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Speed limit ‘prank’ is nothing to laugh about

50 mph speed limit sign with trees in the background and a blue sky

Few people like being pranked, especially when it leads to a fine, points on their driving licence, rising insurance premiums, a driving ban and, in the case of taxi drivers, the loss of their livelihood.

This is precisely the situation hundreds of drivers are facing after pranksters changed a 40mph speed limit sign for a 50mph fake on A20 near Sidcup, south-east London.

The switch resulted in thousands of drivers being caught by speed cameras, while believing they were keeping to the speed limit. The road is normally 50mph but had been reduced to 40mph by Transport for London while work was being carried out.

Those affected by the prank in January face a minimum £100 fine and three points on their licence. And about 600 of them could face driving bans after totting up points. They are now desperately trying to get the penalties overturned so they can stay on the road.

At risk

The Telegraph quoted motoring specialist solicitor Dominic Smith, who told LBC radio that he and his colleagues had been contacted by hundreds of drivers.

“I haven’t ever seen anything quite like this, on this magnitude,” he said.

“We’ve been contacted in the past week by about 400 or 500 individuals, of which about 100 to 150 are at risk of losing their licences because of this.

“Usually when a new speed camera goes up, we can tell because we get maybe about two or three enquiries a day for a couple of days – 40 to 50 a day we’re getting at the moment. I’ve never seen anything like it.”


One driver who faces a ban and losing his livelihood is Jonathan Devito, who drives for a living.

The Standard reports that Mr Devito already had three points on his licence and has received three penalty notices resulting from the fake A20 sign, which puts him at risk of a driving ban for totting up.

He told BBC News: “You know that you’re going to lose your licence, your income. I didn’t want to tell the wife, I didn’t want to go out. It was just dreadful.”

Following complaints, the fake sign was replaced with the correct 40mph limit, but the issue caused a huge backlash after police said any penalties issued would not be waived. And this week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to arrange a meeting between Bexley MP Louie French, whose constituency includes Sidcup and who raised the matter in Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday, and the relevant government minister. Mr French and 11 fellow MPs had already written to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan calling for penalties to be overturned.


Tfl said it replaced the fake sign following complaints. The Metropolitan Police are now investigating an attempt to “pervert the course of justice” but say it would make no difference to the speeding fines already issued.

A spokesman explained: “If a motorist were to have travelled through the section that is signed as 40mph at the maximum permitted speed of 40mph, then sped up to 50mph after seeing the now removed 50mph sign, their average speed of the section covered by cameras would not have resulted in them being issued with a speeding ticket.”

Hopefully common sense will prevail, and the hundreds of victims of this senseless prank will have any penalties cancelled. At the very least, it is hoped that anyone who affected and appears in court faced with a driving ban will be able to explain the situation to magistrates who will take an understanding view of the situation.

All information is correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.