The speed limit for any road is a maximum – not a target. However, if you are driving at the speed limit for a road does it mean it is safe to do so?

There are many different types of roads you will come across as a driver and you should be prepared to adapt your driving, particularly your speed, based on your surroundings.

What is an average speed limit?

Driving at a speed too fast for the road conditions can be extremely dangerous. Most roads have pre-set speed limits but these are not always safe to drive at.

Safe average speeds are not the same as the pre-set speed limits that are displayed on the roads. They are calculated by measuring the average speeds other drivers are doing based on the condition of the road and its surroundings. For example, a country road may have a pre-set speed limit of 60mph, however if it is a road with particularly sharp turns and blind spots the average speed being recorded may only be 40mph.

How can you identify the safe average speed for a road?

Just like pre-set speed limits, the average speed you should be travelling at will vary on different roads. However, the safe average speed is also determined by other factors. There are a few things to help you identify what speed you should be travelling at:

  • Weather – what is the weather like? Braking distance is vastly different on wed roads.
  • Time – what time of day is it? Serious accidents are far more common during the evening rush hour or overnight.
  • Visibility – can you stop in the distance that you can see ahead?
  • Other road users – who else is on the road? Keep an eye out for vulnerable road users like pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders.
  • Area – are you travelling in a rural area? You are more likely to have an accident on a minor road or narrow lane, and should something go wrong it can take longer for emergency services to respond.

Want to find out more?

Lots of organisations have written really useful tips on how to identify and drive at the safe average speed.  Here are some of our favourites: