John Sturgis

The tyranny of the 20mph limit

The punishment is disproportionate

  • From Spectator Life

I was still thinking about the film when I came out of the cinema and got into my car. I can’t have exceeded 28mph. On this wide, well-lit, almost empty London road at midnight, it was hardly reckless. Nevertheless, this stretch of road is one of hundreds to have had their speed limits reduced from 30mph to 20mph. Had I driven past a camera while reflecting on the ambiguous ending of All Of Us Strangers? I now face an anxious few weeks waiting to find out. When I mentioned this to friends I discovered this anxiety is now a common experience.

The last time I got the dreaded speed camera letter in the post was for going at a breakneck 22mph

Take my friend David. Last year he moved to east Sussex. The drive between the capital and his new home has seen him accrue nine penalty points in as many months. If he does it again, he will be banned from the road for a year at least. The train journey to work would take him two hours each way – five days a week. Meanwhile my friend Rick is smarting from being fined £304 – and receiving three points – for driving at 3mph over the speed limit.

The pair’s driving habits haven’t changed but the rules have: all these infringements happened on roads that used to have a 30mph limit but have recently been reduced to 20mph. The last time I got the dreaded speed camera letter in the post was also for going at a breakneck 22mph. For this I was required to spend four hours atoning in an online speed awareness course to avoid points. Another friend has a car that allows him to set a limit to stop involuntary speeding – but it only works over 25mph.

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