WHEN TOWING A caravan, you will often need to abide by different speed limits to those that apply in normal, everyday driving.
And, confusingly, the speed limits for cars which are towing and cars which aren’t are the same on some roads, but are different on others.
So before you hitch up and head off on your caravan holidays, it’s important to learn what the limits are.
There’s no secondary sign to remind you if you need to tow at a speed that’s lower than the signposted limit, so if you want to avoid being pulled over and potentially adding points to your driving licence it pays to know the law.
It doesn’t matter whether you are towing with an old banger or the latest Tow Car Awards winner, the same limits apply. Here’s our guide to the speed limits you should stick to when driving with your caravan in tow.
Driving on a motorway
Everyone knows the speed limit on the motorway is 70mph, right? Well, it is when you’re driving a car solo and there are no roadworks or temporary speed restrictions.
You’ll need to travel more slowly when towing a caravan – the fastest you are permitted to drive is 60mph.
It might seem irritating to chug along 10mph more slowly than all the other law-abiding drivers, but this lower maximum speed helps keep the outfit stable and safe.
As well as sticking to the limit, there’s another rule towing drivers should be aware of: if the motorway has three lanes or more, you’re not allowed in the outside lane.
It can be frustrating if one lorry is overtaking another with barely any difference in speed between them, but the rule is there to ease the flow of traffic and make sure the outside lane isn’t clogged with slow-moving vehicles.
On a two-lane stretch of motorway, it’s fine to use the outside lane to overtake while towing, so long as you return to the inside lane once the manoeuvre has been completed, just as you should when driving without a caravan.
Driving on a dual-carriageway
The same applies as on the motorway. If you are towing on a dual-carriageway, the maximum speed is 60mph.
That’s the case wherever the limit is 70mph for cars which aren’t towing. However, if there’s a lower posted limit, that must be adhered to instead.
And, if so, you don’t need to keep driving 10mph below the speed of other traffic – if the posted limit on a dual-carriageway is 60mph or less, the same maximum speed applies to a car that’s towing.
Driving on a single-carriageway
On single-carriageway roads where cars are permitted to travel at 60mph, the limit for a car towing a caravan is 50mph.
This can be frustrating if you feel you could tow your tourer at 60mph and avoid holding up traffic behind you, but to stay the right side of the law you should stick to 50mph.
If you do see a queue forming in your mirrors when you are towing, it’s good manners to pull over and let traffic past when it’s safe to do so.
In fact, it’s not just a question of manners – it’s in the Highway Code. Rule 169 states: “Do not hold up a long queue of traffic, especially if you are driving a large or slow-moving vehicle. Check your mirrors frequently, and if necessary, pull in where it is safe and let traffic pass.”
Where the speed limit is 50mph, 40mph, 30mph or 20mph
If a lower limit applies to ‘normal’ traffic, then it applies to a car towing a caravan, too.
If the posted speed limit is 50mph, 40mph, 30mph or 20mph, then that’s how fast you’re allowed to drive when you’re hitched up.
Remember, in the words of driving instructors everywhere, these speeds are limits, not targets.
Driving at a speed that’s appropriate to the conditions is especially important when towing, as stopping distances will increase and stability in strong winds or when cornering is compromised compared with driving a car without a tourer behind it.
On a motorway or dual-carriageway where the limit for a car is 70mph, then drive at 60mph to stay the right side of the law while towing.
On a single-carriageway road where a 60mph maximum applies for cars, you should tow at no more than 50mph to stay legal.
When driving on roads with lower speed limits, the maximum for cars towing a caravan is the same as it is for other cars.
If you do see a queue forming in your mirrors when you are towing, it's good manners to pull over and let traffic past when it's safe to do so.