Confused by temporary speed limits? In this guide we answer common questions to help you stay safe - and avoid a Fixed Penalty Notice.

A temporary speed limit may be applied to some roads or motorways for a certain period of time. This speed limit overrides the fixed speed limit normally applied to the road.

Temporary speed limit sign

For example, a stretch of motorway will normally be subject to the national UK motorway speed limit of 70mph. But in some circumstances - such as when there are road works - the speed limit may be temporarily reduced to, say, 50mph.

In the case of roadworks, a temporary speed limit is chiefly put in place to reduce the risk of road workers being hit by flying debris (or reduce the chance of serious injury if one is hit). It may also help prevent vehicles from being damaged by a rough or unfinished road surface (e.g. where there is loose gravel).

What does a temporary speed limit look like?

On a motorway, a temporary speed limit will normally be displayed on an overhead gantry with a dot matrix display. The speed limit will look similar to a regular speed limit sign, with the speed limit figure surrounded by a red circle.

Advisory Speed Limit Sign

What's the difference between a temporary and advisory speed limit?

A temporary speed limit - which features a number in a red circle - is enforceable by police.

In contrast, an advisory speed limit is simply a recommended speed with flashing lights usually comprising a light on each corner of the sign.

An advisory speed limit is not enforceable by law, but it’s a good idea to adhere to it because it will be there for reasons of safety - e.g. bad weather or roadworks.

Possible reasons for a temporary speed limit:

  • Roadworks
  • Traffic officers working in vulnerable locations
  • Extreme weather
  • Road traffic incidents

Policeman on motorbike

What are the penalties for breaking a temporary speed limit?

Breaking a temporary speed limit will result in a Fixed Penalty Notice - just as breaking a fixed speed limit would.

If you are caught exceeding the speed limit - temporary or fixed - you'll likely receive a Fixed Penalty Notice of £100 and three points on your licence.

Is there any tolerance for breaking a temporary speed limit?

Many UK police forces have some tolerance of speeding - normally 10% plus 2mph. However, these are only guidelines - but they may be applied as regards breaking temporary speed limits, just as with permanent speed limits.

However, note that police are within their rights to charge you for going just 1mph over any speed limit.

Motorway speed camera sign

How are temporary speed limits monitored?

Speed cameras are installed on the overhead gantries that display temporary speed limits.

These are operating all the time - when the temporary speed limit has been lifted - so it's important to keep an eye on your speed at all times.

Not sure if you broke a temporary speed limit?

If you suspect you may have breached a temporary speed limit, you'll receive a letter containing a Notice of Intended Prosecution in around two weeks.

A fine may well follow this.

Temporary speed limit advice

  • Do not exceed any temporary speed limit
  • Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead (Highway Code Rule 126)
  • Using your mirrors, move into the correct lane as directed by signs
  • Do not change lanes in order to overtake queuing traffic