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Back To 20mph: The Change In Speed Limit from 30 to 20 mph In Wales

Change in Speed Limit from 30 to 20

Many roads that previously had a 30 mph speed limit have now been changed to 20 mph following a law passed by the Welsh Government. The change will reduce the speed limit on plenty of speed-restricted roads in Wales and some local councils in England have followed suit too. The introduction of a 20mph speed limit in built-up areas aims to make the roads a safer place for pedestrians and cyclists and is fully enforceable by law enforcement.

Any change in speed limit is mandatory and therefore police can prosecute drivers exceeding the 20 mph limit regardless of how new it is. The reasons for the change include reducing collisions, injuries, air pollution, and noise while promoting the benefits of people walking and cycling.

Whether the new limits are clearly signed or not, drivers must obey them or potentially face penalties like fines, points, or disqualification.

Legal Guidance For Exceeding Change In Speed Limits

At Caddick Davies Solicitors, we understand the impact that any motoring offence charge can have. If you are facing a charge as a result of the introduction of 20mph limits, we can help you. We work with you so that you understand the process to come and explore all available defences and mitigating circumstances that could potentially reduce the severity of the penalties you face.

You can contact our office for a free consultation on 0151 944 4967.

Read on for more details on the change in speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph in many areas in Wales and England.

Reasons For The 20mph Speed Limit As A New Normal

The Welsh Government set a national 20mph limit in urban areas in 2022, making it the default speed limit where pedestrians and cyclists mix with traffic on restricted roads. The evidence shows driving at 20mph instead of 30mph in an urban environment reduces collisions and injury severity – pedestrians are five times more likely to be killed if hit at 30mph. 20mph limits in these areas also improve air quality, and reduce noise pollution and fuel costs, while promoting healthier walk or cycle-to-school choices.

Though it may seem slower initially, consistently keeping to 20mph creates safer, quieter urban conditions without excessive acceleration and braking that wastes fuel and increases pollution. While journey times may increase by mere seconds, the benefits of introducing 20mph limits appear to outweigh marginal delays and Wales has taken a national lead on Road Safety.

Are 20mph Speed Limits Legally Enforceable? 

Yes, the change in speed limits from 30 mph to 20 mph roads is enforceable. Whilst the police may exercise discretion in the initial stages of the change, to allow people to adjust to the new speed limit, the police are still within their rights to prosecute if you exceed the 20 mph limit – even by only 1mph.

It is a common myth that the police cannot prosecute unless you have exceeded the speed limit by “10% plus 2mph”. It does not matter how fast in excess of the speed limit you are travelling. If you have exceeded the speed limit, you have committed an offence of speeding. It is a speed limit, not a target.

Distinguishing Mandatory vs Recommended Speed Limits

Mandatory Speed Limit

A speed limit displayed within a red circle is a mandatory speed limit, and failure to comply can affect casualty rates and road safety. The speed limit does not have to be permanent in order for it to be mandatory, and therefore speed limits displayed in red circles during road works are still mandatory.

A motorist must abide by the instructions given to remain within the law. If you fail to do so, there is a risk that you will be charged with a speeding offence and have your licence endorsed with penalty points, and in more serious cases, a disqualification from driving.

Recommended Speed Limit

A recommended speed limit will be displayed when a stretch of road is potentially hazardous. For example:

  1. A recent road traffic collision.
  2. Congestion of traffic.
  3. Road works.
  4. Traffic officers in vulnerable locations.
  5. Extreme weather conditions.

Such signs are not mandatory, and this is indicative of how they are displayed. They are not displayed within a red circle and are therefore not enforceable as the mandatory speed limit.

Recommended speed limit signs can often cause confusion and therefore it is important to acknowledge them and consider your surroundings whilst also not forgetting the mandatory speed limit for that road.

Even if a speed limit is not mandatory, the prevailing conditions may mean that it is suitable for you to follow what is recommended.

Penalties For Exceeding The New Speed Limit

If you are charged with an offence of speeding the police with either discharge liability by way of an out-of-court settlement (a Conditional Offer of Fixed Penalty), a speed awareness course or if the offence is too serious, court proceedings.

A Conditional Offer of Fixed Penalty

A Conditional Offer of Fixed Penalty for a speeding offence will always be 3 penalty points and a £100 fine. If you choose to accept this offer you will be required to provide your driving licence information to the police and pay the fine. The points will then be updated on your record by the DVLA.

You can only accept the offer if you have 8 or less points on your licence, as you would otherwise be required to go to court for consideration of a “totting up” disqualification (accumulating 12 or more points within a 3 year period).

Further info: Exceptional Hardship and Totting Up.

If the offence was committed during the first 2 years following you passing your driving test, and acceptance of the points would see you hit 6 penalty points on your driving licence, then your driving licence will be revoked by the DVLA if you accept the offer.

The Police will typically offer a Conditional Offer of Fixed Penalty for the below speeds:

  • Up to and including 30mph in a 20mph speed limit
  • Up to and including 40mph in a 30mph speed limit.
  • Up to and including 55mph in a 40mph speed limit.
  • Up to and including 65mph in a 50mph speed limit.
  • Up to and including 80mph in a 60mph speed limit.
  • Up to and including 90mph in a 70mph speed limit.

The police can and do offer a Conditional Offer Fixed Penalty for higher speeds. These offers are only discretionary and therefore the police do not have to offer them to you, even if you fall within the above category, but generally do (if your licence is capable of accepting them).

It is important to note that once you have accepted a Conditional Offer of Fixed Penalty it is not possible to cancel it.

Speed Awareness Course

If you have a full UK driving licence and have not taken a speed awareness course in the past 3 years then the Police can offer you to attend a speed awareness course for the below speeds:

  • Up to and including 31mph in a 20mph speed limit.
  • Up to and including 42mph in a 30mph speed limit.
  • Up to and including 53mph in a 40mph speed limit.
  • Up to and including 64 mph in a 50mph speed limit.
  • Up to and including 75mph in a 60mph speed limit.
  • Up to and including 86mph in a 70mph speed limit.

This offer is discretionary, even if you qualify. The course will cost you approximately £100 to attend, depending upon the course provider, but will avoid the endorsement of points on your licence. It can be taken online and usually lasts half a day,

Court Proceedings

If the matter is taken to court, then the penalty that you will face is as follows:

Speed Limit (MPH) Recorded Speed (MPH)
20 41+ 31 – 40 21 – 30
30 51+ 41 – 50 31 – 40
40 66+ 56 – 65 41 – 55
50 76+ 66 – 75 51 – 65
60 91+ 81 – 90 61 – 80
70 101+ 91 – 100 71 – 90
Penalty 7 – 56 day disqualification OR 6 points 7 – 28 days disqualification OR 4 – 6 penalty points 3 penalty points

If the Court believes that you have driven “grossly in excess” of the speed limit then they can consider a disqualification in excess of 56 days. Unfortunately, there is no definition as to what “grossly in excess” means and will be at the Court’s discretion. The length of the disqualification is also determined by the Court.

Lack Of 20mph Speed Limit Signage As A Defence

If the speed limit has allegedly changed but there is no clear signage indicating as such, then you may have a valid defence to the charge. In such circumstances, you should seek legal advice immediately to discuss your options.

In this instance, it may be suitable to take the speeding offence to court where a trial would be run and the following may be required:

  1. Giving evidence under oath that there was no signage.
  2. A passenger in your car attended as a witness to give evidence under oath that there was no signage.
  3. Service of dash cam footage to demonstrate that there was no signage.

Notwithstanding the above, it will be the prosecution’s job to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were guilty of the offence. This requires providing evidence that you have committed the offence, including evidence what the speed limit was if you challenge it on that basis.

We would only recommend challenging a charge on this basis if you are certain that the speed limit was not what the police or prosecution allege it to be.

Have a valid defence to a charge of speeding? Please contact us for a free consultation and an assessment as to your case.

Obstructed or Unclear 20mph Signage – “Special Reasons” Defence

If you have committed an offence of speeding, but the signage was obstructed or unclear, then you may have some success in advancing an application for “special reasons”.

“Special reasons” is an application that will allow the Court to not punish you for the offence and endorse your driving licence with penalty points or a disqualification, even though an offence has technically been committed.

Whilst the legal basis for a “special reasons” argument is derived from statute, a clear definition of “special reasons” was established in the case of R v Wickens (1958) which states that four requirements must be present in order for “special reasons” to exist:

  1. It must be a mitigating or extenuating circumstance and;
  2. It must not amount to a defence in law and;
  3. It must be directly connected with the commission of the offence and;
  4. The matter must be one which the Court ought properly to take into consideration when imposing punishment.

If you believe that you may have a valid argument for an application for “special reasons” then please contact us for a free consultation and an assessment as to your case.

Further information: Special Reasons Applications 

Avoiding Disqualification When Exceeding The New Limit 

If you are facing a disqualification due to exceeding the speed limit excessively, then it may be possible to avoid a disqualification or at least reduce the disqualification imposed.

When considering whether to endorse penalty points or a disqualification the Magistrates’ will consider the circumstances as to how the offence occurred as well as mitigating circumstances such as good character as well as the impact a disqualification would have upon those around you should you be disqualified from driving.

This is owing to proportionality as it would be in proportion to the offence to disqualify someone from driving which will indirectly lead to punishing those around them through no fault of their own.

The Court will consider the below as aggravating features:

  1. An offence committed whilst on bail.
  2. Previous convictions.
  3. Poor road or weather conditions.
  4. Driving a goods vehicle.
  5. Towing a caravan or trailer.
  6. Carrying passengers or a heavy load.
  7. Driving for hire or rewards
  8. Location near a school.
  9. High level of traffic or pedestrians.

The Court will consider the below as mitigating features:

  1. Clean driving licence/good driving record history.
  2. Clean criminal record/good character.
  3. Good road or weather conditions.
  4. No passengers.
  5. Low-level traffic or pedestrians.

The Court may also take into consideration the importance of your licence such as needing your licence for:

  1. Your job.
  2. Consequently financially.
  3. To assist a vulnerable friend or family member.
  4. To run a business.
  5. To attend medical appointments or for your health generally.
  6. Limited public transport links.

Requesting A Court Hearing For 20mph Speeding Offences

If a speeding matter is taken to court you will receive a “Single Justice Procedure Notice” charging you with the offence. This notice gives you 21 days to respond. You have the below options when responding:

  1. Plead guilty – attend court.
  2. Plead guilty – case dealt with in your absence.
  3. Plead not guilty.

If you are seeking to avoid a disqualification from driving it is recommended that you attend a hearing so that mitigation can be presented. You can therefore tick the first option above. It is usually easiest to respond online so that the Court receives your plea and request for a court hearing immediately.

The police have a period of 6 months from the date of an alleged offence to issue proceedings in the Magistrates’ Court.

Issuing proceedings is not:

  1. The date that you receive the paperwork.
  2. The date that the paperwork was posted.
  3. The date that the charge was authorised.

Proceedings are issued when the paperwork is prepared to be sent out.

If you are unsure if proceedings have been issued out of time, then contact us for a free consultation. If proceedings have been issued out of time, then you may have a valid defence to the charge as the proceedings would be “time barred” pursuant to Section 127 of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980.

Summary: Consequences Of Speeding In A 20mph Zone 

In conclusion, the change from 30mph to 20mph speed limits on many roads, especially across Wales, is a legal requirement that is being enforced by police. While some discretion may be shown initially, drivers can still face penalties like fines, points or disqualification for exceeding the new 20mph limits, even by just 1mph over the limit.

Drivers need to pay close attention to speed limit signage and differentiate between mandatory limits displayed in red circles versus recommended advisory speeds. Even if signage is lacking or obstructed, ignorance is no defence and the onus is on drivers to ensure they don’t speed. Depending on the extent of the offence, penalties range from conditional offers of fixed fines/points, speed awareness courses, or court proceedings with potential disqualification.

Mitigating factors like good character, lack of previous offences, and personal hardship from a driving ban can persuade courts to reduce penalties. Overall, being caught exceeding the new 20mph limits can have serious consequences.

Get In Touch For Legal Advice Regarding Speeding Offences 

At Caddick Davies Solicitors, we have a team of specialist motor defence lawyers who are experts in preparing cases, defending charges, and presenting mitigation in court in order to avoid or reduce a disqualification. We understand the complexities of these cases and have a proven track record of successfully assisting clients in avoiding driving disqualifications.

From the most straightforward to the most intricate cases, we are dedicated to providing personalised support and guidance. We begin every enquiry with an informal discussion to gain a thorough understanding of your unique circumstances and to address any questions you may have in complete confidence.

If you believe that you have a defence or mitigating circumstances that should be considered in your speeding case, please do not hesitate to contact our office for a free consultation at 0151 944 4967.

Motoring Lawyer at Caddick Davies Solicitors
Caddick Davies is recognised as one of England and Wales’ leading motoring law firms, offering specialist Speeding Solicitors, Drink Driving Solicitors & Dangerous Driving Solicitors.We provide advice and representation on all motoring offences including speeding, the avoidance of disqualification on penalty points or “totting up” (exceptional hardship), driving without due care and attention (careless driving), dangerous driving, drink driving, as well as a range of services related to medical revocation of a driving licence.
Neil Davies

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