|Q||Why are only 30mph speed limits affected?|
|A||Because there is more than one legal procedure by which 30mph speed limits may come into existence and local authorities have sometimes used the wrong one. Other speed limits are brought into effect through a single procedure, so the same errors cannot occur.|
|Q||Are all 30mph speed limits likely to be affected?|
|A||No. In fact, the vast majority of 30mph speed limits in towns and villages are quite legal. The speed limits that may be unlawful are generally on main roads in England and Wales (Scotland has different legislation and is unaffected), where there used to be a higher speed limit and the limit has been reduced to 30mph. Since these tend to be the roads where most speed limit enforcement takes place, the number of wrongful convictions could be very high.|
|Q||So how have the errors come about?|
|A||The legislation under which speed limits become law is the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (which will be referred to simply as 'the Act' from now on). The Act is complex but we will attempt to explain the ways in which a road may acquire a 30mph speed limit. We will also explain a related piece of legislation called the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 1994 (which will be referred to as 'TSRGD' from now on). TSRGD sets out the requirements for providing signs to show drivers what the speed limit is.
First, the Act states that a road which has a system of street lights (not more than 200 yards apart) is defined as a 'restricted road', along which it is illegal to drive at more than 30mph. Of course, not all roads with street lights have a 30mph speed limit: the Act gives highway authorities the power to remove restricted road status from a road with street lights and to impose a different speed limit. When a highway authority wants to reverse that process and reintroduce a 30mph speed limit on a road with street lights, it needs to revoke the higher limit and use a specific power in the Act to restore 'restricted road' status.|
The section of the Act that enables restricted road status to be restored has been misinterpreted by some local authorities (including Suffolk County Council) as giving them the power to make any road a restricted road, and thus subject to a 30mph speed limit, whether there are street lights or not. Where local authorities have misused the Act in this way, the ABD believes that 30mph speed limits on roads without street lights (not more than 200 yards apart) have no legal backing, so any speeding convictions obtained on them are unlawful.
Some local authorities have made a different error when lowering the speed limit to 30mph on a road with street lights. Instead of using the section of the Act that enables restricted road status to be restored, they have introduced a 30mph speed limit by using the section of the Act that is normally reserved for imposing a different speed limit, e.g. 40mph or 50mph. This error does not itself make a 30mph speed limit illegal, but the local authorities concerned have usually failed to realise that TSRGD specified different requirements for signing a speed limit in those circumstances.
TSRGD states that repeater signs must be provided at regular intervals throughout all speed limits, with the important exception that repeater signs are not allowed on a 'restricted road'. It is because of this exception that you never see 30mph repeater signs in built-up areas, since the roads are 'restricted roads' by virtue of their street lights, so repeater signs are not allowed. Where a speed limit is imposed in the way described in the previous paragraph, the Act states that the road concerned is not a restricted road. Thus the exemption about repeater signs does not apply and those signs must be provided, even though the road has street lights and the speed limit is 30mph. In these circumstances, the ABD believes that the absence of repeater signs makes the speed limit unenforceable so, once again, any speeding convictions are unlawful.
A revised version of TRSGD came into effect on 31st January 2003 and this anomaly has been removed. Repeater signs are now banned on all roads with a 30mph speed limit and street lights, whether the road is a restricted road or not. This change cannot be made retrospective, so any speeding convictions obtained prior to 31st January 2003 will still be unlawful.
|Q||So how do I know if one of these errors have been made in the case of my speeding conviction?|
|A||You need to go through the following checklist:|
You should ask the highway authority to let you see the 'traffic regulation order' by which the speed limit was imposed. This document sets out the powers within the Act that were used and specifies, in a 'schedule', the exact length of road to which the speed limit applies.
If the road in question does not have street lights, the traffic regulation order should refer to section 84 of the Act (it may well refer to sections 84(1) and 84(2)). If instead it refers to section 82 (and possibly section 83 as well), then the speed limit may be illegal.
Conversely, if the road does have street lights, then the traffic regulation order should refer to sections 82 and 83 of the Act. If it only refers to section 84, then the road is not a restricted road and repeater signs must be provided for the speed limit to be enforceable (prior to 31 January 2003).
If you believe that the traffic regulation order is incorrect, ask for a copy (you may have to pay a small fee) and take it to your solicitor, together with a copy of the summary of legislation set out below.
|Section 81(1): It shall not be lawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle on a restricted road at a speed exceeding 30 miles per hour.
Section 82(1): Subject to the provisions of this section and of section 84(3) of this Act, a road is a restricted road for the purposes of section 81 of this Act if there is provided on it a system of street lighting furnished by means of lamps placed not more than 200 yards apart.
Section 82(2): A direction may be given -
(a) that a specified road which is a restricted road for the purposes of section 81 of this Act shall cease to be a restricted road for those purposes, or
(b) that a specified road which is not a restricted road for those purposes shall become a restricted road for those purposes.
Section 83(1): Any direction under section 82(2) of this Act in respect of a trunk road shall be given by means of an order made by the Secretary of State after giving public notice of his intention to make an order.
Section 83(2): Any such direction in respect of a road which is not a trunk road shall, subject to Parts I to III of Schedule 9 to this Act, be given by means of an order made by the local authority.
Section 84(1): An order made under this subsection as respects any road may prohibit, either generally or during periods specified in the order, the driving of motor vehicles on that road at a speed exceeding that specified in the order.
Section 84(2): The power to make an order under subsection (1) above shall be exercisable by an authority after giving public notice of their intention to make an order under that subsection; and the authority having that power -
(a) as respects a trunk road, shall be the Secretary of State, and
(b) as respects any other road, subject to Parts I to III of Schedule 9 to this Act, shall be the local authority.
Section 84(3): While an order under subsection (1) above is in force as respects a road, that road shall not be a restricted road for the purposes of section 81 of this Act.
Section 85(1): For the purposes of securing that adequate guidance is given to drivers of motor vehicles as to whether any, and if so what, limit of speed is to be observed on any road, it shall be the duty of the Secretary of State, in the case of a trunk road, to erect and maintain the prescribed traffic signs in such positions as may be requisite for that purpose.
Section 85(2): In the case of any road which is not a trunk road, it shall be the duty of the local authority -
(a) to erect and maintain the prescribed traffic signs in such positions as may be requisite in order to give effect to general or other directions given by the Secretary of State for the purpose mentioned in subsection (1) above, and
(b) to alter or remove traffic signs as may be requisite in order to give effect to such direction, either in consequence of the making of an order by the Secretary of State or otherwise.
|Direction 10(2): Signs to which this paragraph applies [repeater signs] shall be placed at regular intervals along a road which is subject to a restriction, requirement, prohibition or speed limit which can be indicated by the signs, except that the sign shown in diagram 670 [indicating maximum speed limit] shall not be placed along a road which is -
(a) in England and Wales a restricted road as defined by section 82 of the 1984 Act and in Scotland a road as respects which there is in force an order prohibiting the driving of motor vehicles at a speed exceeding 30 miles per hour and on which there is provided a system of carriageway lighting furnished by means of lamps placed not more than 185 metres apart; or
(b) a motorway on which a national speed limit is in force.