Drivers To Be Hit By Higher Charges For Breaking The Speed Limit

From today, Monday April 24, drivers who flout the speed limit will face much tougher penalties for breaking the law.

Under the new rules, drivers caught for the most serious cases of speeding could be fined one and a half times their weekly take-home pay. So a driver earning £50,000 a year could pay up to £1,500 for travelling at 41mph in a 20mph limit.

 

What do the current rules say?

Currently, the minimum penalty for speeding if caught by a police officer in person is a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) with a £100 fine and three penalty points added to your driving licence, while the maximum fine is £1,000 or £2,500 for motorway offences.

As the law stands, a driver is liable for a speeding ticket the minute he or she exceeds the speed limit. That means driving at 31mph in a 30mph limit, 41mph in a 40, and so on.

However, practically, this makes little sense and would be virtually impossible to enforce.

For one reason, speedometers are not always accurate; someone with a speedometer marginally out of calibration could innocently think they were driving at 70mph, when they were actually doing more.

To take account of these factors, guidelines from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) suggests police forces should not issue a speeding ticket until drivers exceed a margin of error of 10% of the speed limit to take into account driver concentration, plus 2mph for speedometer error.

NPCC speed enforcement guidelines

Speed limit Min speed for a speeding ticket Min speed for prosecution
20mph 24mph 35mph
30mph 35mph 50mph
40mph 46mph 66mph
50mph 57mph 76mph
60mph 68mph 86mph
70mph 79mph 96mph

 

This means that most police forces will not issue a Fixed Penalty Notice until you’re driving at more than 46mph in a 40mph zone or 79mph in a 70mph zone, for example,. However, it should be noted that the guidance is exactly that, and that the decision over whether to give a driver a speeding ticket or not is entirely at the discretion of individual police forces and officers.

 

What do the new rules say?

The Sentencing Council says the move to stricter penalties ensures there is a “clear increase in penalty as the seriousness of offending increases”.

It follows responses to a consultation arguing previous guidelines did not properly take into account the increase in potential harm that can result as speed above the limit rises.

The new system is quite complicated but broadly revolves around three main ‘bands’ of speeding.

  • Band A refers to the lowest level of speeding. For example, a driver could be driving at between 21mph and 30mph in a 20mph zone, 31mph to 40mph in a 30mph zone, or 71mph to 90mph on a 70mph road. In this case, the offender can expect three points on their licence, and a fine of around 50% of their weekly income.
  • Band B is for more serious cases of speeding. If you drive at 31-40mph in a 20mph zone or at 56- 65mph in a 40mph zone, or up to 100mph in a 70mph zone, that will attract a Band B fine. That means four to six penalty points or disqualification for between 7 and 28 days, plus a fine of 100% of weekly income.
  • Band C is for the most serious speeding offences. This means driving at 41mph or above in a 20mph zone, 51mph or above in a 30mph zone, or above 100mph in a 70mph zone. An offender in this category will receive six points on their licence or disqualification for between 7 and 56 days, as well as a fine of 150% of their weekly income.

All of these fines include a degree of flexibility. Mitigating circumstances include the establishment of a genuine emergency, a lack of previous convictions or no relevant or recent convictions and “good character”.

Aggravating factors include previous convictions, speeding in bad weather, speeding in a lorry, bus or taxi, speeding while towing, speeding while driving for hire or reward, speeding with passengers, or speeding somewhere particularly inappropriate, like near a school or crowded shopping street.
 
Speed awareness courses

As an alternative to a speeding fine, most police forces offer a speed awareness course. This course takes place on one day and is intended to make participants more aware of their speed.

However, it is offered only at the discretion of the police force concerned and cannot be requested.

The advantage for the driver is that they do not receive any points on their licence or a fine, but the disadvantage is that there is a hefty fee for a place on the course.

Certain car insurers have now taken to asking whether you have attended a course, and, if so, increasing premiums, just as they would if the driver had received penalty points.

 

Is it possible to appeal?

You don’t have to accept a FPN – indeed, you have 28 days to reject it – but if you do reject it, you will have to go to court to plead your case. When you do this, there are two courses of action.

If you plead not guilty, your case will go for trial before magistrates or a judge. The prosecutor will have to prove the case against you. In practice it can be very difficult to challenge the reading from a speed detection device. You may have to provide evidence in support of your case – you might even need evidence from a qualified expert which can be expensive to obtain.

If you had nine or more active penalty points on your licence on the date that you were speeding, the police cannot issue a FPN as the case will automatically go to court. All drivers who get 12 or more active penalty points are disqualified for at least six months. The only way to avoid this is to prove that the driver, or other people such as family or employees, will suffer exceptional hardship.