Speed and the 'A' Road

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We are all aware of the speed limits  and braking distances which we learn when preparing to take the driving test, but how many drivers retain that information and actually take heed of the speed limits   and braking distance once they have passed? The general speed limit for an 'A' road is 60mph but many of the 'A' roads in the UK run through villages and countryside and it is not safe to drive at this speed.  There has recently been yet another death on the A31 in Hampshire and the local Council and residents are calling for the speed limit to be reduced to 50mph.

I believe it is time the Highways Agencies and local Councils throughout the UK take a look at the 'A' roads and consider whether the speed limit of 60mph should be reduced depending on the location of the road.  It is not good enough to give a blanket speed limit on all 'A' roads as it makes more sense to take into account the location of the road and who uses the road as well as review the number of accidents which occur on that particular stretch of road and then decide what the appropriate speed limit should be.The roads through the UK are regularly inspected by the Highways agencies and local Councils and it would be sensible at the time of the inspection to consider the type of road and speed limit and whether a reduction in the speed limit is appropriate.  Having spoken with the Department of Transport and the Highways Agencies and reviewed a number of Local Authority safety inspection policies, consideration of speed is not something dealt with at the time of road inspections.  The objective of these inspections is to report on defects in the road and the risk of damage and/or injury to highway users resulting from the defects.

According to the Department of Transport Statistics there were over 900 accidents on both rural and urban 'A' roads in the UK in 2011 which is 150 more accidents than in 2010.

We have already seen over the last few years the speed limit being reduced near schools and residential areas to 20mph and councils do have the authority to set their own speed limits in certain areas.

You must not drive faster than the speed limit set as this is the maximum for the particular road and does not mean it is safe to drive at this speed in all conditions.   You should take particular care  in wet and icy weather or where there are sharp bends in the road and your vision is impaired as you never know what is around the bend.

I would suggest that for your safety and that of other road uses and pedestrians you take a minute to digest the information regarding speed limits on the Government website.

Vans and ‘car-derived’ vans

Most vans are under 7.5 tonnes laden (loaded) weight and must follow the speed limits for goods vehicles of the same weight.

‘Car-derived’ vans weigh no more than 2 tonnes when loaded and are based on car designs, for example:

- Ford Fiesta van;
- Vauxhall Astra van;
- Fiat Punto van;
- Peugeot 207 van;
- Renault Clio van.

Locally set speed limits

Local councils can also set their own speed limits in certain areas, and these must be clearly signed.

For example:

- 20 mph zone in a built-up area near a school;
- 50 mph (rather than 60 mph) limit on a stretch of road with sharp bends.

Julie Donovan
Senior Legal Executive - Personal Injury team

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