A1) There are different speed limits for cars, vans, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and towing vehicles on different types of roads and you must not drive faster than the speed limit for the road and your type of vehicle.
Details of the national speed limits can be viewed here.
It should be noted that local councils may set their own speed limits in areas where there is a particular need. For example, there could be a 20 mph zone in a built-up area near a school or a 50 mph (rather than 60 mph) speed limit on a stretch of road with sharp bends. Local limits must be clearly signed.
A2) In 2017, 48 per cent of cars and 49 per cent of vans exceeded the speed limit (70 mph) on motorways in free flow conditions. 12 per cent of cars and 14 per cent of vans exceeded the speed limit by 10 mph or more in free flow conditions. Compliance with the speed limit on motorways by articulated HGVs in 2017 was very high, with only 1 per cent of vehicles exceeding the speed limit.
Across all road types and in free flow conditions, national speed limit single carriageways had the highest level of speed limit compliance for cars in 2017 with only 9 per cent of vehicles exceeding the speed limit (60 mph). For other classes of vehicles, compliance with speed limits on this type of road is lower with 35 per cent of short buses (under 12m), 37 per cent of rigid HGVs and 20 per cent of articulated HGVs exceeding the speed limit.
52 per cent of cars and 55 per cent of vans exceeded the speed limit on 30mph roads in free flow conditions. For the larger-sized vehicle types, there were also high levels of speed limit exceedance, with 50 per cent of rigid HGVs, 42 per cent of articulated HGVs and 35 per cent of short buses exceeding the speed limit in free flow conditions.
Across all vehicle types, 20 mph roads had the highest level of speed limit non-compliance in 2017. This ranged from 53 per cent for short buses to 86 per cent for cars.
A3) The law is the law and police forces have the right to penalise anyone who is breaking the speed limit. However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) previously quoted the following guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) (now superseded by The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC)), though that guidance is no longer available either on the CPS website nor is it on the NPCC website.
The revised speed enforcement policy guidance issued by ACPO in 2013 suggests that enforcement will normally occur when a driver exceeds the speed limit by a particular margin. The particular margin is normally 10 per cent over the speed limit plus 2 mph. The guidance sets guidelines for when it would be appropriate to issue a fixed penalty notice or for the driver to attend a speed awareness course, and when it becomes appropriate to issue a summons. These are guidelines only and a police officer has discretion to act outside of them providing he acts fairly, consistently and proportionately.
In summary the guidelines are:
Speed limit: 20 mph
ACPO threshold for:
- a fixed penalty or a Speed Awareness course: 24 mph
- summoning: 35 mph
Speed limit: 30 mph
ACPO threshold for:
- a fixed penalty or a Speed Awareness course: 35 mph
- summoning: 50 mph
Speed limit: 40 mph
ACPO threshold for:
- a fixed penalty or a Speed Awareness course: 46 mph
- summoning: 66 mph
Speed limit: 50 mph
ACPO threshold for:
- a fixed penalty or a Speed Awareness course: 57 mph
- summoning: 76 mph
Speed limit: 60 mph
ACPO threshold for:
- a fixed penalty or a Speed Awareness course: 68 mph
- summoning: 86 mph
Speed limit: 70 mph
ACPO threshold for:
- a fixed penalty or a Speed Awareness course: 79 mph
- summoning: 96 mph
A4) Yes. Analysis of Home Office figures by Dr Adam Snow for the RAC Foundation has revealed large differences between the police forces of England and Wales in the way they enforce speed limits and dispose of speeding cases, with the number of drivers being detected for speeding more than 160 times higher in some parts of England and Wales than others.
The figures show that 2,292,536 speeding offences were detected across England and Wales in 2017-18, a 4% rise on the 2,213,257 figure for the previous year (2016-17). However, the data also shows that while Avon and Somerset constabulary detected 199,337 speeding offences, neighbouring Wiltshire – which according to press reports has no active speed cameras – detected just 1,191.
There were also large variations in the way offenders were punished, with the proportion of speeding offenders sent on a speed awareness course showing widespread regional variation. For example, in Derbyshire just 1 per cent of offenders were sent on a speed awareness course whereas at the other end of the scale 60 per cent of offenders detected in Durham were sent on a course.
Detailed figures for all constabularies in England and Wales can be viewed here.
A5) The National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme allows Chief Constables to offer eligible offenders who admit the offence of speeding an opportunity to attend a speed awareness course on the effects and dangers of speeding as an alternative to a speeding fine and penalty points.
The courses aims to influence the attitudes and behaviour of drivers by directly challenging attitudes towards speeding, offering motorists insight, awareness and understanding about their speed choices, and helps equip participants to change their behaviour.
A6) In 2018, the number of drivers that opted for a National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme speed awareness course rather than accept penalty points on their driving licence was 1,186,536.
Attendance increased yearly from 2010 to 2015, due to increasing numbers of police forces joining the scheme over this time and not solely to trends in offences being committed. Since 2016, the number of people attending a course has been largely unchanged.
A7) No. There are big differences in what drivers can expect to pay for speed awareness courses depending on where they live.
In 2017, analysis by the Press Association of data from the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme showed that speeding motorists attending courses in Northamptonshire paid £75, while those attending in Essex paid 32 per cent more (£99).
The average across the country was £88.90.
The Press Association study also showed that the amount police forces receive from each course increased from £35 to £45 in 2017. This money is described as a cost-recovery fee and goes towards paying for fees associated with administering the courses.
Source: RAC Foundation
A8) In a study commissioned by the Department for Transport and carried out by Ipsos MORI, it was found that targeting the behaviour of motorists through these courses reduced the likelihood of re-offending within six months by up to 23 per cent. The report also concluded that over a period of three years, taking part in the course was more effective at reducing speed re-offending than a fine and penalty points.
A9) Yes. There are a range of courses run under the auspices of the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme.
These include Safe and Considerate Driving Courses aimed at drivers who have been involved in a collision without serious consequences, where their driving has amounted to a lapse of concentration or an error of judgement and a National Motorway Awareness Course for motorists driving on motorways, who have been detected exceeding the active variable speed limit or who have passed through a mandatory Red X lane closure signal or committed infringements occurring on hard shoulders and emergency refuge areas.
A full list of the available courses can be viewed here.
A10) Analysis by the RAC Foundation shows that the number of road users who have completed a driver retraining course since their introduction in 2010 topped ten million in 2018.
In 2018, 1.45 million people accepted a place on one of the eight courses sometimes offered by police as an alternative to a fine and points for more minor offences.
This data suggests that, astonishingly, as many as one in four drivers has now been sent back to the classroom for breaking road traffic law
A11) More than 250 miles of roads in Great Britain are now being regularly monitored by average speed cameras.
Research carried out for the RAC Foundation by Road Safety Analysis in May 2016 identified at least 50 stretches of road which are permanently managed by the cameras with a total length of 256 miles under observation. Average speed cameras are also often used on a temporary basis to manage traffic through roadworks but these are not included in this study.
The 50 stretches range in length from just a quarter of a mile over Tower Bridge in London to 99 miles on the A9 between Dunblane and Inverness in Scotland.
A12) The use of average speed cameras has been found, on average, to cut the number of crashes resulting in death or serious injury by more than a third.
Research for the RAC Foundation by Road Safety Analysis found that on average – having allowed for natural variation and overall trends – the number of fatal and serious collisions decreases by 36 per cent after average speed cameras are introduced.
The average reduction in personal injury collisions of all severities was found to be 16 per cent.
A13) In November 2010 the RAC Foundation published a report – The Effectiveness of Speed Cameras: A review of evidence – into the effectiveness of speed cameras by Professor Richard Allsop of University College London. Amongst the main findings were that national decommissioning of speed cameras could result in about 800 extra people across Britain being killed or seriously injured each year at that time.
In 2011, government instructed that speed camera data going back to 1990, detailing accident statistics before and after fixed speed cameras were installed, should be made publicly available. The RAC Foundation commissioned work, which was carried out once again by Professor Allsop, to provide advice on interpreting this speed camera data. Overall, this new work – Guidance on Use of Speed Camera Transparency Data – reinforces the conclusions in the earlier report but also identifies a number of camera sites in the vicinity of which collisions seem to have risen markedly.
Analysis of the data in this work for 551 fixed speed cameras in 9 areas shows that on average the number of fatal and serious collisions in their vicinity fell by more than a quarter (27%) after their installation.
There was also an average reduction of 15% in personal injury collisions in the vicinity of the 551 cameras.
The estimates for collision reduction were made allowing for the more general downward trend in the number of collisions in the 9 areas in recent years, and for the effect of regression to the mean at sites where collision numbers were unusually high in the period before the cameras were installed.
However the research also highlights 21 camera sites (in these areas) at which, or near which, the number of collisions appears to have risen enough to make the cameras worthy of investigation in case they have contributed to the increases.
A14) According to information published by the Press Association in November 2017, only around half of the fixed speed cameras on British roads are switched on. In Scotland, less than 29% of fixed cameras are switched on.
The Press Association sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to all 45 police forces in the UK and their speed camera partnership. The 36 forces which responded with data had a total 2,838 cameras, of which 1,486 were active. Nine refused to disclose the information or failed to respond.
Cleveland, Durham, North Yorkshire and Northamptonshire said none of their fixed speed cameras were active.
All of the police forces that responded to the FoI request said they regularly sent out mobile speed cameras across their jurisdictions. Figures from these cameras were not included in the disclosures.
A15) Yes. The number of traffic police officers in England and Wales declined from 5,635 in March 2010 to 4,356 in March 2014.
Since 2015, data has been completed under a different framework, with different definitions. In particular, reclassification of roles within a force can lead to fluctuations in the number of officers in a particular role. This is particularly apparent for the Metropolitan Police Service (where figures have risen markedly). Latest figures for 2016 show there were 4,934 traffic police officers but these figures are not directly comparable with earlier data.
A16) Up to twelve million driving licence holders receive a penalty notice each year – the equivalent of one every 2.5 seconds.
This means as many as a third (30 per cent) of Britain’s 40 million drivers now receive a penalty notice annually.
The 12 million total is broken down broadly as follows:
- 8 million local authority parking penalties
- 2.5 million local authority bus lane and box junction penalties, etc.
- 500,000 late licensing and insurance penalties, etc.
- 1 million speeding and red-light penalties, etc.
The total of 12 million does not include the annual figure of 1.2 million drivers now undertaking a speed awareness course instead of receiving a penalty and points on their licences.
A further 200,000 drivers a year attend other types of courses having committed other types of offences.
Nor do the figures include the five million parking penalties issued to drivers on private land or fines imposed for not paying the charge at the Dartford Crossing.
Source: RAC Foundation
A17) A Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) is a prescribed financial penalty issued to a motorist as an alternative to prosecution. They can be issued for a limited range of motoring offences, such as speeding offences and using a handheld mobile phone while driving. An FPN can be endorsable (accompanied by points on a driving licence) or non-endorsable (not accompanied by points on a driving licence).
In 2017, 2,395,895 FPNs (excluding those subsequently cancelled) were issued for motoring offences by the police in England and Wales (including police employed traffic wardens). This represents an increase of 0.2 per cent compared with the previous year. (Please note that this figure includes cases where a driver retraining course, such as a speed awareness course, was attended by the individual, as well as cases where an individual faced court action).
Of the 2.4 million motoring offences recorded in 2017 which resulted in an FPN or another outcome:-
- 853,153 cases resulted in the driver receiving an endorsable FPN (36 per cent);
- 115,824 cases resulted in a non-endorsable FPN (5 per cent);
- A driver attended a driver retraining course in 1,085,180 cases (45 per cent); and,
- 341,738 cases resulted in court action (14 per cent).
The number of endorsable FPNs issued has remained fairly stable in recent years whilst the number of non-endorsable FPNs has fallen year-on-year.
Over four-fifths (84 per cent) of the motoring offences recorded were for speed limit offences (2,018,408), up 2 percentage points on the previous year (1,970,207). The number of speed limit offences has increased gradually year-on-year since 2011, and now stand at the highest level recorded. The majority (96 per cent) of speed limit offences were camera-detected in 2017, up one percentage point on the previous year.
Offences of “work record or employment offences” saw the largest increase (in percentage terms), of 7 per cent in 2017 compared with the previous year (from 5,179 to 5,522). “Licence, insurance and recordkeeping” offences saw a 6 per cent increase and “speed limit” offences saw a 2 per cent increase. All other offence types saw a decrease.
A18) Yes. From 16 August 2013, careless drivers who put other road users at risk by committing offences such as tailgating or poor lane discipline face on-the-spot penalties.
See the DfT Press Notice for further information.
Over the two year period from August 2013 – when this measure was introduced – until August 2015, 17,468 people have been convicted of careless driving offences. (The figures come from a Freedom of Information request by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) to every police force in England and Wales. Some 33 out of 43 police forces responded to the IAM’s request).
A19) The number of defendants prosecuted for motoring offences in England and Wales decreased by 0.4 per cent over the last year, from 667,000 in 2016 to 664,000 in 2017, while the numbers of offenders convicted and sentenced increased by 0.8 per cent. Just over half (51 per cent) of defendants prosecuted for motoring offences in 2017 were for prosecuted for speed limit and vehicle insurance offences. The conviction ratio for all motoring offences was at 90 per cent in 2017 and has been increasing year on year since 2013, where the conviction ratio was 85 per cent.
The offences with the largest increase in the number of defendants prosecuted were seen in ‘Vehicle registration and excise licence offences’ (a 20 per cent increase, from 77,000 in 2016 to 92,000 in 2017) and ‘Vehicle insurance offences’ (a 5 per cent increase, from 156,000 to 164,000, the highest total over the last decade).
The offence with the largest decrease in the number of defendants prosecuted was ‘Speed limit offences’ (a 4 per cent decrease, from 183,000 in 2016 to 176,000 in 2017). There were also decreases for ‘Using or causing others to use a mobile phone whilst driving’ (a 30 per cent decrease, from 13,000 in 2016 to 9,000 in 2017) and ‘Driving with alcohol in the blood above the prescribed limit’ (an 8 per cent decrease, from 38,000 in 2016 to 35,000 in 2017). Both of these offences had the lowest number of prosecutions in a decade.
In 2017, the number of the most serious motoring offences, causing death or injury, was the highest in a decade (900 prosecutions and 780 convictions). However, their proportion among all motoring offence is still very small (0.1 per cent).
Sentencing trends for motoring offences have remained broadly stable The overall custody rate for motoring offences remained stable at 1 per cent in 2017, although the vast majority of offenders sentenced for ‘Causing death by dangerous driving’ and ‘Causing death by careless driving under influence of drink or drugs’ received immediate custody (both offences had a custody rate of 91 per cent).
The use of fines as the main sentence for motoring offences remained stable at 94% of offenders sentenced. This has been the case since 2014, although there has been an increase of 5 percentage points over the last decade. The total number of offenders directly disqualified from driving decreased 8 per cent in the latest year; from 63,000 in 2016 to 58,000 in 2017. The total number of offenders endorsed without direct disqualification (i.e. receiving points on their licence only), decreased by 2 per cent, from 356,000 in 2016 to 348,000 in 2017.
A20) In November 2018, 2,693,957 people had penalty points on the licences recorded at DVLA (out of a total number of 48,795,601 licences recorded at DVLA).
Source: GB Driving Licence Data
Endorsements stay on a driving record for 4 or 11 years depending on the offence. This can start from either the date a person is convicted or the date of the offence.
The endorsement is ‘valid’ for the first:-
- 3 years, for a 4-year endorsement
- 10 years, for an 11-year endorsement
Full details about penalty points (endorsements) can be viewed here.
A21) According to figures obtained by BBC Radio 5 live from the DVLA, around 14,500 people were caught driving whilst already banned in 2016.
A22) The annual Blue Badge survey, completed by local authorities in England, collates data on whether authorities have a policy for prosecuting misuse of the Blue Badge scheme and the number of prosecutions that occurred between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018. 59 per cent of local authorities had a policy to prosecute misuse of the Blue Badge scheme in 2017/18
In England, there were a total of 1,215 individuals prosecuted in 2017/18, slightly up on the 1,131 people prosecuted in the previous year. Similar to last year, the majority of prosecutions (99 per cent) in England were targeted at a non-badge holder using another persons’ badge.
A23) The Department for Transport’s Statutory Guidance to local authorities on the civil enforcement of parking contraventions can be viewed here.
A24) A map and list of the local authorities outside London who have civil parking enforcement powers can be viewed here.
A25) In 2016/17, the total number of parking Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) issued by local authorities in England and Wales (excluding London) was 4,737,306. This is a 6 per cent increase over 2015/16 when 4,472,108 parking PCNs were issued.
The number of Bus Lane PCNs issued in 2016/17 was 1,423,764. This is an increase of around 22.5 per cent compared to the 1,162,011 PCNs issued in the previous year.
In addition, Welsh local authorities also issued 30,830 PCNs for moving traffic offences in 2016/17.
The number of parking PCNs appealed to the tribunal dropped by around 7.7 per cent to 11,757 compared to 12,734 in 2015/16. The rate of appeal against parking PCNs was 0.25 per cent in England and 0.23 per cent in Wales. The proportion of appeals allowed by the adjudicators (including those not contested by the council) was 56 per cent in England and 57.3 per cent in Wales.
Full details relating to the various PCNs that were issued, and appeals made to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, can be seen in the Tribunal’s Annual Statistics Report.
In 2017/18, the total number of PCNs (across the full range of traffic and parking offences) issued by London Boroughs and Transport for London was 5,616,402. This is around a 9.5 per cent increase compared to a total of 5,132,319 PCNs issued in 2016/17.
Source: London Councils
In 2017/18, 36,218 appeals against PCNs issued by London local authorities and Transport for London were determined in the reporting period (this figure includes appeals lodged in the previous year but determined in the reporting year) by the Environment and Traffic Adjudicators. 17,584 appeals were allowed, of which 9,396 were not contested. 18,634 appeals were refused.
Full details of the appeals determined by appeal type (parking, bus lane, moving traffic, London lorry control and litter and waste) can be viewed in the Annual Report.
A26) In 2016/17, 2,475,152 PCNs were issued by the Secretary of State for Transport for the Dart Charge scheme. This is a decrease of 7.6 per cent from the 2,678,438 PCNs issued in the previous year.
The number of PCNs referred to the Tribunal from the Dart Charge scheme increased by 136 per cent from 8,904 to 21,017, despite a fall in the number of PCNs issued. The rate of appeal for PCNs issued from the Dart Charge scheme increased by 166.7 per cent from 0.3 per cent to 0.8 per cent. The number of appeals allowed (including those not contested) against PCNs issued from the Dart Charge scheme increased by 188.9 per cent from 4,201 to 12,135.
A27) According to figures obtained by the BBC in October 2017, bailiffs were employed to recover nearly 500,000 parking fines in London in the previous financial year.
Councils recovered £17.5m using bailiffs to collect debts from people with unpaid parking fines – a 22 per cent increase in two years.
A28) RAC Foundation analysis of DVLA data shows that in the last financial year (2017-18) 5.65 million sets of vehicle keeper records were released to car parking management companies. Almost all of these will have been used to send penalty charges – often up to £100 – to motorists who are deemed to have infringed parking rules in private car parks.
The 5.65 million figure is the highest ever supplied by DVLA and compares with 4.71 million sets of records released to parking firms in the previous financial year. Just a decade ago (in 2007-8), 499,000 sets of records were released.
Source: RAC Foundation
Latest figures show that the number of private parking tickets being issued continues to soar and the new data suggests that private parking firms are issuing penalties to drivers at the rate of one every five seconds.
Information published by the DVLA shows that in the second quarter of 2018-19 the agency sold 1.71 million sets of vehicle keeper records to car parking management companies.
The 1.71 million figure is 20 per cent higher than 1.43 million number sold in the same period a year earlier.
At this rate private parking firms are on course to issue around 6.8 million tickets by the end of the financial year.
A29) Between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2018, POPLA received 67,122 appeals and decided 50,082.
Of the appeals decided, 11,447 appeals were allowed and 38,635 refused.
In addition to the appeals decided, parking operators decided not to contest 15,562 appeals. This means that of the appeals that completed the POPLA process (65,644), 27,009 resulted in cancelled parking charges – 41 per cent of all processed appeals.
Source: POPLA Annual Report 2018
A30) Since the congestion charging scheme was introduced in London in 2003, £116,474,265 of congestion charge fines have not been paid by foreign embassies. (Figures correct at 31 December 2018).
The United States have the greatest amount of unpaid fines, owing a total of £12.427 million. They are followed by Japan (£8.492 million) and Nigeria (£7.051million).
83 diplomatic missions owe more than £100,000 in fines and overall, 145 diplomatic missions owe fines.
Source: Transport for London
A31) Over the course of the 2017/18 financial year, 1,718,519 car practical driving tests were conducted. This was marginally lower than the 1,730,936 practical driving tests conducted in the previous financial year.
The pass rate was 46.3 per cent, down from a 47.1 per cent pass rate in the previous financial year.
Source: Department for Transport table DRT0101
A32) Yes. The driving test changed from Monday 4 December 2017 and now includes following directions from a sat nav and testing different manoeuvres.
The changes introduced include:-
- Increasing the Independent driving part of the test to 20 minutes
- Following directions from a sat nav
- Changing the reversing manoeuvres
- Answering a vehicle safety question while the candidate is driving
Full details can be viewed here.
A33) Yes. From Monday 4 June 2018, learner drivers can take driving lessons on motorways in England, Scotland and Wales. This change does not extend to learner motorcylists.
Learner drivers will need to be:-
- accompanied by an approved driving instructor
- driving a car fitted with dual controls
Full details can be viewed here.
A34) The legal alcohol limit for drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is:-
• 80 milligrammes (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood (80mg/100ml), or
• 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 ml of breath, or
• 107 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of urine
In March 2011 the Government announced it would not be following the advice of the North Review on Drink and Drug Driving Law and reducing the current drink/drive limit from 80mg to 50mg.
The position is different in Scotland where a new legal alcohol limit was introduced on December 5 2014. Here, the limit is:-
• 50 milligrammes (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood (50mg/100ml), or
• 22 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 ml of breath, or
• 67 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of urine
A35) Yes.The RAC Foundation is amongst a coalition of road safety charities, emergency services and health groups who have called on MPs to reduce the drink driving limit in England and Wales.
The call comes after statistics show no progress has been made on drink driving since 2010, with 240 deaths and more than 8,000 casualties reported each year.
England and Wales have one of the highest drink-drive limits in the world. Set at 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood, it is greater than the rest of Europe (with the exception only of Malta), as well as Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The Government of Malta announced recently plans to lower the drink-drive limit to 50mg in a new National Alcohol Policy to reduce harm.
Scotland lowered its limit to 50mg in December 2014, and police figures showed a 12.5% decrease in drink-drive offences in the first nine months. Northern Ireland is set to introduce before the end of 2018 a two-tier drink drive limit, with the general drink-drive limit down to 50mg/100ml, in line with Scotland, and an even lower limit for new and professional drivers.
A36) It is estimated that had the drink drive limit been lowered from 80 to 50mg/100ml at the beginning of 2010, then in every year between 2010 and 2013 about 25 lives would have been saved and 95 people saved from serious injury.
The estimates come from research by Professor Richard Allsop in his report Saving Lives by Lowering the Legal Drink-Drive Limit. The work was jointly commissioned by the RAC Foundation and PACTS.
A37) You could be imprisoned, banned from driving and face a fine if you’re found guilty of drink-driving. The actual penalty you get is up to the magistrates who hear your case, and depends on your offence.
Drivers who drive, or attempt to drive, while over the legal alcohol limit face penalties of:-
• up to 6 months in prison
• an unlimited fine
• a minimum of 12 months’ disqualification (3 years for a second offence within 10 years)
Full details of all the penalties that could be incurred through drink-driving can be viewed here.