What happens when you exceed your speed limit? What are the ways you can avoid speeding tickets?
The best way of avoiding speeding fines is not to exceed the limit. Two kinds of in-car assistance will help with this. The most important is a Cruise control fitted to the car, and it is important to use this in speed restricted areas in Towns and not just on Motorways. The other is a GPS system which indicates where are the cameras.
The Scottish Highlands are lovely for touring, though the roads are often narrow. But there is a nasty problem lurking behind the beauty of the mountains. It is called a speed trap. It is not nice.
Totting up, the threat to your license
3 penalty points are added to your license for each normal speeding offense (it can be more for excessive speeding). You can get points also for defective brakes, lights and tires, and overtaking on a zebra crossing. 12 points and you will lose your license.
What is not always understood is that if you travel from Edinburgh to Glasgow at speed, say at 3.00am and you pass through 4 sets of cameras on the way, that one journey of an hour or so will lose your license for you. They are all separate offenses.
Where most cameras are situated.
The Yellow cameras
Most of them are on Main Roads going in to towns, some are on the Main Roads out of towns. Many are placed near schools. In the UK you get plenty of warning signs â€“ a camera drawn on a white background. Officially, speed cameras are designed to slow the traffic, and not to catch people out. But it is also believed that speeding fines are used to help funds for policing. There is truth in both ideas.
Variable limit cameras
On Motorways, the big ring roads around some cities often have Variable Speed limits imposed for the weight of traffic. These can be lethal for speeding fines, and it is vital not to exceed the speed limits flashed on the bridges which can change minute by minute.
Average speed cameras
Very nasty cameras record the average speed between two points several miles apart. These are commonly used on the outside fastest lane of long-standing roadworks on motorways. It is very easy indeed not to notice the initial warning signs and to slightly exceed the limit over the distance and be caught.
Laser gun cameras
These are operated by specialist police units and are moved around to strategic points, either on motorway bridges, or, more commonly on roads on the outskirts of towns or in villages. They may be only place only for a couple of hours, before being moved on. A parish council, for example, may kick up a fuss about local speeding and the Police will send a laser team at regular intervals to the spot.
Two things. The hand held unit needs to be held very steady and needs a fairly long road section to register the number. They are careful to ensure that no accident will be caused by a target car suddenly stopping so their chosen spots will be limited. Where you see a straight road ahead for 300yds or so, and a yellow van parked on the side, there could be a mobile unit operating.
Police cars can record your speed from in front of you as well as behind and they use video cameras to do so. Again, they are anxious not to be the cause of any accident if you stop suddenly, so you may find that it is easier to catch you speeding on an empty motorway at 1.00am, than it is during the rush hour.
There are often flaws in the traffic order and your solicitor may be able to get you off on a technicality. If speed signs are obscured by foliage or if, at the start of a restriction area there is not a sign placed on either side of the road then this may get you off if you can prove it with photos. Take a digital camera in your car.
A few tips if stopped by traffic police
There are 10% fewer police patrols around now compared to ten years ago. It is cameras that are going to do the damage to-day. Don’t argue with any policeman who stops you, but you must not admit the offense even if guilty. Any admission, however slight, and you are lost in Court. Just say your solicitor advises you always to say nothing until he is present.
If you upset them by vigorous argument, they could look round your vehicle and check your tires, or brakes. If your tires are poor, you could get another three points. For each tyre. This 12 points loses your license on its own. Don’t upset the police.
On the other hand if the policeman is on his own, and particularly if he is not a specialized traffic policeman, then I have always found it better to get out of the car, hold up my hands and say something like â€œThat was the worst driving I’ve done in years Officer A senior police officer friend of mine has the same view. It is a judgment call.
When you get a speeding notification.
The notification must be posted within two weeks from the time of the incident. It will ask you for the name of the driver at the time of the incident. Whatever you do, do not tell them it was your spouse, or your someone else if it was you.
They may have an advanced camera which records a picture of the driver. Now you will both be prosecuted for the extremely serious offense of Perverting the course of justice, which commonly carries a prison sentence. Don’t do this, however tempting it may be.
Someone has got off before from saying, genuinely, that they did not know who was driving at the time.
The letter you write initially, when you get the notification, will be crucial. Talk to your solicitor first, find out what defense you may have and include this in your reply. For example, you may have pulled out and speeded up out to overtake an erratically driven vehicle as you passed a camera in a Variable Speed limit zone.
It might be sufficient to get you a warning instead of a prosecution, especially if you have only a few points and you are courteous in your submission. At this stage you are only being asked for the name of the driver, not whether you plead guilty. So try everything you can to get a caution at this initial stage. Do your research work quickly after the incident.
How your solicitor may get you off
Your defense may lie in finding something wrong with the police procedure or with the local authorities not signing the roads properly. Thousands of motorists have paid fines without challenge, when they might even be due to get their money â€“ and their points, back. Many mistakes are made by the authorities, or by the police. A bit of effort on your part and you might get off.
Examples of getting off prosecution
A supervisor for the camera enforcement unit, told the court he wasn’t certain when the signs went on display in a new speed limit area. He said: It would have helped everybody greatly if signs had been placed in all the approach roads to show the change of speed limit. The driver got off.
The officers from a nearby police force were advised by a colleague that road signs warning drivers about speed cameras were incorrect. The signs had a black border around a speed camera logo which infringed the Road Traffic Regulation Act.
â€œThe speed had been reduced from a 40mph to a 30mph but only one sign post was present, it was on the right hand side of the road, and it wasn’t illuminated. Thus at night it was almost invisible.
â€œThe most valuable piece of evidence I had in court was a photograph of the scene with the “missing” sign post
It was shown that the form had been signed by a clerk who had not been authorized to sign forms on behalf of the Chief Constable. Case not proceeded with.
Traffic regulation experts proved in court that the street lighting on the road was not sufficient to give the road a ‘restricted’ status. Insufficient signing meant that the claimed 30mph speed limit was illegal.
A speed camera was set to 30mph, yet there are no 30mph signs upon entering the village. The police alleged that the presence of street lighting indicated a 30mph limit, yet the lighting was proved in court to be footpath lighting, not street lighting, so the speed limit is actually 60mph.
“In one area standard police notices have been used since the 1991 Road Traffic Act. It means prosecutions have been wrongfully commenced and fines and points wrongfully imposed against motorists for a number of years. All can claim back fines and points.
The authorities had to refund thousands of fines after a judge discovered the police had been printing a signature on forms rather than getting an officer to check and sign each one. The signature had been scanned and added by computer
It is finally you who is going to be hurt either physically or mentally or both. So decide whether you want to ride on the road safely.
John Winkler has had a lifetime in Marketing and journalism, was once the marketing correspondent for The London Times and with his wife owns a pretty 18 century cottage near Glencoe overlooking a sea loch. http://www.bayviewkentallen.co.uk/touringscotland.html