Brake welcomes guidance on speed for urban areas

JonathanMay 30, 2014

For drivers, especially those who are behind the wheel for their job, taking note and obeying the speed restrictions is an integral part of staying safe and keeping within the law.

However, some motorists can get confused about what areas are under which speed restrictions if there are no signs in place, but now the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has stepped in.

The DVSA has clarified its advice for driving examiners on the appropriate speed in built-up areas, suggesting that all safe drivers should replicate this.

It comes as a result of campaigns from road safety charity Brake, which had concerns that driving test candidates were potentially being penalised for driving at 20mph in 30mph areas, despite it being more appropriate in some environments.

Brake, along with the GO 20 campaign, has called for 20mph to be the default limit in cities, towns and villages, and encouraged drivers to travel at this speed around homes, schools and shops.

It is hoped that this would better protect more vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and bike riders.

In a bid to remove confusion, the DVSA has clarified its stance, stating that the speed limit is the absolute maximum and does not always mean it is safe to drive at that speed.

"The speed limit is a limit and not a target and there are many instances especially in narrow residential streets when candidates may need to reduce their speed considerably lower than the speed limit – this should not be considered as a fault."

This echoes advice that is currently given to examiners during their training, as all learners must demonstrate the ability to adapt their speed to changing road conditions, and drive at a speed that allows them to stop safely.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, welcomed the changed calling it "excellent news" and saying it gave drivers the confidence to make a "choice".

She added that there was a growing consensus that 20mph is the "most appropriate top speed" to protect both pedestrians and cyclists, which are more common in built-up areas. 

"It is critical that drivers learn right from the start of their driving careers that speed limits are limits, not targets, and that slowing down is one of the most important things they can do to safeguard others."

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