With the current trend of reducing speed limits and increasing the number of speed cameras to enforce those limits, the chances of being prosecuted for speeding have increased significantly.
It was reported in TaxiPoint that the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has launched a campaign against blanket 20mph speed limits under the name "20s Senseless", claiming that anti-car activists are wasting millions of pounds nationwide when that money would have been better spent on other road safety measures.
However, concerns have now been raised by drivers that the penalties for "low-level" speeding are disproportionate to the offence, especially when compared to penalties pertaining to excessive speed at the "upper" end of the scale.
Currently, under the totting-up system a driver can be hit with a fine, penalty points and an increase in the cost of their insurance as a result. A “triple whammy" therefore ensues, whether you are 3mph over a 20mph limit, or 7mph over a 40mph limit.
Just four of those offences in three years will potentially glean a driving ban. Therefore that "triple whammy" can then become a life-changing occurrence for the recipient, potentially costing that person their job in some cases.
The 30 mph speed limit in urban areas was first introduced in 1934 in response to high casualty levels. The 70 mph limit on previously unrestricted roads was introduced in 1965 following a number of serious motorway accidents in fog.
The Department for Transport (DfT) maintain that speed limits are a key source of information to road users, particularly as an indicator of the nature and risks posed by that road to both themselves and other road users. In 2007, The Parliamentary Select Committee for Transport Safety published a report entitled ‘Ending the Scandal of Complacency’. This report highlighted how casualty levels rise with increasing speed, and recommended reducing speed limits on streets with high pedestrian traffic and dangerous rural roads.
The report also highlighted the fact that when two cars crash head-on at 60 mph a driver has a 90% chance of dying which falls to 65% at 50 mph. However, curiously, while recommending 20 mph speed zones the committee stated that these zones should not rely on heavy-handed enforcement measures. Government statistics based on road casualty data dating back to 1926 are published each year. Those figures show that the highest number of road fatalities recorded in a single year in the UK was 9,196 in 1941, whilst the highest number of fatalities during peacetime was 7,985 for 1966. That figure followed the introduction of the national 70 mph speed limit in 1965. The year before that the drink drive limit was introduced.
Government figures show the following figures:
1926 - 4,886 killed
1960 - 6,970 killed
1970 - 7,499 killed
1980 - 5,953 killed
1990 - 5,217 killed
2000 - 3,409 killed
2010 - 1,857 killed
2017 - 1793 killed
2018 - 1782 killed
These statistics show a massive decline in the number of those killed in road accidents over the last 60 years, all the more remarkable given the UK's ever-increasing population.
Over the same time frame the number of people killed or injured in total has decreased by 53% from 341,000 major and minor injuries (including fatal) combined to 160,378 in 2018.
There are of course many factors that are responsible for the decrease in the numbers of those killed or injured on Britain’s roads. Better vehicle safety and technology, better road conditions, improved driving techniques, better road layouts, greater enforcement and more appropriate speed limits are all contributing factors to the drop in figures.
However, is the offence of exceeding a 20mph limit by 3 or 4mph worthy of 3 points, a fine, an increase in the cost of insurance and a potential driving ban?
We asked a number of people via social media if they thought there should be a re-evaluation of the penalty points system:
Michael Beevor said: "If anything it should be upped, 3 points for up to 10mph over the limit and 6 points for 10-20mph over. I think we are too liberal in this country when it comes to motoring offences."
David King responded by saying: "Yes, with so much policing done by cameras now you can lose your licence in a half mile stretch of road."
Linda Morris added: "I don’t think they are putting 20mph to protect the public just places where they know they will make money."
Stephen McCollum said via Facebook: "Ridiculous giving someone the same points and fine for a few miles over the limit as someone who is 10 or maybe 20 mph over."
Although opinions varied, there seemed to be a clear train of thought that a sliding scale may be a more appropriate method of dealing with the penalty points issue.
In 2017 it was reported that Bath and North East Somerset Council spent £871,000 bringing in the 13 new 20 mph speed zones the previous year, however 12 months later they found that the rate of people killed or seriously injured had increased in seven out of the 13 new 20mph zones.
There is no doubt that the debate will rumble on as more and more councils and local authorities adopt 20mph road schemes, meaning more and more drivers could be penalised.
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