With company car drivers increasingly facing more cameras, fines and bans as a result of the police’s hard-line approach to speeding, last week’s high-profile case involving PC Mark Milton has led to accusations of double standards.
The officer was cleared by a court of after ‘familiarising’ himself with his 3.2-litre Vauxhall Vectra GSi at speeds of up to 159mph.
National newspaper reports say the West Mercia Constabulary officer was clocked by an in-car camera hitting 159mph on the M54 and 100mph on a minor road. Other speeds reached include 131mph in a 60mph limit and 84mph in a 30mph limit.
A district judge hearing the case at Ludlow in Shropshire said the officer had not posed a threat to pedestrians or other motorists as the journey took place in the early hours of the morning.
A statement issued by West Mercia Constabulary said the force had now banned its officers from exceeding speed limits while familiarising themselves with police vehicles or refreshing their driving skills at their own initiative.
It added: ‘In recognition that this is a matter which does not just affect West Mercia Constabulary, we will also be consulting with ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) colleagues in other forces to consider if national guidance is required in this particular area.’
Chris Chandler, director of training for consultancy Fleet Audits, said although it was unlikely company drivers will think that they can speed and get away with it, the case will have caused ‘annoyance’ and could undermine confidence in speed campaigns.
He said: ‘It’s more a case of annoyance and double standards than fleet drivers thinking they can get away with the same. Many fleet drivers will be thinking it’s one rule for one and another rule for others.’ Now the Government is being urged to issue guidance on driver training to the emergency services across Britain following the case.
Commenting on the case, David Faithful, a partner at Clarke Wilmott Solicitors and regular Fleet News contributor, said: ‘The Government needs to issue guidance and clarification on the issue of blue light training for the whole of the emergency services, not just police forces.
‘Obviously these drivers do need to be trained. You can’t just throw a set of keys at a traffic officer and say ‘get on with it’. Some forces are very good at training officers while others are not. ‘What is acceptable or not is a grey area and needs to be clarified. It is quite right for West Mercia to pressure ACPO and in turn ACPO to pressure the Government for guidance.’
The outcome of the case has angered road safety organisations.
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: ‘We are shocked that speeds of 159mph are not regarded as dangerous by the court. ‘We are pleased to learn that the judge made it clear that police forces must implement proper management procedures for their high-speed driving activities.’
And Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed campaign, said: ‘Here’s a clear and proper admission that in suitable circumstances even 159mph need not be dangerous. If 159mph can be safe enough not to endanger the public, then surely this is a clear official admission that driving a few miles per hour over the speed limit isn’t necessarily dangerous either.’