In this fact page we will cover:

  • Speeding laws in the UK
  • Penalties for breaking speeding laws in the UK
  • Methods used to deter and catch speeding drivers

A visible police presence is widely accepted to be an effective deterrent to crime, and this applies to road crime too.

Effective enforcement isn’t solely about police resources, though, it also requires a justice system that deals with law-breaking drivers effectively and ensures that those who repeatedly break the law are dealt with strongly and removed from our roads.


Speeding laws in the UK

The UK government states:

"You must not drive faster than the speed limit for the type of road and your type of vehicle. The speed limit is the absolute maximum – it doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive at this speed in all conditions.

"The speed limit varies depending on the type of road and the type of vehicle being driven."

In the UK, if you are caught driving faster than the speed limit by the police or a speed camera, you may receive:

  • a verbal or written warning
  • a fine
  • points on your driving licence
  • an invitation to attend a speed awareness course
  • a notice to go to court
  • a driving ban.

The penalty will vary depending on how fast you were travelling, where you were caught speeding, how you were caught, and whether you have previous driving convictions.

The minimum penalty for speeding is a £100 fine and 3 penalty points added to your licence.

If a speeding driver causes a crash that results in death or serious injury, the penalties are much more severe. For example, in England and Wales, the maximum penalty for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving is a prison sentence of 14 years and/or an unlimited fine.

Penalty point systems and driving bans Down arrow icon to open accordion

Drivers convicted of a motoring offence, such as speeding, can be fined and have their driving record endorsed with penalty points. These endorsements remain on a driving record for either four or 11 years depending on the seriousness of the offence.

Drivers who build up 12 or more penalty points within a period of three years can be disqualified from driving.

Driving bans and their length are decided at the discretion of the Court based on how serious they think the offence is.

Typically, a driving ban can last:

  • Six months, if you get 12 or more penalty points within three years
  • One year, if you get a second disqualification within three years
  • Two years, if you get a third disqualification within three years

Drivers who have been banned for 56 days or more must apply for a new licence before driving again.

In some cases, a driver who has reached 12 points and faces a ban can claim ‘exceptional hardship’ if they believe that the ban will cause them hardship, such as if they need to drive for work or if they are a carer and need use of a car. This is, again, at the discretion of the Court but may result in the driver avoiding a ban.


Methods used to deter and catch speeding drivers

Speed cameras

There are different kinds of speed cameras:

  • fixed cameras – measure the speed of passing vehicles and take photographs of those that break the speed limit
  • mobile cameras held by police officers – placed on tripods, or fixed in police cars, that can visit different locations
  • average speed cameras – calculate the time it takes a vehicle to travel between cameras and the average speed over the distance between cameras.

Speed cameras can be an efficient, cost-effective way to catch speeding drivers, especially if the revenue they generate through fines is reinvested in road safety measures. They can also catch far more speeding drivers than traffic police with mobile cameras, at much lower cost. When speed cameras work effectively to deter speeding drivers and prevent serious road crashes, they also make a significant contribution to the UK economy. In Great Britain, the average cost of preventing a fatal road crash is estimated to be over £2 million.

Community initiatives to reduce speeding

There are a number of community initiatives in the UK to reduce speeding where community volunteers work with local police officers to monitor vehicle speeds. Data about vehicles exceeding the speed limit is sent to the police with the aim of educating drivers to reduce their speeds. Drivers who continue to speed or who speed excessively may be prosecuted.

Find out more about community speed enforcement programmes by clicking one of the links below:

Police and volunteers from a Community Roadwatch group in Bexleyheath explain how they are working together to address the problem of speeding traffic and make roads safer in their community.
Are speed cameras effective? Down arrow icon to open accordion

Research has shown that speed cameras are effective in reducing speeds and preventing crashes and casualties:

Support for tougher enforcement measures to deter speeding drivers

The latest vehicle safety technology is designed to prevent crashes and reduce the risk of death or serious injury if a crash happens. Intelligent speed assistance (ISA) enables greater compliance with speed limits and greatly improves road safety as a result.

Roads policing and the 'fatal four'

Roads policing is a vital part of road safety. Roads policing officers enforce traffic laws and ensure that anyone driving dangerously is caught and appropriately punished. They often focus their enforcement action around the ‘fatal four’ – the four main causes of serious injury and death on the roads:

  • Inappropriate or excessive speed
  • Not wearing a seat belt
  • Driver distractions including using mobile devices such as phones
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Roads policing numbers are in decline. In March 2019, there were 4,457 full-time equivalent roads policing officers in England and Wales, a 4% decline from 2018 (4,658 officers). This decline has been a trend in recent years, with a 5% decrease in officers from 2018 to 2017 and a 7% decrease from 2017 to 2016.

References and further reading Down arrow icon to open accordion