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Enforcement of 20mph speed limit to start across Wales this month

Enforcement of the new 20mph default speed limit in built-up areas across Wales is slated to kick in this month.

The Welsh government confirmed the implementation of the £34 million law, effective since last September, would begin in January, following an initial adjustment period. Initially, not all drivers exceeding the 20mph (32km/h) limit will face prosecution, with a focus on penalizing the most hazardous offenders.

According to a motoring lawyer, the absence of 20mph signs has led to confusion among some drivers. Starting from Monday, roadside teams will employ speed monitoring tools to apprehend motorists violating the limit. Offenders will be given a choice between a fine with points or roadside engagement.

A spokesperson for the Welsh government stated, “we’ve given a grace period but we will now start to enforce”.

Wales made history in September by becoming the first UK nation to reduce speed limits in residential zones from 30mph to 20mph. The government’s objective is to mitigate fatalities, noise pollution, and environmental impact while encouraging walking and cycling.

However, the enforcement of the Welsh government’s law has stirred controversy among some drivers and opposition politicians, leading to uncertainty regarding its implementation. Despite the grace period mentioned by the minister overseeing the rollout in October, reports indicated enforcement possibly commenced on December 17.

While Wales’ road safety body mentioned no enforcement in new 20mph zones, except at the discretion of police officers, prosecutions resumed in existing 20mph zones in November. Presently, Go Safe will initiate roadside engagement in certain new 20mph areas in Wales from Monday, part of Operation Ugain, excluding the most dangerous drivers who will face prosecution directly.

Drivers exceeding 20mph in built-up areas might face a minimum fine of £100 and three penalty points, although police prioritize educational measures. If speeding persists on specific 20mph stretches, authorities plan to escalate preventive actions such as enhanced roadside engagement, speed calming methods, or additional speed cameras.

For drivers caught exceeding 26mph by speed cameras on these new 20mph stretches, prosecutions will follow. This sets a new enforcement threshold advised by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, altering the guidance for UK officers in these areas.

The 20mph speed limit reduction affects 35% of Welsh roads with lamp-posts situated no more than 200 yards apart. Drivers are assured they won’t be penalized for incorrect road signs displaying the old speed limit.

Regarding the option of attending a speed awareness course for offenders, the criteria based on speed have not yet been determined by the police.

Despite concerns from some quarters, Wales’ First Minister, Mark Drakeford, insists that the 20mph limit will save lives, outweighing the £34 million cost through reduced strain on emergency services.

Jeremy Miles and Vaughan Gething, both vying to succeed Mr. Drakeford as Welsh Labour leader, have expressed a desire for a policy review.

Nonetheless, Mr. Miles clarified that a reversal of the 20mph law was unlikely, emphasizing the need for better guidance for councils within the national framework.