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Police chief call for zero tolerance on speeding ‘not achievable’

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The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) is playing down suggestions from its roads policing lead that drivers could be fined for breaking the speed limit by just 1mph.

West Mercia Chief Constable Anthony Bangham is the roads policing lead. He contends the informal buffer of a 10% plus 2mph above the speed limit applied by officers at present potentially puts lives in danger.

Methods of curbing speeding is the subject of an on-going NPCC review. However, a spokesman for the senior officers council has told Fleet News there is no proposal for drivers to be prosecuted for driving 1mph over the speed-limit as “it would neither be proportionate or achievable”.

Commenting on current speed enforcement guidelines, which were set in 2011, Bangham said: “Existing speed enforcement guidance could be encouraging driving at these more dangerous, higher speeds rather than the actual speed limits.

“If properly understood and applied, the guidance may provide forces with the necessary flexibility but over time its rigid application and understanding are often misunderstood, with an expectation that the ‘norm’ is it is okay to speed.”

Bangham had previously called for a zero-tolerance approach to speeding at the Police Federation’s annual roads policing conference, earlier this year (fleetnews.co.uk, February 1). He told officers at the event that police spend too much time trying to justify speeding tickets and being “patient” with speeders.

Drivers can be penalised for breaking the speed limit by any amount now, but the buffer is used by police at their discretion.

The NPCC spokesman added: “Officers have a range of options available to them when drivers are speeding and respond in a proportionate way based on the circumstances in each case.”

John Pryor, chairman of fleet representative body ACFO, wouldn’t be drawn on the rights or wrongs of Bangham’s proposals, but said: “Would you give three points to someone that went 71mph in a 70mph zone? That could be the difference between someone losing their licence and their livelihood along with it.”

A hard-line approach could also result in increased administration, with more fines having to be processed by fleets. “Fleets need to make sure they have a robust policy in place and if drivers are following policy and the law, they shouldn’t be driving over the speed limit in any situation anyway,” said Pryor.

Road safety charity Brake supports a zero tolerance approach to speeding and backs Bangham’s stance.

A spokesman for Brake said: “We believe that the lack of consistency in application of the law through the buffer zone has led to a culture that views speeding as acceptable.

“We want strict enforcement of limits to let people know this isn’t the case and change the culture of acceptance around speeding.”

Brake says that a reduction in speed, even by a small amount, can make a difference in improving road safety. Research from TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) suggests that if average speeds were reduced by 1mph, crash rates fall by approximately 5%, although this varies according to road type.

The Brake spokesman added: “Regarding enforcement, manufacturers calibrate speedometers so they never under-report speed. So the argument about the buffer being used to stop motorists being caught by accident is a non-starter. People should be well within the speed limits – they’re limits not targets.”

Brake says it also supports greater investment in roads policing and greater use of speed cameras.

Motoring groups have been less supportive of a zero tolerance approach. The RAC says it is wrong to penalise motorists who may occasionally go very slightly above the limit.

Road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “While speed is clearly a contributory factor in many road accidents and there is no question that drivers should obey the speed limit, it doesn’t seem sensible to make motorists constantly look at their speedometers for fear of drifting a few miles an hour above the limit.”

Williams said police should focus on those who exceed the limit consistently and/or excessively.

The AA said it was also concerned the move could be counterproductive. “The last thing we want is drivers glued to the speedometer 100% of the time,” said its president Edmund King.

Is zero tolerance a definite non-starter? The NPCC said the findings of the speed enforcement guidelines review will be considered by all chief constables before a conclusion is reached.

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  • Charlie Timpson - 11/09/2018 21:05

    We shouldn't be penalising somebody for driving 2-3mph over the limit. Excessive speed, particularly in built-up areas should be the focus for police and the Government needs to review how speed limits are employed on motorways. As more and more motorways are upgraded to smart motorways, with variable speed limits, would it not be worth looking at increasing the speed limit when roads are quiet? If it's right speed limits should be decreased when traffic is heavy to improve traffic flow, why shouldn't the opposite apply when I'm driving on a smart motorway in the middle of the night with traffic virtually non-existent? the police should focus on

  • Martin H - 14/09/2018 15:13

    I can't believe this is being discussed in the way it is. The speed limits we have on our roads were set 50 years ago when a crumple zone was usually your ribcage. Cars and safety have progressed positively, massively, year-on-year, to put the ratio of cars on the road and the miles driven to the number of serious accidents and fatalities to what must be an all-time low. Driving will always be dangerous and accidents will always happen. A family member of mine was killed by a speeding driver, but she was killed because that driver was driving over the legal limit and on the wrong side of the road. The fact that he was allowed to drive less than five years later is the real crime. As much as I applaud what the spokesperson from Brake is trying to say, speed is not the route cause of the accident any more than tyres are reason people drive off the road. Lane departure aids, adaptive cruise control, city braking technology are the things that this specific charity should be concentrating on, instead of their unimaginative approach to motoring safety.

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