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How to tell what the speed limit is

Driving tips and other life stuff

How to tell what the speed limit is

*updated December 2021

We've all done it - suddenly realised you're merrily cruising along at 40mph when you have literally no idea what the speed limit is.

But guess what? It's not acceptable. Sorry - was that a little harsh?!

Anyway, do yourself a favour and learn how to recognise the speed limit.


  • 20mph limits are usually found in town centres, high streets, residential roads and near schools.

  • You'll normally see regular speed limit signs on 20mph roads.

  • A speed limit this low is low for a reason. Don't push it.

20mph speed limit


  • You'll see these in 'built-up' areas (urban roads and villages).

  • A good general rule is that if there are street lights, it's 30 unless you see a sign saying otherwise.

30mph speed limit

40 and 50mph

  • 40 and 50 limits are usually on roads that aren't built-up but aren't appropriate for national speed limit either.

  • That could mean they have hidden bends, frequent junctions or roundabouts.

  • You'll see regular speed limit signs in 40 and 50mph areas.

50mph speed limit

60mph - national speed limit

  • 60mph is the national speed limit for single carriageways.

  • If there's no central reservation (grass or concrete between the lanes) then you're on a single carriageway.

  • That tells you the national speed limit sign means 60mph here.

National speed limit

70mph - national speed limit

  • 70mph is the national speed limit for dual carriageways (the ones with the central reservations).

  • So, if you see national speed limit here it means 70mph.

  • 70mph is also the national speed limit for cars on motorways, where you might see the sign overhead.

National speed limit on the motorway

If you can't see any speed limit signs:

If you’re in an area where there are no speed limit signs or street lamps, play it safe: stay at 30 until you see a sign.

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Find out why it's so important to take notice of speed limit changes.