Your Thoughts: Speeding Fines Could Cost UK Drivers 150% of Salary
Last week the UK Sentencing Council announced its revision to the fines imposed on serious speeding offences. A driver caught doing 41mph in a 20mph zone, or 101mph on a motorway, could now be fined 150% of their weekly income. The Sentencing Council clarified that it wanted to guarantee a “clear increase in penalty” as the gravity of each offence increases.
Commenting on the Sentencing Council’s decision to increase speeding fines for the most serious cases, Lawyer Monthly hears the thoughts of several experts and specialists surrounding the matter.
Scott Jenkins, Operations Director, Autohorn Fleet Services:
In our opinion, the government has planned this change because they think current speeding charges aren’t working – people are still speeding so they need a bigger incentive not to. However, statistics have shown some improvements – the latest figures from the DfT suggest there has been a steady decline of motorists caught doing more than the speed limit on the motorways (approximately 3 per cent.)
The criteria for the fines are thus:
20mph speed limit: 41mph and above
30mph: 51mph +
40mph: 66mph +
50mph: 76-85 +
60mph: 91mph +
70mph: 101mph +
We believe that these criteria are completely fair and anybody driving these speeds within these limits should be penalised heavily, i.e. more than just a disqualification.
We think insurance policy premiums may fall as a result of the newly proposed speeding fines. This will be as a result of people not being able to afford the new fines; as such they will not take the risk of speeding. What’s more, with everybody driving slower, this will reduce the chance of collisions, leading to reduced premiums.
The public response to the new fines will probably be quite mixed as there are definitely two extreme opinions on either side of the speeding argument. Charities like Brake, for example, will praise the changes, whereas your general motorist will probably not warm to it – everyone has sped at some time or another!
Amanda Stretton, Motoring Editor, Confused.com:
It’s quite worrying to see just how many people across the UK break the speed limit, with a whopping 1.8million offences recorded in 2015 alone*. While the increasing speeding fine to 150% of weekly pay may seem steep, it’s important to remember that this measure is being put in place to keep our roads safe.
With some drivers reaching break-neck speeds, they are not only putting themselves in danger, but the risks posed to other drivers when speeding are incredibly high and the potential consequences could be fatal.
Confused.com urges drivers who do get caught speeding to declare any offences to their insurers. This may result in increased premiums, however, any points undeclared could affect their policy.
*Confused.com issued an FOI request to every Police Forces across the UK. Out of 44 police forces, 32 provided a response. According to the FOI data, in 2015, 1,852,204 motorists were caught speeding by Police Forces across the UK.
In February 2016, we found that 1.3 million drivers dodged speeding fines when pulled over by police. Here are police constabularies that have given out the most speeding tickets in 2015, accounting for almost half of all speeding fines issued across the UK:
CONSTABULARY // SPEEDING FINES ISSUED IN 2015
Thames Valley // 161,763
North Yorkshire // 67,787
Sussex // 62,719
Humberside // 53,700
Kent // 53,054
Scott Chesworth, Operations Director, RAM Tracking:
The Sentencing Council’s decision to increase speeding fines for the most serious cases is a positive step in boosting safety on British roads. Safety should always be a number one priority for businesses with fleets and the decision to significantly rise the penalty for drivers who exceed the speed limit sends a clear message that such behaviour is not acceptable. However, whilst hitting drivers’ pockets will encourage some to slow down, it is essential that employers invest in education and technology to really make an impact on long-term behaviour.
Whilst financial sanctions are an obvious deterrent to those intent on speeding – and will go some way in helping to make roads safer – for those businesses with fleets, managers should take additional steps to tackle the problem. From education to harnessing technology, fleet managers can utilise a range of methods to change and influence driver behaviour, ensuring that staff always act in a safe and legal manner.
When it comes to educating a workforce, fleet managers should use internal communications, such as newsletters and workshops, to reinforce the dangers of exceeding the speed limit. If an employee is aware that driving too fast significantly increases the chances of a serious or fatal accident, they are more likely to drive at a safer speed. However, education isn’t a one-way conversation. Fleet managers should talk to their staff and request feedback on why they may feel the need to speed. If responses include factors such as ‘not enough time to travel in between jobs’, then it becomes the manager’s responsibility to tackle the issue and ensure drivers have sufficient time to carry out their tasks.
To record drivers’ speeds, fleet managers should consider installing a vehicle tracking system. In-vehicle telematics can be a useful tool for monitoring the speed of drivers, as they can instantly alert head office when a driver goes above the limit, as well as provide reports to highlight how many times a speed limit is breached. By identifying those employees who drive at an inappropriate speed on a regular basis, managers will know which staff will benefit from additional training and support. Similarly, speed reports can be used to introduce an incentive system, whereby employees are rewarded for safe driving. This method can be just as effective as a disciplinary approach when encouraging drivers to obey the rules of the road.
Jeremy Sirrell, Partner, Palmers Solicitors:
It is with a heavy heart that I read the Sentencing Council has brought out a raft of amended guidelines to assist Magistrates’ in sentencing, one of which is in relation to matters of excess speed. The Sentencing Council now indicates that suggested fines for the more serious cases of speeding should rise by 50%, from 100% of a driver’s weekly wage to 150% of the driver’s weekly wage, the maximum penalty however remains unchanged at £2,500.00 if caught on a motorway.
This prompts a number of questions; the first question of course is what is the rationale for this swingeing increase? Feedback that current guidelines “did not properly take into account the increase in potential harm that can result as speed above the speed limit increases” is somewhat naive. To take an obvious example that will be very familiar to readers of this column a definition of a more serious case is on a motorway travelling at above 100 mph. At this speed the Magistrates’ will automatically consider some form of disqualification. I have yet to meet a single client who regarded the fine as the principal deterrent rather than the disqualification, in short, the Magistrates’ already have the power to treat more serious speeding cases more seriously and to reflect any increase in potential harm that may result and this is understood by the general driving public. It is therefore unclear to see what function increasing the guideline fine will perform other than to line the coffers of the state.
However, a more fundamental question comes to mind and that is exactly what makes a serious speeding case serious? I am often struck by the supine acceptance of speed limits by all and sundry treating them as if they were handed down from Mount Sinai by Moses himself, when in fact they are nothing more than limits (often set on an arbitrary basis) by a bureaucrat. There is very often little evidential basis for any particular limit and yet it is treated as if it is the very word of God himself and that a breach of the limit is automatically a dreadful thing. Little thought seems to be applied as to whether the limit is appropriate or necessary in the particular circumstances.
I am struck for example by the fact that I can travel quite lawfully at 80 mph on a motorway on the continent but an exactly similar stretch of road in Britain is subject to a 70mph limit. Last time I checked the laws of physics operated in exactly the same fashion in Britain as they did in France and Germany so why the difference? The answer is there is no good answer; the 70mph motorway limit is purely arbitrary and, it could be argued cogently, should be raised to 80 mph in line with our continental cousins.
Indeed, I have got a revolutionary idea; if the government really are serious at reducing the number of speeding offences why don’t we start at the other end and increase the motorway speed limit to 80 mph and correspondingly adjust upwards levels at which enforcement activity takes place – just as they do on the continent. I do not know by how many thousand this would reduce speeding convictions but I am pretty sure it will be a significant number and at the same time make journeys less stressful and possibly even a little faster.
Don’t expect to see it happen any time soon!
Charlie Steward, Customer Success and Partnership Manager, Cazana:
The introduction of tougher punishments for the more serious cases of speeding should be widely accepted. Doubling your speed in a 20mph zone as well as exceeding 100mph on the motorway should be punished more harshly than exceeding the 10% leeway rule. This is certainty more relevant in the first instance with speed limits being exceeded much more frequently on 20mph and 30mph zones compared to motorways and single carriageways (DVLA 2015).
However, the introduction of capped monetary fines will always provide difficulties, with one group being impacted more than the other. In this case, it’s the motorist earing an annual income below £47,000. If the motorists’ annual income is above this threshold, then the hit on their pocket will be proportionately lower than those earing under £47,000. Yet the simple answer and the view a majority of motorist will take is simply do not speed.
The large majority of these offenders will be caught via electronic policing which is great from a business point of view but very bad value from a road safety point of view. If the primary reason for the introduction of these increased fines is to improve safety on the roads, there are other equal or even more significant factors that could help improve road safety, especially on motorways. One of these is to increase police presence on roads to not only tackle speeding but also motorist who are illegally driving and those who do not follow the rules of the road.
Whilst most drivers understand how to use motorways and single carriageways safely and efficiently, a small minority of motorist still don’t understand or do not follow these rules. The introduction of on the spot fines for middle-lane hogging in 2013 has resulted in a very minimal amount of fines actually being issued, with a surprising amount of motorists still unaware it is illegal. As well as this, tailgaters and motorist driving well below the speed limit are also not reprimanded for their potentially dangerous driving.
Overall the large majority of motorists obey the speed limits and do not exceed these speeds by the amounts these new penalty bands are being introduced to tackle. The increased speeding fines will reduce excessive speeding of certain individuals, even if this does disproportionately affect the lower income motorists. It is also a necessity on urban roads where speed limits are exceeded much more frequently. However, to tackle road safety further driver education needs to be improved and a greater understanding of how to use motorways and single carriageways is required.
Phillip Somarakis, Head of the Motoring Offences Team, Gordon Dadds:
On 24 January 2017, the Sentencing Council for England and Wales published revised sentencing guidelines for various offences in the Magistrates’ Court. One of the most prominent changes includes a higher penalty for offenders whose speed falls within the most serious offence category in the speeding guideline.
The sentencing starting point for the most serious category has increased from a Band B fine being 100% of the offender’s relevant weekly income to a Band C fine. At 150% of the offender’s relevant weekly income, a Band C fine will now be the highest level available to the Magistrates or Judge when sentencing an offender for speeding. The Sentencing Council stated that the revised guidelines are “to ensure that there is a clear increase in penalty as the seriousness of offending increases”. However, there will be no changes to the guideline number of penalty points (3 – 6 points) or the length of a driving disqualification (7 – 56 days) for speeding offences. It is felt that the deterrent value is hitting the driver in the pocket.
In contrast, last year the Government announced that a person caught driving a motor vehicle on a road whilst using a hand-held mobile phone or other interactive device, will soon be subject to an obligatory endorsement of 6 penalty points, a doubling from the current 3 points. Whilst the financial penalty has also doubled (up from £100 to £200 as a fixed penalty), it is the Government’s knee-jerk emphasis on 6 points which attracts attention. Driving at 5 mph whilst texting will carry 6 points automatically. By comparison, a driver caught speeding would have to be driving typically around 100mph on a motorway to expect to receive 6 points. Or, a driver prosecuted for careless driving (which carries 3-9 points), would have to have hit a person, or caused a collision for example by turning across the path of an oncoming car to expect to receive 6 points.
Indeed, the position becomes even more absurd when one considers the definition of “driving.” Under Road Traffic law, “driving” is given a wide definition and can mean “in the course of driving.” Thus, a driver who is stuck in a nose-to-tail traffic jam but is stationary, will nevertheless be regarded as “in the course of driving” and thus “driving” It is hard to imagine what the risk of danger there is, in this situation, from a vehicle that is not moving. Yet a police officer walking by would be entitled to issue a fixed penalty of 6 points and £200 fine if he saw the driver holding their phone to get a travel update. In the same example, if the police officer saw the driver not on the phone but eating a sandwich, he could issue the driver with a fixed penalty for not being in proper control of their vehicle. But this only carries a maximum 3 penalty points, not 6, yet the risk levels seem identical.
There is clearly a problem with drivers using hand held phones whilst driving (but apparently less so when it comes to drinking lattes, eating sandwiches, grooming beards or applying make-up) and attitudes need to change. A report by the European Transport Safety Council published on 25 January 2017 stated that “a range of impairments and distractions affect young people. In-car distraction from mobile devices is also a problem”. Probationary drivers (these are mainly young persons) face an automatic retest if they accumulate 6 points within two years of passing their driving test. They have thus much more to lose if caught once under these proposals. In fact, it is a typical response from anyone who faces losing their liberty to drive, whether a new driver or a veteran, to offer to pay a higher fine if they can keep their licence. It is the loss of the right to drive, and not necessarily the fine, which is the motivator in my experience.
The above highlight an inconsistency in approach to driver deterrence, where the driver of a stationary vehicle in traffic could be treated more severely than deliberately speeding or driving too fast for weather conditions. At a time when there are changes to sentencing practice, a more consistent, logical approach which gives the public confidence in driver deterrence and road safety would have been welcomed.
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