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A 20 MPH Speed Limit For England?

On September 17th Wales introduced a new national speed limit of 20 mph. The reduction to the existing 30 mph limit came into force across all “restricted roads”. However England and Scotland have not yet followed the same course of action nationwide. Will that remain the case?

20mph limits have been in place in areas across the UK for a number of years. These are mainly in places that require traffic calming measures for specific reasons such as areas surrounding schools or busy shopping streets. However the devolved Welsh Government passed a law in 2022 to implement 20mph as the country’s default speed limit.

The decision was based on evidence that demonstrates how lower speeds result in fewer collisions and a reduced severity of injuries. Pedestrians are said to be five times more likely to be killed if hit by a vehicle driven at 30mph compared to 20mph. In addition to the safety benefits it is hoped 20mph zones should improve air quality, reduce noise pollution and instigate healthier lifestyles by encouraging more active travel in communities.

Local Councils have been required to implement the changes by amending existing signage and introducing new signage. They have also been able to apply exemptions based on criteria laid out by the Welsh Government. Across the UK there are generally 3 main speed limits that motorists need to abide by. It’s important to remain aware of the following to avoid receiving a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP):

Restricted Roads

Are determined by street lighting that is no more than 200 yards apart. The usual speed limit you will see in towns and cities is 30 mph. However in Wales this is now 20 mph with a few “exception zones” that can be found on a map at If you are in a town or city in Scotland or England with street lights but no signs the speed limit will be 30 mph.

National Speed Limit

On roads without signs or a system of street lighting the speed limit will be 60 mph.

Dual Carriageways

Dual carriageways with a central reservation carry a limit of 70 mph but those without a central reservation are restricted to 60 mph.


These specified roads have a limit of 70 mph

Roads with alternative limits must be determined by two signs being displayed at the entry onto the road with a specific limit. These will be shown on either side of the road and at a suitably regular reoccurrence. It’s also critical to remember that these rules do not apply for all classes of vehicle. They are for standard vehicles whilst not towing a trailer.

A court will consider a driving ban if a speeding offence is sufficiently high compared to the road in question’s restriction. This consequence may be more likely if drivers do not modify their behaviour whilst behind the wheel in these newly reduced zones. The threat of a driving ban after receiving multiple fixed penalty convictions also hangs over many motorists. It has especially severe consequences for those that earn their living by driving. 12 points risks a minimum 6 month ban though courts do have it at their discretion not to disqualify a motorist if they feel it will cause undue hardship.

So far in England and Scotland the standard speed limited on restricted roads remains at 30mph. Yet, there is an increasing trend towards introducing 20 mph limits on specific roads with required signs at entry and regular repeaters. After declaring the UK “a nation of drivers” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is keen to defend the status quo for motorists. On his X account he stated he will be “slamming the brakes” on what he refers to as “anti-motorist measures”. He categorically ruled out “blanket 20 mph” zones. However there is just over a year left on his current term in office and a change of government is increasingly likely.

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