UK Speed Limits

Many of us think we know what the speed limits in the UK are, but are you sure you know how fast you can drive a van? Do you know what the speed limit is if you’re towing a trailer?

How fast can you travel on a motorway? If you’re not familiar with the speed limits you could be putting your driving licence at risk!

You could face fines and penalty points, or end up in court and even be disqualified from driving.

If you’re not sure what the speed limit is and you’re caught driving too fast your ignorance is not a useful defence.

The Locomotives of Highways Act

Speed limits were introduced into the UK in the 1860s. The Locomotives of Highways Act limited vehicles to just 10 miles per hour. This was before the act reduced the speed to just 2 miles per hour in the city and 4mph in the countryside.

Things have changed a little since then and the maximum speed for a car in an urban or built up area is now 30mph. If you’re travelling on a single carriageway the speed limit is 60 mph.

Dual carriageways and motorways have a speed limit of 70mph. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule as the speed limit can depend on the sort of vehicle you’re driving.

Most vans can only travel up to 60mph on a dual carriageway and 50mph on single carriageway roads where the national sped limit applies. If you are found to have broken the UK’s speeding laws you will be putting yourself and the safety of others at risk.

You could face having to pay a fine or you may receive penalty points. There’s also the risk that you could be summoned to court where you may lose your licence.

UK Speed Limits

UK speed limits for different roads:

Vehicle                                                                                     Built-up Areas (MPH)      Single Carriageways   (MPH)   Dual Carriageways  (MPH)    Motorways  (MPH)

Cars, car derived van, motorcycles, dual purpose vehicle      30                                      60                                           70                                            70

Cars, car derived van, dual purpose vehicle when towing

trailers or caravans                                                                  30                                      50                                           60                                            60

Motor homes or motor caravans

(No more than 3,05 tonnes maximum unladen weight)          30                                      60                                            70                                            70

Motor homes or motor caravans

(More than 3,05 tonnes maximum unladen weight)               30                                      50                                            60                                            70

Buses coaches & minibuses (no more than 12m in length)   30                                      50                                            60                                            70

Buses, coaches & minibuses (more than 12 metres              30                                      50                                            60                                            60
in length)

Goods vehicle (no more than 7.5 tonnes

max laden weight)                                                                  30                                      50                                            60                                           70 (60mph if towing a trailer or articulated)

Goods vehicles (more than 7.5 tonnes max laden weight)

in England and Wales                                                            30                                      50                                            60                                            60

Goods vehicles (more than 7 ½ tonnes max laden

weight (in Scotland)                                                               30                                      40                                            50                                            60


What is a Car-derived Van?

A car-derived van is a van that has the same platform as a car. These have been designed to weigh no more than 2 tonnes when they are fully loaded.

Car-derived vans look the same as cars but they do not have passenger seats or rear windows. As these vehicles drive in almost the same way as cars do they can follow the same speed limit.

However, if you are not sure whether the van you’re about to drive is car-derived you should check the (v5) log book. Read the ‘Body type’ section as it will tell you if it’s a car-derived van.

Most vans on the road are not car-derived which means they are subject to slower speeds than cars. This includes Ford Transits and the Transit Connect.

The Variable Speed Limit

A variable speed limit may be used on a smart motorway. Motorways such as these can be found right across the UK and monitor traffic flow.

A smart motorway can monitor and adjust speed to help reduce congestion when it is required. For example, the hard shoulder may be used as a traffic lane or a temporary speed limit may be added.

A variable speed limit will be displayed on the gantries across the motorway. The variable speed limit is typically enforced by average speed cameras that are located behind signs.

Variable speed limits apply when there are roadworks if a vehicle has become stranded, or there is congestion further up on the motorway. These speed limits are usually used on the M1, M25 and the M6.

The penalty for breaking a variable speed limit is exactly the same as it is for breaking a fixed speed limit.

The Fixed Speed Limit

A fixed speed limit is the most common type of speed limit. Speed limits such as these are usually identified by a number that’s in a red circle.

Speed limits such as these are typically found on road signs just before a driver enters a speed limited area. The majority of roads in the UK are classed as ‘National Speed Limit’ and these are denoted by grey circular road signs that have one black diagonal stripe through it.

If you’re driving a car the ‘National Speed limit’ sign means you cannot travel in excess of 60mph on a single carriageway road. If you’re driving on a motorway or a dual carriageway the sign refers to a limit of 70 mph.

Speed Limits and Speed Cameras

A fixed speed limit is typically enforced by a fixed speed camera but it may occasionally be enforced by a temporary camera van. A van such as this can typically be found in a speeding hotspot.

If you are caught speeding more than 10% over the speed limit you may end up in court. Your court appearance could result in you paying a large fine or being given a driving ban.

The Minimum Speed Limits

It’s rare for minimum speed limits to be introduced in the UK. However, they do exist in places where driving too slowly could cause congestion.

They are also introduced in areas where there is a high risk that someone may crash. Tunnels usually have a minimum speed limit enforced.

When there is a minimum speed limit it’s marked by a circular blue sign that contains the minimum speed limit. When the minimum speed limit ends it’s marked by the same sign that has a red line through it.

Motorways and Minimum Speed Limits

There is not an official minimum speed limit on most motorways. However, travelling a little too slowly can be dangerous.

If the police think you’re travelling too slowly they may give you a verbal warning. However, you could also be prosecuted for driving carelessly.

20mph Speed Limits

Many local councils are slowly but surely introducing 20mph speed limits. These can typically be found near schools or on small residential roads.

Limits such as these are typically seen where traffic interacts with vulnerable road users such as cyclists and children. Traffic calming measures such as chicanes and speed bumps are often used to slow cars down.

Speed Limiters

Speed limiters are legally required to be fitted to vehicles that have more than 8 passenger seats. Limousines, buses and coaches in addition to goods vehicles that have a max. laden weight of more than 3.5 tonnes also needs to have a speed limiter.

Speed limiters work by restricting the supply of fuel to the vehicle’s engine when it reaches a specific speed. This means that some vehicles are unable to break or even reach a speed limit.