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British motorists don't know their limits

Press release: 29/03/2012

  • Seven out of 10 (71%) drivers do not know the legal speed limits when tested
  • British motorists paid out £41 million in speeding fines in 2011 and received two million penalty points
  • One in ten (9%) drivers have been caught speeding in the past three years [ 1 ]
  • Britain’s fastest speeder was caught driving at 152mph by Sussex police

British motorists do not know the legal speed limits on UK roads when tested and are paying heavily for their ignorance.

Research from LV= car insurance reveals that seven in 10 (71%) motorists cannot name the speed limit on a rural road, single carriageway, dual carriageway, motorway or a road in a built up area. When shown photographs of different roads, 33% could not correctly identify the 60mph speed limit for a single carriageway and 52% did not know the speed limit on a rural road without street lights.

Since 2009, nearly one in 10 (9%) drivers have been caught speeding and 17% of these have been caught two or three times. A freedom of information request by LV= car insurance showed that the number of motorists caught speeding increased last year with the total number of offences up by 6% compared with 2010 figures [2].

On average, drivers are caught exceeding the speed limit by 8.5mph but a small minority (4%) have been caught speeding by as much as 20mph or more over the limit, putting themselves and other road users at danger. Police data shows that the average speed at which drivers are caught speeding is increasing, with offending speeders driving 2mph faster in 2011 than in the previous year (54mph in 2010 versus 56mph in 2011).

While the majority of speeding motorists are caught exceeding the speed limit by just a few mph, there are some who have been caught driving at breakneck speeds that would be more appropriate on a Formula One track. In 2011, Sussex Police caught Britain’s fastest speeder driving at 152mph, while another was caught by the Tayside Police driving at 149mph and the Thames Valley Police caught someone driving at 142mph. These speeds, while extreme, are actually faster than those recorded in the previous year, when the fastest speeder was caught driving at 144mph by the Avon & Somerset Police in 2010.

Although we may be driving faster, the findings also show that speeding motorists are more likely to be caught by the authorities. In the past year, the number caught breaking the speed limit rose to 1.5 million (4.2% of motorists last year), notching up 2.2 million penalty points and a £41 million bill in the process.

Yet British motorists are unlikely to start putting their foot on the brake. Close to a third (30%) believe that the 70mph speed limit is too slow and a further 64% welcome the planned speed limit rise to 80mph. Currently around four in 10 (41%) drivers say they routinely break the current 70mph limit when they think they can get away with it. Government proposals to increase speeding fines from £60 to as much as £100 to compensate victims of crime are not welcomed by drivers. Many (40%) see the increase as an unfair tax and a similar number (42%) say it doesn’t seem fair to penalise drivers for other people’s crimes.

John O’Roarke, managing director of LV= car insurance, said "It is alarming that so many motorists cannot correctly identify the legal speed limit on UK roads when tested. If a driver is caught exceeding the limit by just a few mph, they can still be fined and given penalty points. The police data shows that more speeding motorists are being caught each year and drivers should take care to know their limits to avoid a fine, penalty points or worse."

The table below shows the highest speeds that drivers were caught driving at broken down by police force.

Police Force

Year 2010

Year 2011

Sussex Police



Tayside Police



Thames Valley Police



Durham Constabulary



Lancashire Constabulary



Leicestershire Constabulary



Norfolk Constabulary



Northamptonshire Police



Northumbria Police



Kent Police



Cumbria Constabulary



Avon and Somerset Constabulary



Surrey Police



Hampshire Constabulary



West Mercia Police



Suffolk Constabulary



West Midlands Police



North Wales Police (Heddlu Gogledd Cymru)



Central Scotland Police



Staffordshire Police



Cambridgeshire Constabulary



Warwickshire Police



Derbyshire Constabulary



City of London Police



South Yorkshire Police




The research was conducted by ICM research. ICM questioned 2,032 drivers during March 2012.

In addition to this all 51 police forces in the UK were asked a number of FOI speeding questions including the highest speed recorded in 2010 and 2011, the number of speeders caught and the speeds recorded over the past two years.

[1] Based on ICM research among a nationally representative sample of 1531 drivers, 9% of respondents have been caught speeding in the past three years.
[2] According to the Police data there were 955,459 incidents of speeding in 2011 - up from 899,934 in 2010. This is based on FOI data from 36 out of 51 police forces (the other 15 forces either did not collate the data or could not extract it.)

About LV=

LV= employs 5,000 people and serves over five million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK's largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and a range of trades unions.

LVFS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, register number 110035. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.