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Speed limits, control and community speed watch

The signed speed limits on the county road network account for one of the greatest causes for public complaint. When requests are received for amendments to speed limits we work with Northamptonshire Police to undertake a formal review. This involves a Panel of relevant officers, chaired by the Road Safety Manager, and includes:

  • the Highways Community Liaison Officer for the area in question
  • the Principal Highways Engineering Officer
  • safety engineers
  • road safety practitioners
  • the Safer Roads Team Leader for Northamptonshire Police

The Panel is therefore able to provide a consensus across organisations.

In general, we are mindful that determining an appropriate speed limit is not an exact science and can often divide opinion, particularly when the road characteristics and environment change rapidly over relatively short distances.

During our monthly meetings, the Panel takes an evidence led approach and evaluates all the available speed, volume and collision data, supporting information, environmental impacts and road characteristics.

In addition, members of the Panel will have visited the identified locations prior to the meeting in order to experience, first-hand, the current restriction in place so as to form an opinion regarding any proposed amendment.

The Panel also takes account of a range of other factors, which include, but are not limited to:

  • criteria and guidance ‘Setting Local Speed Limits’ developed by the Department for Transport (DfT)
  • National Police Chiefs Council speed enforcement policy guidelines
  • what are the realistic prospects of compliance
  • it should be obvious to a careful and competent motorist why a speed limit is in place and should reflect the function of the road, geometry and environment
  • a speed limit should seek to reinforce people’s assessment of what is a safe speed to travel to encourage self-compliance
  • the potential for reducing collisions and casualties in areas with a known history
  • any use of traffic calming features must be proportional, aesthetically acceptable and supported by the emergency services
  • There should be no expectation of the police to provide additional enforcement beyond their routine activity

It should be noted that this speed assessment process does not imply that speed limits will automatically be reduced. Indeed, in some cases, the assessment may suggest that the existing speed limit may already be inappropriately set too low, and an increased limit could be considered.

For further advice regarding a speed limit review please contact the Highways Community Liaison Officer by email to [email protected].

We are supportive of 20mph restrictions in areas where vulnerable road users tend to be at risk. This means that the vast majority of new 20mph restrictions in the county are advisory and have been implemented in localised areas outside schools where the traffic calming element is normally in the form of time-specific vehicle activated signs.

We are also supportive of 20mph restrictions in new developments where the road design and infrastructure demonstrates a self-enforcing layout which will clearly achieve effective compliance.

Where requests to reduce existing restrictions are concerned, 20mph limits covering a wider area tend to be contentious, and also more expensive as they generally require physical traffic calming measures in the form of speed humps, raised platforms or chicanes in order to gain compliance. These can often look out of place or have a negative visual impact on a residential environment.

A study into the effectiveness of 20mph speed limits was published by the Department for Transport in November 2018. It assessed the outcomes of reducing speed limits from 30mph to 20mph in residential areas and town centres. The research provided no clear insight into the value or positive changes created by a 20mph scheme. In taking a pragmatic view we therefore remain cautious in terms of implementing 20mph speed restrictions.

The community speed watch initiative was set up to allow fully trained residents use speed detection devices to monitor vehicles travelling through their towns and villages and help improve road safety in their communities. The scheme operates on roads with a speed limit of 20, 30 and 40mph.

Warning letters are sent to the registered keeper of any vehicles caught exceeding the speed limit, which aims to increase awareness of the dangers of speeding and encourage drivers to reduce their speed.

The drivers’ details will be also held on record to identify any repeat offenders and anyone caught exceeding the speed limits more than twice can expect a visit from the police as well as targeted enforcement which can result in prosecution.

If you’re interested in becoming a Community Speed Watch volunteer, please visit the Northamptonshire Police for more information.

We offer the opportunity for parish councils to buy, manage and operate their own temporary VAS scheme which can be easily moved to different locations around the community in line with a self-determined programme.

To date 90 communities have taken advantage of the self-purchase scheme, giving them a large stake in addressing their own speeding issues.

If you would like further information please contact the Road Safety Team by email to [email protected].

Last updated 23 August 2023