Most people don’t worry about going 1mph over the speed limit. Now, you might have to. Many are calling it a ‘war on drivers’.
Most people (including those in the legal profession) know ‘the rule. If the speed limit is 30mph, you won’t get a speeding ticket unless you are going 10% plus 2 mph faster than the limit. Motorists across the nation could be facing stricter penalties for tiny speeding infractions.
An All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cycling and Walking has proposed a significant overhaul in enforcing speed limits. They have suggested that drivers should be penalised for even the slightest breach of the speed limit. The initiative aims to eradicate the culture of impunity on the roads, encouraging more people to feel safe while walking, cycling, or scootering.
The report from the parliamentary group, supported by 38 MPs and 20 peers, was published in September. The report formalised this recommendation, along with 9 others in an effort to ‘clamp down on bad driving behaviour’.
The parliamentary group believes drivers are to blame for the ‘perceived’ danger of cycling
They argue that the existing grey area in speed enforcement has created an attitude that drivers can flout traffic laws without serious consequences. “If the working assumption is that one can speed (to an extent) with impunity, this fosters a belief that traffic law does not need to be taken seriously,” the report says. The APPG firmly believes that strict enforcement of speed limits is the foundation of road justice, as speeding contributes to a major portion of offences committed on the roads.
Currently, guidelines overseen by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) allow for a 10 per cent plus 2mph tolerance over the speed limit before action is taken. The APPG, however, is urging for a revision of these guidelines, which have been in place since 2013. The NPCC has stated that they are in the process of reviewing the guidance, but details on why have yet to be disclosed.
How will this change the day-to-day experience of motorists?
Richard Owen, the chief executive of Agilysis, a consultancy firm, sheds light on the technical aspects of speed enforcement. He notes that due to the technical limits on the accuracy of speed cameras, a reasonable tolerance is 2mph over the speed limit. However, reducing the threshold, even by 1mph, could substantially increase offenses. Owen recalls an incident at the Thames Valley partnership, where reducing the threshold by 1mph resulted in a 50 per cent rise in offences.
This is pretty shocking news to most drivers.
Additionally, vehicle speedometers present another challenge. They are required to never under-read the speed, but can overstate it by a margin of 10 per cent plus 6.25mph. This means a driver might be travelling at a lower speed than their speedometer indicates, potentially leading to unwarranted penalties if tolerances are removed.
Most lawmakers and motorists believe there is a balanced compromise
Critics of the proposal highlight the potential negative impacts on road safety. Edmund King, president of the AA, points out that an excessive focus on the speedometer to avoid minor breaches of the speed limit can divert attention from the road, potentially leading to accidents. “It is better to be able to see a cyclist on the left-hand side of the road, or a pedestrian stepping out from the right, rather than just to stare at the speedometer,” King argues.
The report’s supporters might say this is a weak excuse. A possible increase in road accidents has to be taken into account though.
The government has responded by emphasising that road safety remains a priority, with stringent penalties and enforcement already in place to address traffic rule violations. They have also committed to reviewing the findings of the APPG report.
In conclusion, while the APPG’s recommendations aim to increase road safety and encourage sustainable modes of transport, the implications of such stringent enforcement need careful consideration. Balancing the need for strict speed limit enforcement with maintaining overall road safety is crucial to ensure that the roads are safe for everyone, whether behind the wheel, on a bike, or foot.
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