Motorists have never been able to rely solely upon a stated speed limit as justification to drive at a certain speed. This has recently been restated, having only lately been at the heart of another judgment of the High Court in Rehman v The Estate of George Brady & Anor  EWHC78 (QB).
In an ex tempore judgment in the case of McCarthy & Anor v (1) Grimes (2) MIB (2012) (unreported, QBD 17 May 2012), Nigel Wilkinson QC (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) gave judgement for a claimant pedestrian in her claim against the defendant driver.
The accident took place on a busy residential road, which like many such roads, was lined either side with parked cars. The speed limit was 30mph and the evidence suggested that the Defendant was driving at a speed around or slightly in excess of this limit.
The Court held the Defendant was driving in excess of 30mph and that this speed was inappropriate. It was held that if the driver had been driving at 25 miles per hour, which was a proper speed for the residential area, the impact on striking the claimant would have been significantly less. This was premised on a number of simple calculations of reaction times and stopping distances, which in the circumstances were held to show that the Defendant could had avoided the accident or mitigated its consequences if she drove at 25mph.
McCarthy draws a much tighter line between a motorist’s speed which was to be considered to be excessive and thus negligent and one that was not, as was held in Rehman (where the Sharp J held that the defendant driver should have been travelling at 15mph rather than around 30mp). Certainly it serves as a warning for motorists to consider reducing their speeds in built-up areas as it would appear that even a reduction of a few miles an hour may make all the difference to a (potential) accident and/or subsequent litigation.