Got the hump? Drivers say speed bumps damage thousands of cars

Speed bumps

Speed bumps are used by councils to slow traffic in residential areas (Picture © iStock/AndrewMaltzoff)

Has your car been damaged by speed bumps? According to a new study, one in five drivers has suffered broken car components after hitting one of the traffic calming lumps in the road.

Measures to slow drivers down ‑ and particularly speed humps ‑ have been contentious among car owners since the bumps were launched in 1983. Now there are 29,000 of them in the UK and research by comparison website Confused.com claims 22 per cent of car owners have had their motors damaged going over humps. Of those, half suffered tyre trouble; a third said driving over humps had resulted in suspension problems. But what can you do about it? Read on to find out.

Are there any laws around speed humps?

There most certainly are. If you go to this website, the Highways (Road Humps) Regulations 1999, you’ll find chapter and verse on the dimensions and permitted locations of speed bumps. To summarise, the minimum length of a hump should be 900mm. This is to stop them being too aggressively short and sharp.

Their height must be between 25mm and 100mm. Frequently humps stick up 75mm proud of the carriageway. Research shows this is sufficiently high to be a deterrent while also lessening the likelihood of a car grounding on the bump. And if they have a vertical edge on them (some of the rubber ones do) that should be no more than 6mm.

There are also regulations to do with where speed bumps can be located. For example, they can’t be positioned within 25m of bridges or tunnels. And they shouldn’t be within the limits of a pelican crossing or near a railway level crossing.

Can you claim against a speed hump?

Yes you can, but don’t expect to have an easy time of it. According to a Freedom of Information request made by Confused.com, between 2015 and 2017 councils paid out around £35,000 for damage caused by speed humps. With the average repair for road hump damage working out at £141, that’s only around 250 successful claims throughout the UK.

It’s a fraction of the millions paid out for unfair parking tickets. Of the appeals, London accounted for £15,717 of money paid out – around half.

How do you claim against a speed hump?

As with disputing an unfair parking ticket, you need to collect evidence showing that the speed hump is illegal. When the road is quiet, and ideally wearing a reflective jacket and with someone helping to warn of approaching traffic, take the speed hump’s dimensions. Back these up with photographs.

Take dimensions on both sides of the hump. There have been cases where heavy vehicles such as buses coming off speed humps have caused the road to sink, meaning the hump no longer complies with regulations. If you can prove that the hump isn’t within the official dimensions, you have a case. You should then approach the council that’s in charge of the road with the offending speed bump on.

What damage to speed humps do?

This depends on the size of the hump, how fast you hit it and how low your car is. Models with low-slung suspension such as sports cars can suffer damage to bodywork or delicate mechanical parts at the bottom of the vehicle. Hitting a hump at speed can cause similar damage to tyres as going down a pothole. Both cause a structural failure of the tyre that shows itself as a lump in the sidewall. And hitting an aggressively shaped hump at speed can damage suspension springs and dampers.

Speed bumps

Drivers aren’t big fans of speed bumps, often viewing them as unnecessary (Picture © iStock/Richard-P-Long)

What do drivers think of speed humps?

Speed humps, bumps or sleeping policemen have remained about as popular with drivers as speed cameras. Brought in during 1983 as part of an initiative to slow traffic in residential areas, drivers rarely have a good word to say about them. In the Confused.com poll of 2000 drivers, two in five said they caused too much damage to cars. More than a fifth of drivers say they’re bad for the environment because they cause drivers to speed up and slow down. And 23 per cent think they should be removed to improve air quality.

A quarter of drivers (28 per cent) believe speed humps should be more clearly sign posted. But a fifth of drivers (19 per cent) admitted they didn’t slow down at all for the bumps. Although many drivers would like to see them removed, sadly that’s unlikely in the short term. It’ll cost too much.

7 comments on “Got the hump? Drivers say speed bumps damage thousands of cars

  1. Brian Elliott October 26, 2018 7:50 am

    If drivers slowed down to the required speed they would do no damage to their vehicles. I live in a small market town in Norfolk, where most drivers completely ignore the 30 limit and the 20 limit in the busy town center is just a laugh. We, like most of the country now, have no police presence, which gives these speed merchants the opportunity to do as they please. I am a cyclist as well as a car driver and pride myself that I drive and ride with due care and consideration to my fellow human beings.

  2. RICHARD STAMPER October 26, 2018 9:20 am

    Speed hump – I hate them, especially when you don’t see them. There doesn’t appear to be any consistency, some are wide, some steep, some too high, some poorly maintained and in some places there’s simply too many in a short stretch of road.

    We run an old Landrover which can easily straddle some humps, therefore they serve little purpose but take the same humps in my little Audi and you have to virtually stop, even if you drive slowly the front bumper can sometimes scrape the hump.

    You only have to look at some speed humps to see carved lines where people’s engines and suspension have scraped over the things – what does that tell you?

    Soft long humps with good marking are fully acceptable, not these great big mounds in the center of the lane with sharp angled corners or those high strip or plastic humps which take your teeth out.

  3. Trevor Mallett October 26, 2018 2:58 pm

    Apart from damaging thousands of cars,the people who put them in should be made to ride on a bus that goes over these things,our busses are always breaking down thanks to to powers that be and the ride is spine breaking.

  4. Ray Stevens October 26, 2018 5:28 pm

    I hate Speed bumps and had to sell my Mercedes A200 because they had ruined 3 sets pf front suspension coils which broke up eventually, the car perfect as it was, reliable always started first time and worst thing was it grounded on every speed bump the car encountered only when i was on my own would it clear the bumps almost every time the engine cover underneath the car scraped across all humps …. sadly, reluctantly the car had to go shame on Councils putting in Speed bumps they are even a danger to people crossing the roads in the wrong place, trip and your a gonner

  5. Roger Sanders October 31, 2018 1:20 pm

    I doubt any motorist likes Speed Humps and in my experience it is perfectly understandable. I worked in the tyre industry for more than 40 years and was the longest serving chairman of the Techncal Committee within the British Tyre Manufacturer’s Association. I was certainly active in that position at the time the regulation governing the dimensions of humps was issued, but I do not recall any dialogue between the authorities and the tyre industry on the design of speed humps. I made a survey of the various designs as I drove around the country and have to say, many exceeded the dimensional limits as outlined in the regulation. Whilst there are dimensional limits stated within the regulation, there is no standard design and local councils seem to put down what they like, or what their contractor likes. As time has gone by tyres have changed in their dimensions and lower profile tyres have become the norm. In a growing number of cases the height of the tyre sidewall is less than the technically permitted height of a speed hump. If the angle of the leading face of the speed hump is very severe even when driving within the speed limit, tyre damage can easily occur. I witnessed such during the course of carrying out my job. The authorities need to consult with Tyre, Suspension and vehicle manufacturer’s and agree a design which is less harmful to vehicles – it is long overdue. Motoring organisations can campaign and apply pressure for change. Simply moaning about will change nothing.
    In the meantime motorists can help themselves by ensuring their tyre pressures are correctly set and maintained which will help to minimise any damage.

    • RICHARD STAMPER October 31, 2018 3:31 pm

      Well said Roger, I elect you are speed hump adjudicator, it needs a good bloke like you to put things right but you know they are not going to listen. You haven’t got any friend who were chairmen of the Pot Hole Technical Committee do you, they also need a hand.

  6. Roger Sanders October 31, 2018 3:49 pm

    Hi Richard, sadly no, I do not have a contact for Pot Holes. Interestingly a few years ago my employer Continental Tyres conducted a nationwide survey of potholes, inviting members of the public to nominate examples for the “Worst Pot Hole in the country”. Boy did we hear some shocking stories. We gave the survey as much publicity as we could and the response from the authorities – a stunning silence. I suggest this is another topic where motor organisations and insurance companies should gang together and organise a sustained campaign for improvement.

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