Driver advice: speed

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Drivers can Pledge to – stay under limits, slow down to 20mph around schools, homes and shops to protect others, slow right down for bends, brows and bad weather, and avoid overtaking.

Everyone can Pledge to – speak out for slowing down and help drivers understand that the slower they drive, the more chance they have of avoiding a crash and saving a life.

Driving slowly is one of the most important things drivers can do to protect themselves and others. That means staying well within limits, slowing down to 20mph around homes, schools and shops, slowing right down for bends, brows and bad weather, and avoiding overtaking.

It’s essential to safe and considerate driving because slowing down gives you much more time to react to people and hazards around you, and avoid hitting someone or something. Slowing down helps make our roads and communities safer, greener, nicer places, and can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.

Limits are limits, not targets

Stay well under limits, rather than hovering around them. Look out for signs, including temporary limits, and obey them, regularly glancing at your speedo. Know which limits are usually in place on different roads (see the Highway Code) and if unsure, err on the side of caution and slow down. It will help you stay safe and avoid fines and penalty points.

Keep at least a two-second gap (four in the wet) behind the vehicle in front on any road, but especially at higher speeds – it’s your braking space in a crisis.

GO 20 in towns and villages

Sometimes the speed limit is too fast for safety. The UK’s default limit in built-up areas is 30mph, although more and more local authorities are implementing 20 limits across towns, cities and villages to protect people on foot and bike.

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Drivers can make a big difference now by committing to GO 20 in all communities: slowing down to 20mph around homes, schools and shops, even where the limit is still 30mph. You’ll help to make streets and communities safer, greener, more pleasant places.

At 20mph, your stopping distance is about half that at 30mph, so GOing 20 makes a big difference to safety, but it won’t be a big inconvenience. Your journeys should be smoother and use less petrol, and your journey times are unlikely to be significantly longer. Driving at 20mph in communities gives you time to react in an emergency, such as if a child runs out.

Go slow on rural roads

Rural roads are often bendy and narrow with poor visibility and hidden junctions. Even if you know the road well, you never know what’s round the corner. The majority of driver and passenger deaths happen on rural roads, often due to drivers taking bends too fast, overtaking, or not being able to react to unexpected hazards.

That’s why slowing down on rural roads is crucial. The derestricted limit (60mph for cars and vans) is generally far too fast for safety – so stay well beneath this and slow right down for bends, brows, dips and junctions, and in bad weather. You should be able to come to a stop within the space you can see.

Slowing down on rural roads also helps people to enjoy the countryside, and people in rural communities to get about, by being able to cycle, walk and horse-ride without being endangered. Rural roads are shared – not drivers’ private race tracks.

Go slow in bad weather

Slowing down – or avoiding driving at all if you can – is crucial to staying safe in bad weather. Driving in wet or icy conditions significantly increases your stopping distances, while fog and mist make it far harder to react to hazards. Read our ABC of bad weather driving.

Don’t overtake

Overtaking on single carriageways is incredibly risky and should be avoided. It is impossible to accurately judge the speed of approaching traffic, or the length of empty road in front of you, and when overtaking this can be fatal. The gap between you and oncoming traffic disappears surprisingly fast. If you and an oncoming vehicle are both driving at 60mph, the gap between you is closing at 120mph, or 60 metres a second. So a small error of judgement can easily result in multiple deaths.

That’s why it isn’t worth the risk. Often overtaking makes little difference to your arrival time, but could mean you and someone else never arriving at all. So never overtake on single carriageways unless absolutely essential, such as because you need to pass a stationary or extremely slow moving vehicle. Only then do so if certain there’s enough space to get past without speeding and with no risk of someone coming the other way. Otherwise just hang back and relax.

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Ditch the excuses

Some drivers use all sorts of excuses for speeding: they don’t notice their speed creeping up, they feel pressured by other drivers, they’re in a rush, or think they can handle it because of their fast reaction times and good brakes. The fact is, slowing down is essential to safe driving, no matter who you are or what you’re driving. Studies have proven the link between speed and safety: reducing average speeds leads to fewer crashes and casualties, and if you speed, you’re far more likely to crash.

The laws of physics mean that going even a bit faster makes a big difference to your stopping distance and therefore your ability to react and stop. For example, increasing your speed by 25%, from 40mph to 50mph, increases your stopping distance by 47%, from 36m to 53m. Learn more about stopping distances.

In short, slowing down is vital to safety, especially in protecting our most vulnerable road users like children, and enabling people to walk and cycle without fearing for their lives. And it’s not a big ask. All drivers should be able to keep an eye on their speed, and protecting people should always be the priority over getting there a few minutes faster.

  • Read our factsheets on speed for more information
  • Back our GO 20 campaign for lower speed limits in towns, cities and villages
  • How much do you know about stopping distances? Use Brake's stopping distance tool
  • Pledge to always drive below the limit and slow down to 20mph around homes, schools and shops 
aaronthumb Aaron was just 12 years old when he was knocked down and killed by a speeding car.
emmathumb

Emma was tragically killed by a speeding car that crashed into oncoming traffic.

Visit Brake's Youtube channel for more videos.


 

Page updated June 2016