20mph speed zones are designed to make built-up areas feel safer (Picture: Shutterstock)
A police chief admitted 20mph speed zones are ‘usually advisory’ in built-up areas and are difficult to enforce.
Despite a third of local authorities rolling out the measures in recent years, motorists can often drive up to 30mph in these areas and not face prosecution, reports the Eastern Daily Press.
Giles Orpen-Smellie, conservative police and crime commissioner for Norfolk, called for a change in the law so speeders can be brought before the courts.
He told a recent county council meeting: ‘I appreciate there are lots of 20mph signs displayed. They are usually advisory, unless they are backed by specific law.
‘It’s therefore extremely difficult for the police to prosecute because, despite the 20mph sign, despite it being written inside a red circle – which normally indicates it has legal force – if it goes in front of magistrates they will throw it out, because there is no basis in law to prosecute.’
Liam Calvert, from the charity Living Streets, added he was ‘amazed’ by the comment and said: ‘I will be very keen to hear about the advice he has received from officers on the issue.
’20mph limits are there to improve safety and, just as importantly, increase the feeling of safety for vulnerable road users.’
Many motorists can often drive between 20mph and 30mph and not face prosecution (Picture: Shutterstock)
Rod King, director of campaign group 20’s Plenty For Us, dismissed Mr Orpen-Smellie’s claims as ‘absolute nonsense’.
He said: ’20mph limits are as enforceable as any other limit. In 2021, Avon and Somerset Police issued 23,338 notices of intended prosecution on roads with a 20mph limit.’
Norfolk Police confirmed it does not issue tickets for driving at up to 30mph in 20mph areas, and said there was a difference between ‘limits’ and ‘zones’.
20mph limits are areas where the speed limit has been reduced to 20mph, but there are no physical measures to reduce vehicle speeds within the area.
20mph zones use traffic-calming measures to reduce the impact of vehicles in built up areas.
Giles Orpen-Smellie, conservative police and crime commissioner for Norfolk
A spokesperson for the force said: ‘A zone can be introduced by a local authority without any permissions being sought. However, this can create a significant issue for enforcement.
‘If a zone is introduced without a traffic order (a legal document issued by the relevant highways authority) then the speed limit applicable will be 30mph.’
They added police action ‘may be appropriate if there is clear evidence of significant non-compliance or injury collision’, with the force having issued 38 tickets for drivers speeding in a 20mph zone since January 1 last year.
The National Police Chiefs Council said ‘enforcement is a matter for individual forces’.
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