly think that it’s legal to break the speed limit to safely overtake another motorist. But this common misconception is against the law and you could face a fine and penalty points. Under Rule 163 of the Highway Code, drivers should only overtake when it’s safe and legal to do so. Although it advises you to move quickly past the vehicle in front when overtaking, the Highway Code also states the speed limit is the ‘absolute maximum and does not mean that it is safe to drive at that speed irrespective of conditions’. In short, the speed limit is the speed limit, full stop. Overtaking is no excuse for speeding, and remember, never overtake if you have to cross double white lines or with a solid line nearest to you,

Variable speed limits

Fixed speed limits are the most common kind of speed limit, usually identified by a number within a red circle on road signs entering the speed limited area. However, variable speed limits are increasingly being used on ‘smart motorways’. These motorways monitor traffic flow and can make adjustments to reduce congestion when required – for example, by operating the hard shoulder as a live traffic lane, or introducing a temporary speed limit when there’s a traffic build up, roadworks or stranded vehicle. This variable speed limit is clearly displayed on the gantries across the motorway, and is usually enforced by average speed cameras behind the signs. Bear in mind that the maximum speeding fine on a motorway is £2,500.

Minimum speed limits

minimum speed limitYou may not be aware, but you can be fined for driving too slowly and cautiously. In some situations, this can be as dangerous as speeding as it increases the risk of congestion, especially in tunnels or fast-moving traffic, and can lead to tailgating. Certain roads will display minimum speed limits and just like maximum speed limits must be adhered to – so make sure you recognise the signs. They are marked by a blue, circular sign containing the minimum speed limit in white. The end of the minimum speed limit is signalled by the same sign with a red line through it.

Speed and street lights

Bear in mind as you drive around that most road improvements reflect a past collision history, so be alert to what might have caused the hazard in the first place and keep your distance and slow down. As a general rule of thumb, more signs and more paint on the road equate to more hazards. The same applies to more street lights. As highway authorities are not allowed to put repeater 30mph speed limit signs on built-up roads with street lights, the Highway Code states that street lights mean the limit is 30mph unless there are signs showing otherwise – and remember this could be 20mph.

HGV speed limits

Different speed limits apply to the type of vehicle you are driving and the type of road you are driving on. Under new regulations across England and Wales, the speed limits for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) over 7.5 tonnes have changed. If a truck is driven on a single carriageway the speed has increased from 40mph to 50mph, and on a dual carriageway it has increased from 50mph to 60mph. You should be aware that many commercial vehicles and buses have a speed restricting device fitted to control them from speeding, so don’t tailgate in the hope that they will speed up.

Take better bends

As you approach a bend the first assessment to make is how sharp is it and is your speed appropriate? If you get this wrong you could skid or lose control. One easy way to take bends safely is to use limit point analysis. The limit point is the point at which the right and left hand sides of the bend meet and is the most distant point of the bend you can see. To use this technique as you approach a bend, make sure that, if needed, you can stop before you reach the limit point. Then ask yourself is the limit point getting further away? If it is and you can see further ahead then your speed is fine. If it is getting closer you should continue to reduce your speed until the limit point begins to move with you and your view opens up again. Remember the golden rule of bend taking – you must be able to stop, on your side of the road, in the distance you can see to be clear.

Inappropriate speed

Drivers often demonstrate contradictory attitudes to speed – it seems we want speed limits enforced on our own roads, but will happily drive at speed past other people’s houses. Inappropriate speed is driving within the speed limit but too fast for safety on that road at that time. For example, on a rural road, a speed well below the national 60mph limit may be required to cope with hazards such as slow moving farm vehicles, horse-riders, debris and limited forward visibility due to bends and weather conditions. Likewise, on a busy urban street a speed below 30mph may be required when there are hazards such as pedestrians (sometimes concealed by parked vehicles), cyclists, buses or manoeuvring delivery vehicles. Best advice: follow the safe speed rule and always ensure you’re able to stop comfortably within the distance you can see to be clear.