I was listening to the You and Yours programme on Radio 4 early this afternoon, and I heard part of an interview with some woman from the “road safety charity” called Brake, and she was arguing for a rise in the fixed penalties for speeding and other common motoring offences in the UK. Apparently there are already plans to raise them to £90 from the current £60, but she claimed that motorists who took part in some survey had supported raising it even further, because speeding causes accidents and devastates people’s lives, or something like that. I am not sure when or where they carried out this survey, but I can tell you I wasn’t asked and it doesn’t speak for me.
Like most motorists I agree with the idea of enforcing speed limits, but I support reasonable enforcement of reasonable laws and regulations. Most speed limits are perfectly reasonable; many aren’t. Some speed cameras are in perfectly proper locations, such as accident black spots. Others are located in positions which are clearly calculated to maximise revenue, such as on hills where keeping speed down is more difficult to do without taking your eyes off the road. I have also noticed an up-surge in average speed check areas, not just through roadworks which is where they have typically been used, but along wide dual carriageways such as the A13 through east London, where speed limits are often lower than they could be and are fairly wide, so there is not an obvious need for stringent enforcement of speed limits.
Everyone knows that such enforcement is not going to only catch people who are driving dangerously; to do that, you need policemen out there looking. As I have said before, there are plenty of ways of driving dangerously within the speed limits and speed cameras do not catch them (cutting corners, for example). There are already heavier punishments for more serious speeding offences (I have heard that you can be banned for driving at 100mph or double the speed limit, for example), so increasing the fixed penalty rate by a large margin is not necessary unless it is for speeding by substantially over the limit (e.g. 45mph in a 30mph zone).
Furthermore, the talk of increasing the fine from £60 seems to assume that this sort of money is chicken-feed for most people. In fact, for me, that is more than a day’s pay, so a fine that is that big needs to be for something significant, not a trivial and inconsequential breach of the rules that a non-mechanical enforcer would barely notice if at all. If the rate has not gone up for several years then perhaps there is a case for putting it up by the rate of inflation, but I cannot imagine that there is any support for increasing it by 50% or 100% among motorists, particularly professional motorists, while the present situation of ever-decreasing speed limits on main roads and cut-throat enforcement remains.
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