Drivers could lose licences over ‘prank’ speed limit sign

50 mph speed limit sign on a country road

Why would anyone alter a speed limit sign that could lead to drivers being banned from the roads and losing their livelihoods?

More than three months after a prankster altered a 40mph sign to 50mph on the A20 near Sidcup, south-east London, the question remains unanswered, despite a police investigation and thousands of drivers getting points on their licences.

Following the switch, unwitting drivers who accelerated to 50mph were caught by speed cameras while roadworks were being carried out. Among them were hundreds of worried motorists who already had points on their driving licences and would be banned for totting up. This includes taxi drivers and other professionals who drive for a living.

The sign swap has led to about 600 drivers desperately trying to get the penalties overturned so they could stay on the road.

Loss of livelihood

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

The Standard reported 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 police refused to back down over any fines issued. The matter resulted in several MPs writing to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan calling for penalties to be overturned, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would look into the issue.


It would have been bad enough if one or two drivers had been caught out by the ‘prank’, but the scale of it has shocked solicitors acting for some of the drivers.

Motoring specialist solicitor Dominic Smith 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.”


Transport for London confirmed it had replaced the fake speed limit sign following complaints. The Metropolitan Police are now investigating whether whoever altered the signs has perverted the course of justice. It added that it would make no difference to any fines already issued and expected that most drivers would have remained below the average speed limit over such a short distance.

Whatever the outcome of the police investigation, it isn’t right that people should lose their licences and even their livelihoods because of someone else’s actions. Parking tribunals often overturn fixed-penalty notices where drivers have demonstrated that information on signs was incorrect or incomplete and hopefully common sense will prevail here too.

Should any driver appear in court facing disqualifications resulting from this, magistrates should take an understanding approach and let them keep their licences.

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