Everything you need to know about speeding (but were afraid to ask)

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Author: | Updated: 22 Aug 2018 11:19

With an official review underway into the current 'buffer zone' policy on speeding – and the UK’s road policing chief advocating a zero-tolerance approach – it’s got a lot of people talking.

Currently, Association of Chief Police Officers guidance recommends that speed enforcement will normally occur when a driver exceeds the speed limit by 10%, plus 2mph. But it looks like that could be changing in the not-too-distant future.

In February, Chief Constable Bangham came out with the rather alarming statement that motorists should be penalised for going just 1mph over the speed limit at the recent Police Federation roads policing conference, and has called for the fabled 10% measurement error guideline to be scrapped altogether. 

While you may write this off as one opinion, this warning from the roads policing chief for the National Police Chiefs' Council is much more significant because many in the force take their lead from him. 

Everything you need to know about speeding (but were afraid to ask)

Chief Constable Bangham’s speech came after recent figures from the DfT showed a 4% rise in road deaths in 2016, with the Daily Mail reporting that he declared “enough is enough” and argued that police had lost sight of their duty and that speeding drivers were no longer afraid enough of being caught.

Now, the so-called buffer zone is under threat.

Currently there’s a lot of hearsay when it comes to speeding – how fast you need to be going before you’ll get a ticket, loopholes involving the accuracy and calibration of speed cameras, and how many points come with a fine, to name but a few.

With an estimated 800,000 speeding fines issued in 2015 and new speeding fine guidelines introduced last year, we’re here to answer some of the most pressing questions as well as clear up a lot of the myths which have sprung up around speeding over the years.

How fast do I need to be going before I get a speeding fine?

In an exact world, the moment you went over the speed limit – be it 31mph or 39mph in a 30mph zone – would make you liable for a speeding fine. Alas, stringent speeding enforcement like this would lead to drivers looking at nothing but their speedo and provide ample opportunity for other accidents as result.

What’s more, faults can be made. So when you look into the nitty gritty of speeding and speed awareness, things get murky very quickly. For example speedometers aren’t always 100 percent accurate, so if it was marginally out of calibration you could matter of factly believe you were doing 30mph, when you were actually doing 33.

As a result of this, the ’10% over the speed limit’ rumour began and spread like wildfire among motorists. To take faults in accuracy into account, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) suggested that drivers aren’t prosecuted until they have exceeded the speed limit by 10% – this takes into account factors such as concentration of the driver plus a small 2mph leeway for any speedometer error.

For this reason, you’ll find few police forces that will prosecute you for driving more than 35mph in a 30mph zone, 57mph on a 50mph road and so on but the caveat is that these are simply guidance suggestions and not set in stone rules. That is why it is at the police officers discretion whether to issue you a fine or not and is not something we condone.

What are the current speeding thresholds?

These guidelines are taken from a 2013 document released by the Association of Chief Police Officers titled ‘ACPO Speed Enforcement Policy Guidelines 2011-2015: Joining Forces For Safer Roads’ and are provided for illustrative purposes.

Limit

Device Tolerance

Fixed Penalty (no Speed Awareness)

Speed Awareness appropriate (From/to)

Court Summons

20mph

22mph

24mph

24/31mph

35mph

30mph

32mph

35mph

35/42mph

50mph

40mph

42mph

46mph

46/53mph

66mph

50mph

52mph

57mph

57/64mph

76mph

60mph

62mph

68mph

68/75mph

86mph

70mph

72mph

79mph

79/86mph

96mph

Speed-camera-on-the-motorway-flickr-user-dave-rutt_2

What about speed cameras?

With temporary enforcement of 50mph limits on large swathes of motorways – punctuated by bright yellow speed cameras every half a mile – as well as smart motorways enforcing all kinds of variable speed limits, not to mention the tabloid scaremongering about stealth speed cameras and mobile cameras hidden in accident blackspots, motorists are understandably paranoid about the eye in the sky.

Being caught speeding on camera will result in the police sending the registered keeper a Notice of Intended Prosecution and requesting that details of who was driving be sent to them. It is important that this is done in a timely and truthful manner, as a falsification is an additional offence that can lead to a prison sentence in the most extreme case and a six point penalty or disqualification from driving.

Depending on this information, the driver at fault will be sent either a Fixed Penalty Notice, an offer to attend a speed awareness course, or if you were way over the limit you will be sent a court summons.

If you disagree and think you weren’t speeding, you are still required to admit you were driving but you should not accept the penalty or speed awareness offer. If you opt for this, you will be required to take your case to court.

Police-Stop-Flickr-com-West-Midlands-Police_thumb

How will I be penalised for speeding?

As of 24 April 2017, magistrates can fine drivers responsible for the most serious speeding offences far more.

In incidents of serious speeding, fines will rise by up to 50%. This would see a driver caught doing 41mph in a 20mph zone, or 101mph on a motorway, being fined up to 150% of their weekly income.

The previous limit for a speeding fine was 100% of the driver's weekly wage with the upper limit at £1,000 – or £2,500 if caught on a motorway.

This upper cash limit remain the same, however magistrates are now able to increase the fine to 150% as long as the total is below those caps.

The starting point applies to all offenders irrespective of plea or previous convictions and breaks down into the following:

Speed limit (mph)   Recorded speed limit (mph)  
20 41 and above 31 – 40 21 – 30
30 51 and above 41 – 50 31 – 40
40 66 and above 56 – 65 41 – 55
50 76 and above 66 – 75 51 – 65
60 91 and above 81 – 90 61 – 80
70 101 and above 91 – 100 71 – 90
Sentencing range Band C fine Band B fine Band A fine
Disqualification / points Disqualify 7 – 56 days or 6 points Disqualify 7 – 28 days or 4 – 6 points 3 points
 

Starting point

Range

Fine Band A

50% of relevant weekly income

25 – 75% of relevant weekly income

Fine Band B

100% of relevant weekly income

75 – 125% of relevant weekly income

Fine Band C

150% of relevant weekly income

125 – 175% of relevant weekly income

Fine Band D

250% of relevant weekly income

200 – 300% of relevant weekly income

Fine Band E

400% of relevant weekly income

300 – 500% of relevant weekly income

Fine Band F

600% of relevant weekly income

500 – 700% of relevant weekly income

As stated previously, you could be offered a place on a speed awareness course in some circumstances and at the discretion of the police force. This will take place over the course of a day and highlights many of the dangers you could face as a consequence of speeding.

The obvious benefit of attending a speed awareness course is that no points will go on your license, however you do have to pay a fee to take the course. Some insurers have also begun asking whether you have attended one of these courses, increasing car insurance premiums which you may have thought you would dodge by not getting any points on your license.

Metropolitan Police London Traffic Officers (2)

Speeding penalties around the world – how does the UK compare

Can I appeal my punishment for speeding?

Be it at your peril but in some circumstances, yes. You cannot appeal a fixed penalty notice but you can reject it and take the matter to court instead.

If you do take this route and plead not guilty, you will then have go to trial before a magistrate or judge. In this situation, the prosecutor will have to prove the case against you and where there is undeniable proof – from a speed detection device for example – it can be hard to challenge its reading so it’s not a recommended route.

If there were special circumstances as reason for speeding – be it a drastic family emergency or medical issue – then you would plead guilty and accept the punishment but request that the judge takes these mitigating circumstances into account. Proving these warranted you speeding isn’t a guarantee you will be let off scot-free and it is solely at the discretion of the presiding judge.

Similarly, if you are on the cusp of being disqualified from driving as a result of your punishment but can prove you, your employer, and/or your family will suffer hardship as a result of the six month ban – be it you drive for a living or elderly relatives rely on you to drive them around – the court can rethink your punishment.

Motorway police traffic officers blue lights - PC - West Midlands Police

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Can I escape punishment for speeding?

There are very extenuating circumstances where you might be able to dodge any punishment coming your way, but before you even entertain the idea we would suggest consulting a legal professional first. They will be able to offer you advice and give you a clearer picture of what your options are.

If the Notice of Intended Prosecution isn’t received by the registered keeper within 14 days of the offence taking place it allows that person to contest the fine and punishment, however there is no limit to serving a request for driver details.

We mentioned briefly the calibration of the equipment used to capture speeding drivers, and in the past convictions have been overturned based on poor maintenance of the equipment and the cameras not having a calibration certificate valid for on the day it was used to catch a driver speeding. It is your right to request a copy of this certificate.

There are other odd examples out there of drivers escaping punishment for speeding – from the proximity of lines painted on the road to cars being unable to go the speed they were ‘caught’ doing – but to put it simply, if you were speeding and you know you were speeding you should take the hit and accept your punishment.

What could come as a result of contesting it – namely not only the points and fine but court costs, criminal courts charge and victim surcharge for starters – will be a lot more than the £100 you contested.

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