From 17th September, motorists in Wales will be required to limit their speed to 20mph in built-up areas.
The change follows a vote in the Welsh Senedd back in July 2022, to make Wales the first nation in the UK to adopt 20mph as the default speed limit on restricted roads – essentially roads in built-up, residential areas.
The result of that vote prompted criticism across the Welsh political spectrum and indeed with some members of the public. The argument being that the changes were both ‘anti-driver’ and too costly.
What happens if I get caught speeding?
Rather than immediately issuing fines to drivers who exceed the new speed limit, the Welsh government and the police have agreed to an initial period of adjustment. This means that in most cases, drivers will be reminded about the new speed limit and provided with educational materials about the changes, the dangers of speeding and the benefits of slowing down. There is no guidance on how long this grace period will last.
As it stands, the minimum penalty for a speeding offence is a £100 fine and three points added to your licence. If you receive 12 or more points within three years, you may be disqualified from driving.
What are the main benefits of the changes?
The Welsh government argue that the reduction in speed limits will significantly benefit road safety and the wellbeing of road users and pedestrians.
Campaigners argue the chances of someone surviving being hit by a car at 20mph rather than 30mph is seven times higher.
Welsh ministers have also argued that the changes will help communities to be less reliant on driving and may encourage people to walk or cycle to places instead.
And what about the challenges of this approach?
Whilst there are clear road safety benefits, compliance with the new speed limit may prove to be an issue. In its latest figures on speed limit compliance, the Department for Transport found that, at a national level, 85% of drivers exceeded the speed limit in 20mph zones. Of those that did, 16% exceeded the limit by 10mph or more.
In some Welsh communities, 20mph zones have been established ahead of the changes being brought in. These trials have, on the whole, proved effective, however there are significant areas of the country where this hasn’t been rolled out yet.
For this new legislation to prove effective, the Welsh government and individual police forces will need to work very closely to educate drivers about these changes and then establish a clear enforcement strategy. Without that, we could see a significant increase in speed related offending.