Some of the questions that are often asked are “How is it legal for my local council to obstruct the road with speed humps?”, or “Can I claim against the council for damage to my car caused by speed humps?, or “What are the permitted dimensions of speed humps?”. This article explains the laws by which speed humps are regulated in England and Wales, and helps to give answers to those questions and many others. The Secretary of State has powers under the Road Traffic Acts to set Regulations in respect of traffic calming measures and the relevant ones are as follows:
The Highways (Traffic Calming) Regulations 1999 (and a subsequent amendment in 2000) can be found on the HMSO web site on the internet (see www.legislation.gov.uk -
Under these regulations there is an obligation to consult various people about traffic calming schemes. Under the Highways (Traffic Calming) Regulations they must consult the police and "such persons or organisations representing persons who use the highway or who are otherwise likely to be affected by the traffic calming work as the authority thinks fit." Clearly local residents or businesses should therefore be consulted.
Similarly, and even more specifically, under the Highways (Road Humps) Regulations the council must consult "in all cases, organisations appearing to them to represent persons who use the highway to which the proposal related, or to represent persons who are otherwise likely to be affected by the road hump". In addition they must consult local fire and ambulance services. Organisations such as the A.B.D. who represent road users must clearly therefore be consulted.
Permitted Traffic Calming Devices
These can be almost any features included in a traffic calming scheme such as humps, lighting, paving, grass, pillars, bollards, walls, fences, trees, and many more.
Required Street Signs and Lighting
There must be “adequate warning of the presence of traffic calming works….” and likewise for speed humps. In the specific case of humps, there must also be adequate street lighting (the regulations spell out the specific requirements here in some detail).
Hump Dimensions and Location
Speed humps must be at right angles to the carriageway, be at least 900mm long, be less than 100 mm high and more than 25mm high and not have a vertical face exceeding 6 mm. Note that most speed humps in the UK are now constructed at 75 mm height due to grounding on higher ones, and there are other guidelines on their use and such measures as leading and trailing slopes which are given later, but these do not necessarily have the force of law. Road humps may be constructed under Zebra, Pelican and Puffin crossings, if centrally located under them. However they cannot be placed near bridge supports, or near tunnels or culverts beneath the road.
There are specific regulations on the construction of overrun areas and rumble devices which limit their height for example. But one interesting point to note is the rule that “No traffic calming work shall be constructed or maintained in a carriageway so as to prevent the passage of any vehicle unless the passage of that vehicle is otherwise lawfully prohibited”. This was probably designed to avoid such measures being used to prohibit heavy goods vehicles for example, without a more specific regulation being invoked, but it may be relevant in other ways if you own a vehicle that has difficulty in negotiating speed humps.
Guidelines on Use
Another useful source of information are “Traffic Advisory Leaflets” which are published by the DfT on and provide guidance to Local Authority traffic engineers. They include leaflets on traffic calming measures and also reference relevant reports from the Transport Research Laboratory. All such Leaflets can be accessed from the following page:
Ones of particular interest in regards to speed humps are "2/96 75mm High Humps", "7/96 Highways (Road Humps) Regulations 1996", "8/96 Road humps and ground-
“It is recommended that the consultation process is not limited just to carrying out the statutory duties, but should open up a dialogue with all interested parties to ensure that as far as possible there is a consensus in favour of the scheme. At times it may be necessary for the highway authority to demonstrate their willingness to modify schemes in order to obtain an acceptable compromise.”. Clearly not something that happens in many local authorities!
Unfortunately the content of Traffic Advisory Leaflets is only advisory but if there were clear contraventions of the advice therein, then you would probably have grounds for complaining to your local council. A failure to respond satisfactorily could give you evidence for a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman (see http://www.lgo.org.uk). Any failure to adhere to these recommendations might also help you in any claim for compensation for damage to property or personal injury on the grounds of negligence by the local authority.
If you are concerned about signage or road markings for speed humps, another useful source of information is the publication "Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions" which has the force of law -
When the general public demand the removal of humps, you sometimes hear it argued by councillors or council staff that there are legal difficulties in doing so -
Note that the web site addresses mentioned above, particularly the Department for Transport ones, seem to be subject to rapid change so please notify us of any failures in these links so we can correct them in future.