In this fact page we will cover:

  • How drivers feel about speed limits
  • How speed limits are set
  • Why different road types need different speed limits
  • The effects of speeding on crash risk
  • Speed laws in the UK
  • The penalties for breaking the speed limit in the UK

Brake and Direct Line findings, 2018

3 in 4
6 in 10
9 in 10

National speed limits

Speed limits on UK roads follow national standards. These are the default limits on these roads. At present, a speed limit of 30mph usually applies, unless you see signs showing otherwise. Brake campaigns for a lower default limit of 20mph in places where people live, work and play.

Speed National speed limits cars infographic
Source: Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

Local councils can set their own speed limits in certain areas, and these must be clearly signed. Government guidance states that local road speeds should be “evidence-led” and aimed at developing a road environment which is safer and fit for purpose. Brake supports the adoption of 20mph limits for all community roads.

A 2018 Brake report with Direct Line found that more than three-quarters of UK drivers admit to breaking the speed limit, with a quarter of drivers estimating that they break the speed limit on more than half their journeys.

The government publishes annual vehicle speed compliance statistics which also highlight the prevalence of illegal speed on UK roads.

Effective speed management is central to a ‘safe system’ approach to road safety. The safe system principle acknowledges that people can make mistakes behind the wheel and that there are known limits to ‘the capacity of the human body to absorb kinetic energy before harm occurs’. Within a safe system, effective speed management works holistically with vehicle design, road infrastructure and road user behaviour, to produce an overall safety effect greater than the sum of its parts.