Knowing your speed limits
The speed limit is the absolute maximum permitted in law. It does not mean it is safe to drive at that speed irrespective of conditions. Driving at speeds too fast for the road and traffic conditions can be dangerous.
You should always reduce your speed when:
- the road layout or condition presents hazards such as bends
- sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists, particularly children, and motorcyclists
- weather conditions make it safer to do so
- driving at night as it is harder to see other road users
This sign shows that the national speed limit applies:
The table below shows the national speed limits. These apply to all roads unless signs show otherwise.As well as the speed limits on the roads themselves, certain classes of vehicle are subject to their own speed limits, and the lesser speed limit must be adhered to.
Detail of speed limits for various vehicle classes and road types can be found by clicking here .
Built up areas
If you are unsure of the speed limit on a particular road where it is built up and there are streetlights, assume that the speed limit is 30mph. If the speed limit is above 30mph there will be repeater speed limit signs placed in regular intervals.
The law does not allow Highways Authorities to place repeater speed limit signs in a 30mph area where there is a system of street lighting, lit or unlit.
Dual carriageways in built-up areas may have reduced speed limits of 50mph, 40mph and even 30mph to ensure the safety of all road users. On dual carriageways where a saloon car may be driven at 70mph, a Transit van, being a goods vehicle and not a "car derived van", is restricted by its class to a speed limit of 60mph.
A dual carriageway is a road that is separated by a central reservation. A central reservation is anything other than a pedestrian refuge that separates vehicles going in one direction from vehicles going in the other direction.
It should be noted that, although it is more usual to have two or more lanes in each direction, the number of lanes is not specified, i.e. it is the presence of a central reservation rather than the number of lanes that determines whether or not a road is a dual carriageway.
The speed limit for goods vehicles not exceeding 7.5 tonnes is 60mph on motorways if the vehicle is articulated or towing a trailer.
What is a "car derived van"?
Under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, a "car derived van" is defined as:-
"A goods vehicle which is constructed or adapted as a derivative of a passenger vehicle and which has a maximum laden weight not exceeding 2 tonnes."
The important word in this definition is "and" as there are goods vehicles that look as if they are based on a passenger vehicle, but when the manufacturer puts a gross laden weight on the goods vehicle, which is the design weight of the vehicle plus the maximum load that it is designed to carry, and this exceeds 2 tonnes, that vehicle is no longer a car derived van.
The van becomes an ordinary goods vehicle under 7.5 tonnes gross weight, and is therefore subject to the speed limits as shown in the Highway Code.
As a "rule of thumb" any van larger than a Vauxhall Astravan will have a gross weight in excess of 2 tonnes and is therefore subject to the reduced "class of vehicle" speed limits. Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter, Mercedes Vito, Peugeot Expert and Ford Connect, for example, are restricted vans.
It is immaterial that a goods vehicle may be unladen at the time it is detected exceeding the speed limit. The construction of the vehicle that enables it to be used up to the 7.5 tonnes maximum weight is the relevant criteria.