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Know your speed limits

The speed limit is the absolute maximum permitted in law. It does not mean it is safe to drive at that speed irrespective of conditions. Driving at speeds too fast for the road and traffic conditions can be dangerous.

You should always reduce your speed when:

  • the road layout or condition presents hazards such as bends
  • sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists, particularly children, and motorcyclists
  • weather conditions make it safer to do so
  • driving at night as it is harder to see other road users 

 A white circle with a black diagonal line going from right to left shows the national speed limit applies

The image with the white circle and black diagonal line across it shows that the national speed limit applies.

The Speed Limit table shows the national speed limits. These apply to all roads unless signs show otherwise. As well as the speed limits on the roads themselves, certain classes of vehicle are subject to their own speed limits, and the lesser speed limit must be adhered to.

Motor vehicle limits (as shown in the Highway Code)

Speed limit table
 Types of roads and vehiclesBuilt-up areasSingle carriage-waysDual carriage-waysMotorways
Types of vehicle MPHMPHMPHMPH
Cars & Motorcycles (including car derived up to 2 tonnes maximum laiden weight 30 60 70 70
Cars towing caravans or trailers (including car derived vans & motorcycles) 30 50 60 60
Buses and coaches (not exceeding 12 meters in overall length) 30 50 60 70
Good vehicles (not exceeding 7.5 tonnes) 30 50 60 60
Good vehicles (exceeding 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) 30 50 60 60

Built up areas

* If you are unsure of the speed limit on a particular road where it is built up and there are streetlights, assume that the speed limit is 30mph. If the speed limit is above 30mph there will be repeater speed limit signs placed in regular intervals. The law does not allow Highways Authorities to place repeater speed limit signs in a 30mph area where there is a system of street lighting, lit or unlit.

Dual carriageways

Dual carriageways in built-up areas may have reduced speed limits of 50mph, 40mph and even 30mph to ensure the safety of all road users.

On dual carriageways where a saloon car may be driven at 70mph, a Transit van, being a goods vehicle and not a "car derived van", is restricted by its class to a speed limit of 60mph.


* The speed limit for goods vehicles not exceeding 7.5 tonnes is 60mph on motorways if the vehicle is articulated or towing a trailer.

What is a "car derived van"?

Under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, a "car derived van" is defined as:- "A goods vehicle which is constructed or adapted as a derivative of a passenger vehicle and which has a maximum laden weight not exceeding 2 tonnes."

The important word in this definition is "and" as there are goods vehicles that look as if they are based on a passenger vehicle, but when the manufacturer puts a gross laden weight on the goods vehicle, which is the design weight of the vehicle plus the maximum load that it is designed to carry, and this exceeds 2 tonnes, that vehicle is no longer a car derived van. The van becomes an ordinary goods vehicle under 7.5 tonnes gross weight, and is therefore subject to the speed limits as shown in the Highway Code.

As a "rule of thumb" any van larger than a Vauxhall Astra van will have a gross weight in excess of 2 tonnes and is therefore subject to the reduced "class of vehicle" speed limits. Ford Transit, Mercedes Sprinter, Mercedes Vito, Peugeot Expert and Ford Connect, for example, are restricted vans.

It is immaterial that a goods vehicle may be unladen at the time it is detected exceeding the speed limit. The construction of the vehicle that enables it to be used up to the 7.5 tonnes maximum weight is the relevant criteria.

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