About speed limits
The speed limit provides a key indication of the nature of the road or area. The speed limit should fit the location so that the majority of drivers keep to the limit with minimal police attention.
The two most important factors which are used to assess any request for a speed limit change are :
have there been any accidents that caused injury?
are the current mean speeds of traffic already close to the proposed limit?
For more information about speed related topics in Hampshire, please see the information below:
The County Council is responsible for setting speed limits on all public roads, except motorways and trunk roads.
Speed limits are set in accordance with criteria and guidance developed by the Department for Transport (DfT). The criteria ensure that speed limits are set in a consistent way that drivers understand and which promote road safety.
Drivers have a responsibility to drive carefully and safely, in accordance with the prevailing conditions on any road, which can often mean travelling at speeds considerably lower than the posted maximum limit. A speed limit is not a target speed.
Several factors are taken into account in the assessment of a road or area for a speed limit. These include:
- General character of the road or area
- Type and extent of roadside development
- Traffic composition
- Accident history
- Current traffic speed
- The frequency of junctions
- Presence of amenities that attract pedestrians and cyclists
- Environmental impact such as increased journey times, vehicles emissions, and the visual impact of the signing.
To be effective and influential a speed limit depends on drivers responding to these factors, particularly those with a visual impact. The speed limit should provide a key indication of the nature of the road or area and the activity of motorised and non-motorised road users. In this sense, the speed limit should fit the location so that the majority of drivers keep to the limit with minimal police attention.
The existing traffic speeds must be close to the proposed speed limit, to ensure compliance. If speeds are too high, then other measures may be considered to physically control speeds in exceptional cases where a speed limit reduction is recommended for safety reasons.
Urban speed management
Urban roads support a complex mix of commercial and residential areas and spaces. They must accommodate a range of traffic and travel methods, including non-motorised road users. Most urban roads have a 30mph speed limit. Higher speed limits may be appropriate on higher quality suburban roads or those on the outskirts of urban areas where there is little development.
In built-up areas, where systems of street lighting exist, the speed limit is always 30 mph, unless signs are in place to advise otherwise. A common request is for additional signs to be erected to remind motorists of the 30 mph speed limit in force. However, strict signing regulations do not allow 30mph ‘repeater’ signs to be erected on roads which have street lighting.
Rural speed management
Rural road characteristics often naturally restrict or prevent high vehicle speeds. In rural areas, roads accommodate many community, recreational and local access functions. The characteristics are unique and speed limits, including the national speed limit, take account of the rural geometry, environmental impact and community objectives in and around villages and other rural centres. Many rural roads are subject to the national speed limit of 60mph. The majority of drivers will not drive at this speed because the geometric characteristics naturally prevent higher speeds.
If no speed limit signs are observed on a rural road, the national speed limit applies, which varies with the road type and vehicle type. For information on national speed limits click here.
The impact of signing can be an important consideration in rural areas when assessing new speed limits, particularly in hamlets and villages with historic buildings and settings. The environmental intrusion of signs has become an increasing concern with various bodies campaigning against sign ‘clutter’.
20 mph zones
20 mph zones are generally restricted to groups of roads within residential areas and shopping streets with high pedestrian activity and a poor safety record. A zone is only signed at the entry points and should be self-enforcing, requiring minimal police attention. Speed limit repeater signs are not used within a zone as the combination of traffic calming and road layout are intended to control traffic speeds to stay below this maximum speed limit. For this reason zones are not promoted where existing traffic speeds are substantially higher than 20 mph.
Incorporating physical traffic calming in 20 mph zones, to maintain low vehicles speeds, makes their introduction costly and only practical in more urban areas where the greatest benefits can be achieved. Therefore locations with proven road safety issues that involve pedestrian and other vulnerable road users may be valid areas for consideration . Zones do not include main roads or strategic routes. The environmental issues relating to noise, congestion and air quality have to be assessed when considering a 20 mph zone.
20 mph limits
20 mph limits are usually applied to individual roads or small areas and are not usually suitable for main roads with high traffic volumes or strategic routes.
20 mph limits rely on traffic speeds being already at or below that speed, and repeater signs are erected to remind motorists of the restriction throughout the length of the road effected.
20 mph limits are often requested outside schools, the expectation being that it is a suitable way of improving safety in the vicinity. However, any speed limit has to apply at all times of the day and every day, therefore is usually unsuitable beyond the school arrival or departure times, when traffic is not impeded by the school activities, and is not forced to slow down.
20 mph pilot programme
Whilst it is important that we improve road safety and quality of life, we must also ensure we invest our limited resources in the most effective measures which develop good value for money. The County Council has therefore developed a programme of 20 mph pilot schemes in a number of residential areas so that their effectiveness and the level of support from local comunities can be assessed.
Further use of 20 mph limits will be considered once the effectiveness and support for the pilot schemes has been established.
30 mph speed limit
30 mph speed limits are common in built up areas such as city and town streets, and residential areas.
The recent Village 30 project provided an opportunity for any village in Hampshire to make a bid for a 30 mph speed limit where 20 or more fronting properties existed within a 600m length of road. This resulted in 130 villages throughout the county being provided with new 30 mph speed limits, which has generally improved community life and enhanced safety for all road users. This project is now complete and any new requests for speed limits must be individually assessed and prioritised.
The combination of visible road geometry and local features such as junctions, inadequate visibility, pedestrian crossings, schools, recreation grounds and public amenities, as well as the pedestrian, cyclist and equestrian activity, can help support the need for a lower level speed limit. However, other important assessment criteria involves the accident history and current vehicle speeds. Locations with higher numbers of recorded injury accidents and vehicles speeds which are already close to or below a proposed speed limit, are usually given higher priority
It should be noted that where a system of street lighting exists the use of speed limit repeater signing is strictly prohibited. The street lighting alone indicates to drivers that they are within a 30 mph speed limit.
40 mph speed limit
40 mph speed limits are used in areas where the road geometry, local features, amenities and traffic composition are of a less restricting layout and dimension. The roadside development may be set back or segregated from the road and be of a lesser density than that expected for a 30 mph speed limit, with a traffic composition that includes a reasonable level of non-motorised road users. The road geometry typically includes features such as junctions, bends and private accesses, but not to the same extent as roads with 30 mph limits.
50 mph speed limit
A higher level 50 mph speed limit can be applied to higher standard roads in lightly developed areas, which are often rural. These routes generally accommodate few pedestrians and cyclists, but the geometry may include junctions, bends, private accesses and local amenities or attractions that generate traffic movements, often including agricultural activities.
A and B class road speed limit review
Following guidance from the Department for Transport , every A and B class road in the county has been subject to review, to check that any speed limits applied are still the most suitable. In some locations there may have been changes in road side development which has generated more local activity, or new road layouts may have been constructed.
This major review has now been completed. Please click here for a link to the report which contains recommendations from the review and details of the proposed speed limit changes.
Enforcement of speed limits
The County Council provides the legislative framework to introduce a speed limit, by following the traffic regulation order process, and by installing the required signs and road markings where appropriate.
Once in place, the only people with powers to enforce a speed limit are the police, who can patrol locations with mobile cameras or speed guns and issue penalty tickets and fines. However, their restricted resources result in targeted enforcement, with safety related locations dictating their priorities.
Many requests are received by the County Council for additional enforcement; these are best directed to the police.
The Police operate a scheme whereby volunteers can monitor speeds in their local area and report vehicles that are exceeding the speed limit by a certain threshold. This results in the owner of these vehicles being sent a warning letter by the Police. Further details are on the Hampshire Constabulary website.
Speed Limit Reminder Signs
To help in locations where traffic speeds are a local concern, and police enforcement cannot be as frequent as desired, the County Council can assist Parish and Town Councils by advising on the purchase and use of ‘speed limit reminder signs’. These signs flash the existing speed limit when the set speed detection is triggered by an approaching vehicle. The driver usually reacts to this and reduces their speed. The signs are only allowed to be in one place for a maximum two week period, before being moved to another site. It is possible for the sign to be returned to the same location after a gap in time. Sign locations must be approved by HCC, and suitable contractors employed by the Parish or Town Council to put up, take down and move around the signs.