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Speed Limits In The UK: An Overview and History

Sep 5, 2008
Since road safety became an issue and the impact of fuel consumption on the environment came to light, there have been various arguments for an against reducing or increasing speed limits. We are now at a point in the UK where speed limits have become settled and general standards can be adhered to throughout.

For small villages or towns, or generally areas with inhabitants, the speed limit is 30 miles per hour. For cars, automobiles and motorcycles in areas not classed as "built-up" or the general highways, the speed limit is 60 miles per hour. In some cases this extends to 70mph where roads are in good condition and driving is relatively easy. The speed limit on the UK's motorways and dual carriageways is 70 miles per hour. Trucks, lorries and cars with trailers have slightly different limits - 50-60 miles per hour on general highways in rural areas and 60 miles per hour on the UK's motorways and dual carriage ways.

Additionally, lorries traveling in the UK have with a total weight of 7500kg or above are speed restricted to 56 miles per hour. This is the maximum speed they can travel and this should be adhered to at all times, regardless of the road or conditions.

These limits have arisen through various experiments over time. Roads outside urban areas did not have any speed limits between 1930 and 1965. This included motorways. However, in the winter of 1965 during a particularly bad period of weather several motorway crashed meant authorities reviewed the speed limits on these roads. Initially 70 miles per hour was settled upon for a speed limit nationally. This was then made a permanent limit in 1967.

Similarly, in 1930, the Road Traffic Act introduced a 20 miles per hour limit on all heavy goods vehicles on all roads. This was raised to 30 miles per hour in 1955 and has remained in place ever since.

Limits can be changed do to various conditions. For example, in 1973 the speed limit was reduced to 50 miles per hour for all motorway and express way routes in order to combat the fuel crisis at the time.

The introduction, monitoring and adherence to these speed limits has lead to the UK having some of the safest roads in Europe. Road safety is continuing to improve, but at a slower rate to the likes of Sweden. Continued surface improvement and route mapping should see the UK make some ground on the high standards set by other nations.
About the Author
David Whelan writes for BGR Bloomer, a personal injury claim solicitors that specializes in road traffic accident compensation . David has been writing for over 12 years covering a wide range of topics.
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