Police Enforcement

Last year someone sent me the following email question :-

You offer assistance with any claims by police forces that 20mph limits (zones?) are not enforceable. Any advice concerning the following would be appreciated.
The County Councillor was recently reported as saying that the police have advised him that the local 20mph zone is not enforceable and the only action that can be taken is to charge a motorist exceeding the 20mph limit with dangerous or careless driving. Currently he is refusing to explain his remarks. The minutes of a recent meeting of the parish council record ”due to recent changes in legislation/regulation the Parish Council may apply for enforceable action against speeding in the 20mph zone” and “Update from Police: Recent change in legislation has enabled enforcement codes for individual 20mph zones to be applied for”. Currently the chair of that meeting is unable to explain what was meant. Does any of this mean anything to you?

I am aware of the ACPO Speed Enforcement Policy Guidelines and DfT Setting Local Speed Limits. Currently it seems like a ‘smoke screen’ so any clue to the meaning of these statements and any guidance concerning how to question these statements would be appreciated

My answer follows 

We have a long held policy in this country that :-

  • Elected representatives of the community sets laws
  • A professional police force enforces the law
  • An independent judicary sentences offenders

For a 20mph limit to be enforceable there are 4 requirements :-

1. A relevant Traffic Regulation Order

All speed limits, other than those on restricted roads, should be made by order under Section 84 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Any speed limits below 30 mph, other than 20 mph limits or 20 mph zones, require individual consent from the Secretary of State. Unless an order has been made and the road is signed to the contrary, a 30 mph speed limit applies where there is a system of street lighting furnished by means of lamps placed not more than 200 yards apart.

Note that there are no regulations regarding how to set a local speed limit. However, the Dept for Transport does provide guidance and this is available here 

Hence the Traffic Authority must make a Traffic Regulation Order to set the speed limit at 20mph. This includes publishing the order so that those affected may object if they wish.

2. Appropriate signing

In order that drivers are aware of the changed speed limit then the appropriate signage must be provided. These are regulations and must be adhered to. The regulations are slightly different for 20mph zones and limits but both must include the appropriate boundary signs where speed limits change and any point in the limit must be no further than 50m from a repeater sign, roundel or physical calming device. Note that since 2016 the frequency of repeater signs has been at the discretion of the Traffic Authority.

3. Length of road, sighting, equipment

In order for the police to enforce a limit then they require a clear distance for them to observe drivers and for drivers to see them. This may  make certain sites less suitable for speed detection. Different measurement equipment are available. Whilst in the past some "radar" based speed detectors were not approved for use below 30mph, most forces have "laser" type devices that are fully approved for use at 20mph.

4. A Police Force that is willing to enforce

This may seem obvious, and whilst police are becoming far more supportive of 20mph limits and their enforcement, it is clear that in some forces there is a reluctance to enforce. This may be as a result of individual police not understanding the law or a reluctance to commit resources. However as long as the above three conditions have been met then there is nothing to prevent action by the police.

Recently the Association of Chief Police Officers has re-iterated the fact that 20mph speed limits are enforceable and where the limit is clearly marked (ie meeting signage regulations) then any offenders may be prosecuted. The police have also developed the option of speed awareness courses for those exceeding 24mph in a 20mph limit and these may be an option in some forces. Fixed Penalty Notices and prosecutions can also be used. In addition "light touch" enforcement can also be used which merely constitutes a reprimand/talk rather than anything more formal.

I would suggest that the comments about regulations in your question are internal practices within your police force or county council and are not imposed by any outside body. Let there be no mistake, 20mph limits are enforceable and are being enforced by many police forces in the UK.

For a guide on how local authorities can work best with police and other bodies to maximise compliance then see our briefing sheet here

Showing 14 reactions

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  • Tony Barretto
    commented 2022-04-12 18:58:35 +0100
    Thanks Gary, unfortunately these changes are made without consultation of stake holders in the wider London community. If you travel around London, you will see the way Road speeds suddenly change to 20mph without much to highlight the change or physically force the change.

    Rod doesn’t say that pedestrians don’t need to take responsibility when crossing roads, but he doesn’t see that there is a need to educate and enforce poor pedestrian interactions with other road users, as we had seen in 70s by the use of the green cross road campaign.

    Holloway Road is a 3 lane dual carriageway with a central barrier and designated crossings, yet it’s supposedly a 20mph zone. However, buses and non urgent police are amongst those who exceed the 20mph limit.

    Pedestrians often cross this road near Odeon Cinema without looking at oncoming traffic and as I was amazed yesterday to see a few crossing with their back to the traffic as they were crossing.
  • Rod King
    commented 2022-04-12 13:52:02 +0100
    Thanks Gary. I guess you aren’t aware that for several decades the Secretary of State has not been required to approve a 20mph limit.

    Any setting of a 20mph limit requires a Traffic Regulation Order that includes advertising and the ability for anyone to object. I guess you didn’t.

    I can’t recall where I have said that you don’t need to take responsibility when crossing the road. But with 542 pedestrians killed on pavements in the last 13 years maybe the real focus should be on motorists taking responsibility when crossing the pavement.

    Have a good day.
  • Gary Dorrington
    commented 2022-04-12 13:24:37 +0100
    This its laughable I can understand the reasoning for 20 mph on residential Streets but on roads like Holloway Road is a joke, this is just a money making scheme to coin more money out of motorist and Im not sure its even be approved by the Secretary of state, all none road user have been asked to express their concerns but no one as seek my opinion on those who use mobility scooters on the pavements, the reality is that councils are now making their own rules and regulations when they can’t even manage their own finances which in turns leads to fining motorist left wing councils who agenda is just to disrupt everyday working people another example our Mayor charging motorist to visit our great capital city when on earth is this going to stop, and Rod yes you do have to take responsibility when crossing the road thats the most idiotic remark Ive come across in a long time Im surprised you lived this long
  • Rod King
    commented 2022-03-16 17:08:04 +0000
    No-one suggests a blanket 20mph limit. We say 20mph wherever motors share streets with pedestrians and cyclists unless there is evidence that a higher limit is safe. That’s the same as what WHO advise. Exceptions can be where there are adequate segregated facilities for vulnerable road users.

    The idea of shared and equal responsibility is not compatible with the skewing of danger and risk when comparing a vulnerable road user and a 40 ton truck driving along the road. And any consideration of the minimal benefit from faster maximum speeds between congestion points and junctions leads one to the conclusion that 20mph or less is better for everyone in a crowded urban environment.
  • Tony Barretto
    commented 2022-03-16 12:16:42 +0000
    Unfortunately Rod, one headline for a celebrity caught speeding on his scooter doesn’t mean that there is adequate enforcement.

    I’m disabled and one of these vulnerable pedestrian road users as well. It doesn’t mean I’m entitled not to have to take responsibility when crossing roads. That’s the value to you and others like you miss.

    The dual carriageway on Holloway Road even has barriers with designated crossing areas to make it safer for both motorists and pedestrians.

    My argument holds up well to scrutiny, because it’s based on common sense and shared responsibility and not just a blanket 20mph speed limit.
  • Rod King
    commented 2022-03-16 11:45:20 +0000
    Well police do stop “manic” scooters. See https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/eastenders-star-steve-mcfadden-caught-26477320

    Thanks for your comments but they really do not stand up to scrutiny when you take into account that these places are shared with vulnerable road users. Its that value which seems to be missing from your statements. And yes, I have heard the red-flag argument before.
  • Tony Barretto
    commented 2022-03-16 11:12:26 +0000
    Thanks for your update Rod.

    We ought to be more concerned about maniac scooters that exceed 20mph and overtake other traffic, especially at zebra crossings. So I’d hope that the Met will look to enforce such incidents that are common place in crouch end.

    Having driven in many countries over the past 40 years, I’m never impressed with justification that it’s global best practice. There isn’t a one size fits all and we have to take responsibility as motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

    I’m not sure what difference it makes whether TFL or islington manage Holloway Road, the fact that a 20 mph speed limit is not appropriate on a 6 lane dual carriageway still remains valid.

    Often when driving along a main road that has a 20mph limit, some drivers are barely exceeding 15mph. You may as well re-introduce a person with a red flag walking ahead.

    Pedestrians and cyclists crossing roads against a light can cause accidents that are deadly to others, so it’s long overdue that they learn to take responsibility as well.

    As a disabled driver, I often had to drive to work and it would take me 30 mins. The same journey now takes me between 45 mins and 1 hour.

    I agree that 20mph is plenty, but on side roads and where schools are located. Though, we should have warning lights when they are in action at schools.
  • Rod King
    commented 2022-03-16 09:38:43 +0000
    Thank you for your comment Tony.

    I am sure you will be pleased to know that the Met Police will be increasing their enforcement of 20mph limits substantially.

    Of course current global best practice is to adopt a 20mph limit wherever motors mix with pedestrians and cyclists.

    And I understand that Holloway Road is actually managed by TfL rather than Islington Council.

    Yes, pedestrians do make mistakes and its important that we do not create conditions whereby those mistakes become deadly. Lowering speed limits makes a huge reduction in risk with minimal reduction in journey times.

    Best wishes
  • Tony Barretto
    commented 2022-03-15 16:56:21 +0000
    Setting 20mph speed limits with appropriate traffic calming is what was supposed to be done, but these 20mph speed limits are used all over.

    In London you will be overtaken by moped and motor bikes, even as you approach a zebra crossing, as is often the case in Ferme Park Road in Crouch End North London.

    I beeped at a motor bike that overtook me and almost crashed into an oncoming bus. He then pulled over and when I stopped to talk to him, he got aggressive and smashed my near side door mirror as I away. The police are useless and say they can’t enforce or do spot enforcement.

    How is it appropriate to have a 20mph speed limit on the 6 lane dual carriageway of Holloway Road that islington council has ? You will definitely get overtaken if you do 20mph, even by buses and police cars.

    The problem is that local authorities have placed these 20mph speed limits without properly checks that they are appropriate.

    Pedestrians also need to take responsibility as they have to in USA. So often you get people walk whilst looking down on their phone. Have they no common sense or do we need another green cross code campaign?
  • Rod King
    commented 2022-03-15 16:40:27 +0000
    Thank you Alan. I have been driving 20mph on roads in my home town for a decade and have never been overtaken. Setting speed limits in order to appease the overtaking habits of illegal drivers does seem rather a flawed idea.
  • Alan Morris
    commented 2022-03-15 14:57:56 +0000
    I drive to 20mph in 20mph area , unfortunately the drivers behind me twice two occasions overtake me almost causing head on collision! If I was doing 30mph they less likely to overtake .
  • Tony Barretto
    commented 2019-04-27 18:27:33 +0100
    Whilst I agree with 20mph default speed limits on side roads, it is idiotic to have them on all Roads.

    Today we see lots of Adults crossing roads without looking and often deeply looking into their phones. I grew up in the 70s, at a time we were educated to use the green cross code.

    There is a need for consistency with 20mph enforcement and not the post code lottery system that exists today.

    As a London pedestrian, I’m usually in a rush to cross roads. However, I take the time to look both ways and observe the pedestrian lights to avoid crossing as the traffic is attempting to move off.

    The diagonal crossing at Oxford Circus has spread and many pedestrians cross in this way even when not appropriate. A man was recently crossing between the flowing traffic in a north London 5 road junction.

    Camden council has been busy closing a lot of side roads, forcing traffic into main roads, so this is causing heavy congestion.

    As a disabled Londoner, I can’t travel on the underground if my journey to or from will result in peak travel. I am now being isolated from going to places in Central London because decisions are being made for political correctness and not on the basis of proper analysis.

    We should take an even responsibility approach on our roads. However, due to austerity we don’t have the means to enforce rules on pedestrian, bicycles and in lots of cars motor bikes.

    London and TFL should review the speeds and traffic light sequence on their roads, to ensure traffic can move and congestion is avoided. There are 40mph speed limits on sections of the A40 out of London in places where there are no crossings or pedestrians. Surely, it would make sense to speed to traffic leaving London where it is appropriate, but politic correctness has meant it’s not been done.

    Vehicles in London looking for parking has always been an issue and added to traffic, but no authority has considered trying to find ways to show where there is available parking. Central London authorities have been keen to avoid concession to disabled on the basis that London was a special case, but in reality they are protecting the revenue.
  • Rod King
    commented 2018-08-15 08:37:12 +0100

    There are no special arrangements for 20mph speeding offences. It is just like any other speeding offence.
  • Antony Ducker
    commented 2018-08-14 21:32:41 +0100
    Do the police have to give a formal Notice of intended Prosecution or is just sending you the notification that you got caught and must pay the fine and get the points cover that without the NOIP prescribed wording included anywhere?