New EU rules on car speed limiters coming into force

·3 min read

New European Union rules mandating speed-limiting systems to be fitted to new cars, vans and lorries come into force on Wednesday, but are not being implemented in the UK.

The requirement for newly launched models to have Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) technology is part of a package of measures aimed at boosting road safety in the bloc.

The Department for Transport said it is assessing the technologies within the EU’s General Safety Regulation (GSR) but no decision has been made on whether any of them will be mandated in Britain.

It added that the Government is committed to using innovative technology to improve road safety.

ISA detects speed limits on roads through devices such as cameras and satnavs.

Drivers are alerted when their vehicle exceeds the maximum permitted speed such as through audible or vibrating warnings, or by the accelerator pedal gently pushing their foot back.

In some versions, the vehicle’s speed is automatically reduced.

But users can ignore the warnings and override speed reductions.

Other measures in the GSR include driver drowsiness warnings, emergency stop signals, accurate tyre pressure monitoring and event data recorders.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes urged the Government to be “very careful about cherry-picking certain aspects and dropping others” as they all “have the potential to significantly improve safety on the UK’s roads”.

There has been no significant fall in the annual number of UK road deaths since 2010, apart from in 2020 when coronavirus lockdowns led to a huge reduction in traffic.

DfT figures show a driver or rider breaking the speed limit contributes to around one in six fatalities on Britain’s roads.

UK-based manufacturers making cars to be exported into the EU will need to include the GSR measures such as speed limiters.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said some manufacturers are already offering these technologies ahead of regulations.

He went on: “The UK has some of the safest roads in the world, but action to improve our record still further should be welcomed.

“With the heavily integrated nature of the UK and European automotive sectors, regulatory divergence is not advantageous for either party.”

Road traffic lawyer Nick Freeman, known as Mr Loophole for winning celebrities’ cases on legal technicalities, predicted that speed limiters will be introduced in the UK over the next two years.

He described them as “incredibly dangerous” and “a needless distraction”, as there are “always circumstances where you need to briefly accelerate”.

He went on: “To have a device which will automatically prevent the driver from being able to escape from danger – as well as the freedom to make decisions – is ridiculous.

“People should be allowed to drive. I’m not against safety devices but am against losing overall control.”

Dan Powell, senior editor at used car website CarSite, said: “While some people will be understandably nervous about the mandatory introduction of ISA, it’s important to note that it can be manually overridden.

“Some cars feature this tech already and feedback from owners is generally positive.”

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