Most police forces adopt new speeding guidelines

Speed camera and cars The changes mean more drivers would be offered the option to do a speed awareness course

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Most police forces in England and Wales have adopted new speeding guidelines that allow motorists to do up to 86mph and avoid points on their licence.

It means drivers can pay to do a speed awareness course instead, if caught at up to 10% above the limit plus 9mph.

At a meeting of the Association of Chief Police Officers in January, it was announced that 37 out of 44 forces had signed up to the new system.

Critics say the rules are a money-making exercise and allow law breaking.

'Educational experience'

Previously, only those travelling at up to 10% above the limit plus 6mph could be offered one of the courses.

But the amendments were agreed by chief constables at a meeting of the Association of Chief Police Officers in January.

For a 30mph zone, the upper limit for a speeding course would be 42mph.

This would rise to 86mph for motorways and other major roads, although the official limit remains the same.

Start Quote

Clearly if someone is breaking the speed limit outside a school at 3.15pm, they would be punished”

End Quote Spokeswoman Acpo

Acpo said the figure at which a course could be offered was a decision for individual forces, and not all would make it available for higher speeds.

Drivers can only attend one speed awareness course, costing between £60 and £100, in a three-year period.

"There is evidence to show that if people are sent on educational courses, rather than being punished with a fine and penalty points on their driving licence, they are less likely to reoffend in the future," an Acpo spokeswoman said.

"Clearly if someone is breaking the speed limit outside a school when the children are coming out at 3.15pm, it's a no brainer and they would be punished. But if it is 3am and there's no-one on the streets, there is a degree of discretion."

'A chance to reflect'

But Joel Hickman, spokesman for road safety charity Brake, said the new proposals "sent out the wrong message" and were "simply a way of making money" - a charge denied by Road Safety Minister Mike Penning.

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Speeding causes tragedy every day on British roads and results in a huge number of people being killed and seriously injured”

End Quote Joel Hickman Brake

"Many people drive for work and would rather pay £100 to go on a course than accumulate points and risk losing their licence, so it is quite clear which is the greater deterrent to speeding," said Mr Hickman.

"It sends out a message that it's ok to speed, which it certainly is not. Speeding causes tragedy every day on British roads and results in a huge number of people being killed and seriously injured. It's also a factor in a quarter of all crashes.

"If you hit a child at 30mph, it's the equivalent of that child falling out of a three storey building. Driving at 42mph would mean that child having no chance of survival."

But Mr Penning insisted road safety is the government's "top priority". "We support the targeted use of educational courses where these are shown to have a positive effect," he said.

"The police are responsible for the administration of these courses but we are clear that course fees should not be used to raise revenue."

'Get-out-of-jail-free card?'

The Institute of Advanced Motorists said it supported "the widening of the bandwidths that allow drivers to choose a speed awareness course over a fine".

"We don't feel it gives a 'get-out-of-jail-free card' - drivers can only attend one speed awareness course in a three-year period, so repeat offenders will still be hit with points on their licence," said chief examiner Peter Rodger.

Case study: Claire Miller, Co Durham

"Last year I was caught doing 68mph in a 60mph zone in Lincolnshire.

I was coming back to County Durham after visiting my family in Lincolnshire; it was a nice sunny day and I had the music on full blast but hadn't realised I'd gone over the limit.

The first I knew was when I got a letter from Lincolnshire Police telling me that I'd either have three points on my licence or I could choose to go on the course.

I decided to go on the course but had no idea what it would entail. It was about four hours and I found it really interesting.

I passed my test 23 years ago but there were lots of things I didn't know or had forgotten about.

I found it a positive experience on the whole and I'm definitely more aware of my speed now.

I was just a little bit over the limit but I think anybody who is hugely over should definitely be made to do the course, get fined and get points on their licence too."

But a spokeswoman for accident prevention charity Rospa said while speed awareness courses give people "a chance to reflect on why they speed", the new proposals "would need to be monitored to make sure they are having the same effect on higher-end speeders as on so-called 'accidental speeders'".

Police forces not signed up to the new guidelines are: Dorset, Durham, Hampshire, Humberside, Wiltshire, the Metropolitan Police and City of London. Five of these have their own speed awareness schemes.

At the start of the month, speed cameras across Oxfordshire were switched back on eight months after they were turned off.

Funding was withdrawn for 72 cameras and 89 mobile sites last August as part of budget cuts in the county.

But police said deaths and serious injuries on the area's roads went up following the cameras being switched off.

Money for the cameras to be introduced has come from speed awareness courses and backroom savings.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    I did a speed awareness course for doing 36 in a 30mph area I thought the course was a complete waste of time.
    It seemed to be more interested in not killing a pedestrian at 35 or 40mph+. What about teaching pedestrians the right way to cross the road and traffic awareness? If speed cameras were situated at blackspots or outside schools and old people homes then they would be more acceptable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    Many people will be pleased, but there will be more deaths and serious injuries, As a hospital chaplain, let me point out that attending a RTA fatality in A&E in the early hours of the morning, with distraught and grief-stricken relatives, is a dreadful experience, especially when the body is badly damaged or even unrecognisable. But these situations could be reduced, by LOWERING the speed limit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    I attended a Speed Awareness course a couple of years ago in Northamptonshire. As an alternative to three points I thought it a good investment. It was also interesting and illuminating. Illuminating in that of the 20 or so attendees only two of us actually knew what the speed limits were in the UK!! At least some learnt why they had offended!

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    In Suffolk rural speeding is a constant a serious blight on the lives of the walkers, horse riders and cyclists trying to enjoy our 'quiet' country lanes. Speed enforcement seems to be of little priority. In fact in most of the villages and rural roads in Suffolk it seems to be non existant. In my opinion there is nothing better than old fashioned police prensence which is sadly lacking here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    As a driver, I find it unbelievable that so many drivers think speed limits are just to make money. It's perfectly simple; if you obey the law, you won't get a fine.

    However, it cannot and should not be a black and white rule. Doing 40mph on a residential street with a 30 limit is far more dangerous than driving with care at 80mph on a free-flowing motorway.


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