Keoghs Insight


Tom Stevenson

EU to introduce speed limiters on to all new cars from 2020


The Vehicle Certification Agency has confirmed that it will mirror new regulations backed by the European Commission and European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) to limit the speed of new vehicles. Subject to approval by the European Parliament and EU member states, the new regulations will come into effect in respect of new models in May 2020.

The ETSC have said that the measures "will reduce collisions by 30 percent and save 25,000 lives within 15 years of being introduced”.

A Department for Transport spokesman has stated “we continuously work with partners across the globe to improve the safety standards of all vehicles. These interventions are expected to deliver a step-change in road safety across Europe, including the UK.”

New vehicle systems will utilise GPS data and sign recognition cameras to detect speed limits and provide motorists with a warning before automatically reducing engine power (rather than braking) thus slowing the vehicle down to a speed within the limit. A driver will still be able to override the system by pressing hard on the accelerator (for instance when completing an overtake manoeuvre) but it is hoped that the alarm system, much the same as that heard when a driver/passenger is not wearing a seatbelt, will deter drivers from overriding the system as a matter of course.

From a public safety perspective, the adoption of these regulations in the UK can only be a good thing, and no doubt insurers will be taking note of the headline statistics relating to a reduction in collisions. Whilst there is no doubt that excess speed causes collisions, it will be interesting to see whether a 30 percent reduction is achievable. 

The UK for example has some of the lowest speed limits in Europe, and after Sweden the least road fatalities per million inhabitants. Those of us working in the defence of motorists accused of road traffic offences find that the vast majority of collisions result from a lack of attention, often at low speed when a vehicle is emerging from a junction, and it is difficult to imagine any technology ever being able to prevent those types of collisions, short of fully automated vehicles.

Concerns have also been raised in some quarters suggesting that the new measures could lead to a false sense of security and encourage motorists to drive at the speed limit with less regard to the prevailing road/weather conditions, which could in itself lead to more collisions.

However, even if there is some logic to that argument, on balance it is still expected that the measures will lead to a reduction in collisions. Unquestionably excess speed does increase the likelihood of a fatality or very serious injury resulting from a collision, or to put it more succinctly ‘speed kills’.

It will be interesting over the coming years to see how this area develops, what effect the measures will have (assuming they do come into force), and whether the headline statistics prove accurate, but less fatalities on the roads of the UK is something we can all support.

To discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or other matters relating to motor prosecutions, please contact Tom Stevenson.