Since the UK entered lockdown on 23rd March 2020, UK police have found that a minority of speeding motorists have been travelling at more than double the limit. One driver was recorded at 134mph in a 40mph limit in London, whilst another was clocked at 115mph on a 40mph road in Greater Manchester. The UK police forces have emphasised that a crash could put a “huge strain” on other emergency services with one police force stating that a crash could lead staff being exposed to Covid-19 and forced into self-isolation.
This news comes as the Department for Transport research and data shows motor vehicle use in Great Britain has fallen by two thirds over the past month, particularly since the UK went into lockdown. But there are some individuals who are using the quieter roads to their advantage as a racetrack.
Over the Easter period between 10th and 14th April, Police Scotland stated that sixteen people were found committing drink or drug-driving offences. Superintendent Simon Bradshaw from Police Scotland’s road policing division stated that, “it is astonishing to see people behave so recklessly, particularly when we all need to be doing our bit to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”
Recent incidents across the UK include:
There is also a concern, which relates to those undertaking unnecessary travel. Chief Inspector Steve Lenney from Dorset, Devon and Cornwall roads policing unit said that, “a serious road collision can result in around 20 emergency services staff attending the scene. If someone involved in the collision tests positive for Covid-19, then that is a substantial number of emergency services staff forced into self-isolation and unable to work, which puts a huge strain on all blue-light services, not just the NHS.”
Forces reporting an increase in speeding offences also included Northumbria, Leicestershire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Merseyside. The all-Wales road safety partnership, Go Safe, said it was “seeing more vehicles exceeding the speed limit to a higher extent” despite a drop of more than half in the volume of traffic.
But what is the law behind speeding in the UK? Well, according to the UK law, excessive and inappropriate speeding is one of the four key behaviours which contribute to avoidable deaths and injury by making collisions more likely, and by making the resultant injuries worse.
The minimum penalty for speeding is a £100 fine and 3 penalty points added to your licence. A motorist could be disqualified from driving if he or she build up 12 or more penalty points within a period of 3 years. If a motorist has been stopped by the police for a speeding offence, the police can either send the motorist the details of the penalty or send the case straight to court.
If you’re stopped by the police for breaking the speed limit, they can either give you a verbal warning, give or send you a Fixed Penalty Notice or order you to go to court – you’ll be sent a letter telling you what to do.
If you were caught by a speed camera, then the vehicle’s registered keeper will be sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP – see our blog on what to do if sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution) within fourteen days of the offence. The vehicle’s registered keeper will also be sent a section 172 notice which they must return within 28 days. In a section 172 notice, the registered keeper must tell the police who was driving the car. The registered keeper may have to go to court if these notices and instructions are ignored.
After you’ve sent the Section 172 notice back, you’ll be sent either a Fixed Penalty Notice or a letter telling you to go to court. The Fixed Penalty Notice gives you the option of choosing whether to plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty you will have to pay a £100 fine and have 3 points added to your licence, unless you’re given the option to attend a speed awareness course. Usually the motorist can avoid driving licence points by opting for a speed awareness course if it is their first speeding offence, or, if the motorist hasn’t attended a speeding awareness course within the last three years. However, sometimes the punishment is more severe.
Occasionally, the motorist may be prosecuted in court which will lead to a higher fine, more points on the motorist’s licence and even a driving suspension or disqualification. It is also worth noting that if the motorist is still within two years of passing their driving test, the motorist’s driving licence will be revoked (withdrawn) if he or she builds up six or more penalty points.
Many motorists wonder whether the 10 per cent leeway for speedometer inaccuracies still applies to speeding offences. To answer that question, in the law’s eyes a motorist is liable for a speeding offence or fine as soon as they exceed the limit. For example, if a motorist is doing 21mph in a 20 limit or 72mph on a motorway, the motorist is breaking the law. But the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) recommend that the police allow a leeway. However, this is only a recommendation that police give motorists a “10 per cent plus 2” leeway, which means that it is not an absolute.
Most speed cameras have to be manually set to trigger at a speed. However, it is still unconfirmed whether speed cameras are actually set to 10 per cent above the speed limit. When a motorist is caught speeding by a mobile camera, it is up to the police officer’s discretion to penalise the motorist if he or she is over the speed limit in any way. The police officer can choose to take the NPCC’s guidance, but they do not have to, because even one mile an hour over is still breaking the law.
The police and prosecutors have heard every excuse under the sun for speeding. Defence cases such as arguing that the motorist wasn’t aware of the speed limit, or the roads were quiet as it was late at night, or it was an emergency are unlikely to stand in court.
Some speeding fine appeals can be won on the technicalities of the offence. For example, one possible technicality could be that that there were missing details on the ticket. Another could be that the signs were obscured or incorrect where the incident happened. Finally, a technicality commonly used to appeal is whether it can be proved that the registered keeper was actually driving in the first place.
If you decide to dispute the speeding fine, the case will go be heard at a magistrates’ court. Although you can also argue your case by letter, you should consider attending in person. This is because the court might be more sympathetic to your case if you show you are remorseful and outline any mitigating factors. Your solicitor will help you to make your defence case but sometimes it is best to admit that you made a mistake with perfectly acceptable reasons for doing so.
If you are at risk of losing your licence, for example if you already have points on your licence from previous offences, outline the consequences you would be facing if should this happen. These consequences could include losing your job as you drive for a living or commute to and from work.
To have a read of the newspaper articles that have been used in this blog, please look at the following websites:
Our team of specialist driving offence solicitors at Driving Solicitors have the experience and expertise to give advice over any issues regarding driving under the influence of drink. If you have been charged with breaking the speed limit whilst driving and feel that you have wrongly been accused, get legal advice and help today! Do not hesitate to contact Driving Solicitors on 0203 488 2551 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to get expert legal advice from a specialist motoring solicitor today.
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Written by: Miriam Rhodes-Leader