30MPH Speed Limits On Many Rural Roads Declared Illegal
In a landmark ruling at Redditch Magistrates Court on Tuesday (9 December), a driver was found not guilty of exceeding a 30mph speed limit because the speed limit did not legally exist.
Worcestershire County Council, the authority responsible for introducing the speed limit on the B4551 in Romsley, had used legislation intended for use only on roads with street lamps, but the road through Romsley has no lighting. The Association of British Drivers brought the test case after discovering that several councils had been misusing the legislation in this way.
In his ruling, the District Judge made it clear that Parliament had never intended the law to be interpreted in the way the county council had done. It is illegal to exceed 30mph on a 'restricted road', defined as a road with street lamps spaced not more than 200 yards apart. But the council had tried to make the B4551 a restricted road, despite the absence of street lamps, and the Judge ruled that this is not legally possible. There is an alternative legal process that the council could and should have used to set a 30mph speed limit.
The implications of this judgment are enormous. Many councils in recent years have reduced speed limits on rural roads from 40, 50 or even 60mph to 30mph, with no road safety justification. Where the roads have no street lighting and the councils have used the same procedure as Worcestershire, those 30mph limits are illegal and cannot be enforced.
The ABD's roads and traffic spokesman, Mark McArthur-Christie, said,
"On many of the roads affected by this judgment, a 30mph speed limit is unreasonably low, so it is often ignored. This makes these roads prime locations for enforcement by safety camera partnerships, anxious to meet their targets for issuing speeding tickets. So there could be large numbers of drivers who have been unlawfully convicted of speeding in areas where councils have applied the law incorrectly. The police and councils should come clean, contact the drivers concerned and refund their fines and penalty points. They should not wait for drivers to contact them."
ABD chairman, Brian Gregory, commented,
"The ABD does not condone the inappropriate use of speed and did not bring this case to help drivers 'get away' with speeding. Drivers are supposed to obey the law, but so are the police and local authorities — it works both ways. Drivers should not have to suffer for the mistakes of local councils that have failed to apply the law correctly in setting speed limits."