Hadi Law

From 7 July 2024, all cars made in Europe will be fitted with speed limiters as per EU legislation. Although the UK is no longer part of the EU, the UK has ratified the speed limiter legislation. Therefore, it is likely that most cars on our roads will eventually have a speed limiter fitted. In addition, from 7 July 2024 onwards, all car manufacturers will be legally required to ensure any cars on sale in their showrooms have speed limiters fitted. Cars without speed limiters will need retrofitting.

How do speed limiters work?

An Intelligent Speed Assistant (ISA) runs the speed limiter, which uses GPS data and/or traffic sign recognition cameras to determine the maximum speed allowed in a particular area. The system then confines the engine’s power and the vehicle’s speed to that limit. Much like a seatbelt warning, the system uses audio and visual cues to alert the driver, and the cues continue until they start driving within the speed limit. Speed limiters come in three main types:
  1. An advisory model which warns the driver if they are exceeding the speed limit and reminds them of the legal limit.
  2. Increasing upward pressure on the accelerator which prevents the driver from pushing down to go faster.
  3. Reduction of engine power which brings down the vehicle’s speed without engaging the brake (similar to cruise control).
The system can be overridden by pressing hard on the accelerator; however, it will reset each time the vehicle is restarted.

Why did the EU bring in speed limiter legislation?

The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), the body which supports the introduction of ISAs, says the limiters would reduce collisions by 30% and save around 25,000 lives within 15 years. Speed is well recognised as one of the main contributing factors in vehicle-related deaths and injuries. The ETSC has been promoting the benefits of ISA ever since a 2014 Norwegian study found it to be the ‘most effective‘ in saving lives.

Do speed limiter laws affect the UK?

Despite the fact that the UK left the EU on 31 December 2020, the speed limiter legislation was ratified by Parliament. This means all new cars sold in the UK must be fitted with a speed limiter.

Have manufacturers started fitting their cars with speed limiters?

Many manufacturers, including Citroen, Ford, Honda, Jaguar, Peugeot, Renault and Volvo, have already started including factory-fitted ISA in some of their cars. Renault Group has also limited the top speed of all new Renault and Citroen cars to 112 mph.

What are the concerns regarding speed limiters?

The main concern regarding speed limiters was always the fear that if a driver could not override the system, they would be unable to accelerate to avoid danger. This has been addressed, and motorists can override the ISA if required. However, this solution poses the obvious problem of drivers being unable to deactivate the system on every new car journey, thus removing any safety benefits and rendering the expensive technology pointless. There are also concerns regarding the reliability of speed limiters. For example, when turning off a duel carriageway, the inside lane’s speed limits are often reduced to as little as 30 mph. If the ISA system picks up the increase, it can dramatically slow down a vehicle in the outside lane about to merge onto another motorway, despite the 30 mph speed limit not applying. Finally, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), such as lane keeping assistance, can be erratic and abrupt in their application. For this reason, many drivers turn the ADAS system off when entering their car. If speed limiters pose the same unreliability, it is unlikely that drivers will feel comfortable keeping them activated.

Wrapping up

The introduction of speed limiters raises several legal questions. Firstly, if a driver receives a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) for speeding, there may be a defence available if it can be proved that the speed limiter on their car was faulty in that it did not reduce the speed of the vehicle or alert the driver that they were exceeding the legal speed limit. Secondly, if the speed limiter slows down a car because it falsely picks up a speed limit sign (as in the above example of an inside lane off a duel carriageway being reduced to 30 mph but the outside lane speed limit remains at 70 mph) and this causes an accident, the driver could argue that the technology was at fault rather than themselves. All this leads to the deeper issue that applies to many areas of law, not just motoring, namely, “How much can humans rely on technology, and if it fails, will that failure constitute a defence”? This is a question for legislators and the Courts to answer. However, as technology becomes an intricate part of the driving experience, it is crucial for those charged with a motoring offence to discuss possible defences with an experienced Solicitor.   For further information on motoring offences, please speak to our motoring offences law team on 01772 447000 or reach out to us on our seven-day-a-week WhatsApp helpline on 07869760533.

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