Why breaking the speed limit is a bad idea

Despite everything you hear, speed does not kill. Necessarily. Drag racers, Formula One drivers and land speed record heroes are testament to this fact.

But while speed on its own rarely kills, combine it with something else and you’ve potentially got a surefire recipe for disaster. For example, it might be perfectly safe to drive at 60mph on a fast rural road with good visibility, but how do you know you’ve got good visibility? 

You might think you can work out a safe speed for the conditions, but hazards often lurk that you might not know about

Can you guarantee that something won’t come out of that gate from the field, that there isn’t a pedestrian just out of view or some diesel hasn’t been spilled on the bend you’re approaching?

Then there are the things within your control. Load your car up with mates and the handling – plus the stopping distances – will be adversely affected. Reach for the radio or get involved in a conversation at just the wrong moment, and it could be curtains.

Then there are the issues of mobiles, slowed reaction times from having had a drink and handling screwed up because your tyres are bald or under-inflated. Throw a few of these factors into the mix and just an extra few miles an hour really can make the difference between life and death.

That’s why speed on its own isn’t guaranteed to harm anyone, but adding the word ‘inappropriate’ to the mix puts a whole new complexion on things. That’s why we have speed limits; you might think you can work out a safe speed for the conditions, but hazards often lurk that you might not know about – and which mean you need to take it carefully.

The problem with speed limits is that they’re often seen as a target rather than a maximum; falling into that trap can prove fatal. Also, while we’re all taught to obey speed limits, some drivers assume they only have to ensure they don’t exceed the number on the sign and they’ll be safe. That’s not the case though; a skilled driver will take into account a stack of other factors, such as the weather conditions and whether or not there are other road users around.

Paying the penalty

If you’re not driving like a complete idiot, but you’re caught driving over the speed limit, you’ll be fined 60 notes and given three points. Two of those and if you’ve passed your test within the last two years, you’re walking for the next year; to get your licence back, you’ll also have to take an extended driving test.

You might be offered a speed awareness course instead, typically for £90, but without the points. Such courses aren’t available everywhere, not everybody gets the option, and you can attend one of these courses only once every three years.

If you receive a summons for speeding and you're sure a mistake has been made, check out our page on how to deal with a speeding ticket.


Camera partnerships have heard them all; don’t try to wriggle out of a fine by trying any of these: 

  • I picked up a hitchhiker who commented that they liked my car so I let ‘this person’ drive the vehicle. I don’t have their name or address.

  • My car was stolen overnight and returned to the same point. I didn’t report it, as the first thing I knew was when a summons for speeding turned up.

  • I was in the airport’s flight path and I believe the camera was triggered by a jet overhead, not my car.