UK speed limits are a topic of hot debate among many drivers. You may not like them, but they are essential to the UK’s driving infrastructure. They establish a consistent level of safety throughout the UK and provide a base line upon which dangerous drivers can be judged.
As well as the type of road you’re on, the type of vehicle you drive contributes to your speed limit. Cars, bikes and vans have different limits than those of larger vehicles, such as coaches and HGVs.
UK Speeding Laws
Speed limits were first introduced in the UK in 1861 as part of the Locomotives on Highways Act. This limited vehicles to a dizzying 10mph! This speeding rampage went on for four years, until the 1865 Locomotive Act reduced speeds to a more gentlemanly 4mph in the country and 2mph in the city. Only then was peace restored.
Now that the Penny Farthing is out of the way, we’re a bit more fast paced. UK car speed limits are generally 30mph in urban areas, 60mph on main single-carriageway roads and 70mph on dual carriageways and motorways. But of course, there are exceptions.
If you break the speeding laws you could face a fine and points, or potentially be summonsed to court where you could even lose your licence.
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In 2017, the government issued new penalties for speeding offences. In the past, you were commonly fined £100 for speeding, but now things are much tougher. The further over the limit you go, the harsher your penalty will be, as seen on the table below:
|Speed Limit (mph)||Recorded Speed (mph)|
|Sentence||Band C Fine – 150% weekly income||Band B Fine – 100% weekly income||Band A Fine – 50% weekly income|
|Disqualification/Points||7-56 days OR 6 points||7-28 days OR 4-6 points||3 points|
You can learn more about the changes, and why they happened, on our blog.
Explore the UK speed limits with our interactive guide
Speed Limits in Town
In built up areas, the speed limit is 30mph. This applies to everything from your spritely Fiat 500 to the Chelsea-est of tractors. Towns and urban areas usually only signpost the beginning of the 30mph zone, so if you’re deep in the warren of a town, remember: if you see street lights, you’re probably in a 30mph zone.
Some places, usually around schools and pedestrian-heavy areas, can have speed limits of 20mph. If the speed limit is lower than 30mph anywhere, it will be clearly identified.
Speed Limits for Buses, Coaches & Motorhomes
The speed limit for larger vehicles is determined by their size. This is due to the safety concerns of tonnes of metal on wheels hurtling down the motorway.
Anything over 3.05 tonnes may only travel at 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways.
Vehicles under 3.05 tonnes are subject to the same speed limit as cars and motorbikes.
Vehicles longer than 12 metres long are restricted to a 60mph motorway speed limit, too.
Speed Limits for Cars, Bikes and Vans
Out on the open road, the speed limit is 70mph. This applies to dual carriageways and motorways. For single carriageways, the speed limit is 60mph. If you’re towing a trailer, the speed limit is reduced by 10mph.
Goods Vehicle Speed Limits
Goods vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes may reach 60mph on all UK motorways and dual carriageways. But if you’re in Scotland, the carriageway speed is reduced by 10mph.
Drivers of goods vehicles lighter than 7.5 tonnes and not towing a trailer are governed by the same rules as buses and coaches.
While 60mph is the legal limit in the UK, a Europe-wide regulation mandates any vehicle weighing more than 3,500kg – classed as a Heavy Goods Vehicle, or HGV – must be limited to 56mph.
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