How to Reduce Your Speed and Stay Safe on the Road

An important aspect of staying safe on the road is making sure that you are travelling at a safe speed, which is why speed limits exist – to protect drivers, passengers and all other road users.

When you’re travelling at a faster speed you have less time to react to a situation and coming to a stop will take longer which is why it’s important that you adhere to the speed limits, as these tend to be lower in areas where you are more likely to encounter a potential hazard.

We’ve put together this piece to help you understand a little more about speed limits, the penalty of speeding and how to stop yourself from speeding.

Know Your Limits

In the UK there are a number of different speed limits that you will see on the road and these can be shown in the different signs shown below.

The most common limit signs you will see are the miles per hour (mph) limit displayed on a white background with a red circle around it (far left) or the national speed limit which is a white circle with a diagonal black line through it.

How to Reduce Your Speed and Stay Safe on the Road

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The national speed limit will vary depending on what type of road you are travelling on and how many carriageways it has. If there is a single carriageway then it will be 60 mph but if there are multiple carriageways then it will rise to 70 mph.

The speed limit displayed in the blue circle marks a minimum speed limit. These are fairly rare and will only occur in areas where travelling at too slow of a speed could be dangerous to you and other road users such as in a tunnel. When the sign has a red line through it this marks the end of the minimum speed limit area.

You might also see signs like the two on the far right where the speed limit is included as a smaller part of a local sign, the speed limit displayed will still be within a red circle. This type of sign is usually used in small, local areas such as around a school.

Speed limits will vary depending on how populated an area is, if there is a school nearby and the road layout, as roads with more sharp bends will usually have lower speed limits to reduce the risk of accidents.

In modern vehicle there will also be technology like Mercedes Active Speed Limit Assist that is designed to recognise speed limit signs and highlight them to you in the vehicle. Active Speed Limit Assist will detect the speed limit signs and show it in the centre of your driver display, it can also be paired with Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC which automatically adjusts the vehicle’s speed to the limits.

How to Reduce Your Speed and Stay Safe on the Road

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You might also find temporary speed limits in place where there are roadworks or loose road chippings because of recently completed work. These will usually be shown on yellow signs such as the ones above.

Variable Speed Limits

With the rise in smart motorways variable speed limits have become more common on stretches of roads. The overhead gantry signs will still display a limit, and this will usually be within a red circle still but you should be aware that where variable speed limits apply they can change quickly and you may end up travelling at much lower speeds than you would expect to on these roads. These speed limits are enforced just as any other speed limit and as soon as you notice the limit lowering you should safely reduce your own speed.

Vehicles with Lower Speed Limits

Though the speed limits on the road are generally the ones that most road users will obey it’s important to note that some road users will have lower speed limits.

You should be aware of these and make sure that you don’t pressure these drivers to exceed their speed limit as this can be dangerous for them and other road users including yourself.

We’ve included a table below to show the speed limits based on vehicle type.

How to Reduce Your Speed and Stay Safe on the Road

Additionally, some vehicles may be restricted to a lower speed due to company policy, or their drivers might not be comfortable driving at a higher speed.

It’s important to keep in mind the speed limit is the maximum speed that you can drive in an area and you do not have to drive at this speed in fact it might not always be safe to do so if there is poor weather conditions, slower road users ahead or reduced visibility.

Speed Cameras

Speed limits are enforced by speed cameras that use road or radar technology to record the speed a vehicle is travelling at and capture a photograph as well as the details of any speeding offence. These photographs will usually show enough of the vehicle to be able to determine the type and model as well as the registration.

There are four main types of speed cameras used in the UK:

  • Fixed speed cameras – these are stationary devices that focus on one point of a road and will capture anyone speeding on that stretch.
  • Average speed cameras – these cameras will be in a system that uses automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) to calculate the average speed a vehicle is travelling in an area.
  • Speed and traffic cameras – These cameras are designed to capture speeding and other offences as well, they will usually focus on violations such as running through a red light or stopping in a yellow junction box.
  • Mobile speed cameras – these are typically handheld devices operated by police on the roadside or semi-permanent installations that can be moved around an area as needed.

The Cost of Speeding

According to Nilsson’s Power Model, which is one of the best-regarded models that looks at the relationship between speed and accidents involving serious injury or fatalities, an increase of just 5% in your average speed leads to an increase of approximately 10% in all injury accidents and a 20% increase in fatal accidents.  And a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that an increase of just 1 km per hour can result in a 3% higher risk of a crash involving an injury and a 4-5% increase for crashes that result in fatality. From these reports, it’s clear that the faster you are travelling the more likely that if you are involved in an accident there could be serious injury or fatality.

Not only does speeding increase the risk of injury to yourself, your passengers and any other road users if you’re involved in an accident but there are also financial penalties if you are caught. You can be fined up to £2,500 depending on whether you take the case to court, which results in higher fines.

Additionally, you can receive upwards of three points on your driving licence and depending on whether you have any penalty points already this can result in a suspension of your licence.

Depending on the severity of your speeding offence you may be offered the opportunity to attend a speed awareness course instead of a fine and penalty points. This will not always be offered but is an option if the police force deems it appropriate and you have not been on a course in the previous three years. As well as the time it will take you to complete the course you will also be required to pay the fee to attend, which is usually around £100.

Reasons Not to Speed

Save fuel: speeding can reduce your fuel economy as it increases the drag on the vehicle, requires more power to the engine and so burns fuel faster. Especially now with fuel prices hitting record highs making the most of your fuel is important.

Little impact on time: If you are travelling faster than the speed limit you will usually still need to slow down in places for other road users, traffic signals and junctions, and even if you do not you’re unlikely to reach your destination significantly earlier than if you had kept to the speed limits.

More reaction time: Whereas travelling at a slower speed gives you more time to react to any potential hazards that may come up. Speed limits are designed in part to give you appropriate time to react to the expected hazards.

Reduce wear and tear: Speeding reduces the time it takes for general wear and tear to occur to your vehicle, in particular tyres can wear down more quickly if you are regularly travelling at high speeds.

Less stress: Speeding can be stressful as it puts you under extra pressure to recognise and react to hazards in less time, makes you feel more irritated by other road users travelling at the speed limit and below it, and you may put yourself in more dangerous situations.

How to Reduce Your Speed

We mentioned above that some vehicle may have their speed limited by their company and one way that they can do this is through fitting a speed limiter. Private drivers can also have a speed limiter fitted to their vehicles if they want to prevent themselves from exceeding the speed limit.

A similar method, that is popular for young drivers, is to have a black box fitted to the vehicle. This box collects data on your driving habits including your speed and braking in order to see how safe of a driver you are. From an insurance point of view your insurer will offer you lower rates as you agree to keep to a certain level on the scoring areas the box monitors and in following years may offer you better rates for good driving.

We know that not all drivers want or need to have a speed limiter or black box so we’ve also put together our top five tips for not speeding:

  1. Keep in mind the cost of speeding – can you afford to be hit with an expensive fine or pay for a speed awareness course? If the answer’s no, then don’t speed.
  2. Plan your route – if you know where you’re travelling and how long it should take you can give yourself plenty of time to get there and reduce your desire to speed for fear of being late.
  3. Ignore peer pressure – don’t speed up because someone is driving aggressively and trying to pressure you into exceeding the speed limit.
  4. Don’t pressure others – if there is a slow driver in front of you don’t try and pressure them into speeding up, even if they are doing below the limit. If it does bother you then you can wait for a safe opportunity to overtake them and then do so.
  5. Know your limits – keep your eyes open for the change of speed limit signs, utilise satnav systems that display the speed limit, or simply remember the limit for your most travelled routes so that you know what you should be travelling, and can you ensure you’re not exceeding this.
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