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Speeding Laws in Scotland

It is firstly important to say that there is no one Speeding Law in Scotland,  rather there are a number of speeding laws in Scotland. There is a different law for speeding on a motorway as opposed to speeding in  a town centre, for example. And there are different laws for temporary speed limits as opposed to permanent ones. All of the various speeding laws in Scotland can, however, be found in the same place – the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

Part VI of the Act is called “Speed Limits” so it is reasonable to think that all speeding laws in Scotland can be found there. Not quite. Speeding laws in Scotland are a complex beast so we thought it would be useful to summarise them here. We will start with the laws found in Part VI.

  • Road Traffic Regulation Act section 89

This section is headed “speeding offences generally”. It states that “a person who drives a motor vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding a limit imposed by or under any enactment to which this section applies shall be guilty of an offence”.

So what does that actually mean? It means that if you break the law under another section of the Act then you commit an offence under this section of the Act. So, for example, you would be breaking the law under section 81 if you drive in excess of 30mph. The offence you would have committed is under section 89. In other words, you break the law under one section and commit the offence under a different section. The complaint against you would state you have driven contrary to the Road Traffic Regulation Act sections 81 and 89. The various laws are:

  • Road Traffic Regulation Act, sections 81 and 89

This offence relates to the most common roads in the country. They are called “restricted roads” and they are the most common roads found in every village, town and city in Scotland. Of all the speeding laws in Scotland, this is perhaps the most commonly used.

These roads do not have speed limit signs. Instead the speed limit is signified by the presence of a system of street lighting. So when you are driving down the local high street, there will not be signs telling you that the speed limit is 30mph. Instead there will be a load of lampposts with a gap of no more than 185 metres between each one.

The speed limit on these roads is 30mph.

The complaint against the driver is that he has driven contrary to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, sections 81 and 89.

  • Road Traffic Regulation Act, section 84 and 89

This section applies to “roads other than restricted roads”. As we shall see, this does not mean all other roads other than restricted roads.

A typical example of such a road is a 40mph limit, still within a town or city but outwith the main built up area. There may still be lampposts as per the built up area but there will also be speed limit signs indicating the higher speed limit.

What is the speed limit on these roads? That depends. The relevant “national authority” (most usually the local council) decides what the speed limit should be and creates an “order”. This order will state what the speed limit for a specified section of road shall be. It is usually either 40mph or 50mph. In some areas of the country (such as Edinburgh city centre) there are also permanent 20mph limits.

The complaint against the driver will state that he has driven contrary to the relevant Order and the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, sections 84 and 89.

  • Road Traffic Regulation Act, section 86 and 89

Speeding laws in Scotland are subject to exceptions. The most common exception is that certain vehicles must sometimes drive at a lower speed than the specified speed limit. A common example is transit vans. On many roads such vehicles must drive at a lower speed than cars. So, for example, on a single carriageway country road with a speed limit of 60mph, the van would be limited to 50mph.

What are the speed limits under this section? Again that depends. The section states that “it shall not be lawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle of any class on a road at a speed greater than the speed specified in Schedule 6 to this Act as the maximum speed in relation to a vehicle of that class”. So what does that mean? Basically it means that there will be a speed limit for the road in general. Then that speed limit can be reduced by a certain amount depending on the class of vehicle.

The most typical example is the “transit van” above. Another example is that a car towing a trailer is restricted to a maximum of 60mph on a motorway (usual limit is 70mph), 60mph on a dual carriageway where the usual limit is 70mph and 50mph on a single carriageway with the otherwise 60mph national speed limit.

There are various other restrictions for other types of vehicles such as tractors and articulated vehicles of differing weights.

The complaint against the driver will state that he has driven contrary to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, sections 86 and 89.

  • Road Traffic Regulation Act, section 88 and 89

Section 88 is entitled “temporary speed limits”. It is meant to deal with speed limits which are temporarily reduced for a period not exceeding 18 months; however the reality is that most offences under this section are permanent in any meaningful sense. Any non-motorway road subject to the national speed limit, for example, is covered by this section as are most dual carriageways with a speed limit of 70mph.

It seems paradoxical in these circumstances to call these speed limits “temporary” but the relevant order simply states that these speed limits are “continued indefinitely”. This covers virtually all “country” roads in the UK.

The complaint against the driver will state that has driven contrary to the 70 Miles Per Hour, 60 Miles Per Hour and 50 Miles Per Hour (Temporary Speed Limit) (Continuation) Order 1978 and the Road Traffic Regulation Act sections 88 and 89.

  •  Road Traffic Regulation Act, sections 14 and 16

These sections deal with a different type of temporary speed limit. When a driver drives in excess of the speed limit set under section 14, he commits an offence under section 16.

  • Road Traffic Regulation Act, section 17

This section deals with offences on “special roads”. The most common types of special roads in the UK are motorways and 99.9% of the time, a prosecution under this section relates to speeding on the motorway.

The most common speed limit on motorways is 70mph. This is not actually stated in the section but rather in a separate order called “Motorways Traffic (Speed Limit) Regulations 1974” which, in the absence of a contrary order, provides for a 70mph limit.

Certain sections of motorway, such as sections of the M8 in Paisley and Glasgow, operate at speeds of 50mph and 60mph. There are separate Orders for these lower limits.

The complaint against the driver will state that he has driven contrary to the relevant Order and the Road Traffic Regulation Act, section 17(2).

The bottom line is that Speeding charges can be defeated at trial. If you need to win a speeding case then get in touch today for a FREE case Planner Consultation with Scotland’s top road traffic lawyers 0800 612 9597