There is only one safe and reliable way of avoiding a speeding conviction, which is to ensure that you never drive above the speed limit. However many people will at times inadvertently creep over the limit, and if this applies to you then the advice given here will help you minimise the chances of being convicted of speeding. This does not mean that we advocate people driving in excess of the speed limit.
Know the Limit
Different types of roads have different speed limits. For single carriageway roads away from built up areas this is usually 60mph, not 70 as many people think. 70mph limits apply only to motorways or dual carriageways. For most built up areas the speed limit will be 30mph, although this may vary depending on the nature of the road or the surrounding areas (for instance many roads outside schools have a 20mph limit).
If the speed limit on any road varies from the norm then there will be repeater signs to show this every few hundred yards. The change from limit to limit will also have a sign to show where the change occurs. As all roads in built up areas have a 30mph speed limit unless signs indicate otherwise, so motorists are assumed to know that the limit is 30 unless a sign tells them that it is something else. This provision is in the Highway Code, but is often forgotten by motorists. A built up area is according to the Highway Code "any area with street lighting." Therefore as soon as you drive into an area where there is street lighting the only safe approach is to assume that it is a 30mph zone unless a sign shows otherwise.
Know the Limits of Technology
In recent years a number of different products have appeared on the market which use satellite tracking to alert drivers to the presence of speed cameras. These are very useful in aiding drivers not to exceed the speed limit, but they also have limitations. If a temporary speed limit is in place then the alert device will not necessarily be aware of a camera installed there. Equally they will not be aware of the presence of mobile cameras and hand held devices used by the police, nor will they know if a police car is following a car. Whilst technology will help to avoid detection it is not a failsafe system.
If you get caught
Most people become aware that they have been caught speeding some days after the offence, when they receive a letter from the police telling them this and asking for the details of the driver. It is a legal requirement that the registered keeper of the vehicle provides this information. If the keeper does not do so they face the prospects of a fine and penalty points themselves for failing to provide the information.
One point that is always worth checking is whether the police have requested the information in time. The period from when the car is spotted speeding until the request for the information is made must be no longer than 14 days. However the police may have a longer period of time if the driver was not the registered keeper. Once the keeper provides details of the driver the police then have 14 days from receiving that information to serve the notice on the driver.
What if I don't know who the Driver was?
The law is not designed to punish people who genuinely do not know who the driver of a vehicle is. For instance, if the vehicle is a pool car used by many different people during the course of a day, the firm may not be able to say who the driver was at any particular time. If this is the case the first thing to do is ask the police for a copy of the photograph so that you can see whether or not it is possible to identify the driver. A polite letter to the police explaining the problem and asking them to send a copy of the pictures normally suffices.
What happens after I give my details?
Once the police know who the driver of the vehicle is they will take one of two courses of action. They will either offer a fixed penalty notice or require the case to go to court. The decision is usually based on the speed that the car was travelling at, although the number of points that someone has on their driving licence will also be a factor. The police will not offer a fixed penalty for a driver who already has nine or more current penalty points on their licence.
What are the Implications of a Fixed Penalty Notice?
If you are offered a fixed penalty notice you are not obliged to accept it. However if you do not do so then in due course the police will issue a summons, which is dealt with below.
Most offences result in a fixed penalty of £60 and 3 penalty points (pre 16 August 2013 offence) or £100 and 3 penalty points for offences on or after 16August 2013.
If you accept the fixed penalty notice you will have to pay a fine, normally £100, and will have three penalty points placed on your licence. That will however bring the matter to an end.
Drivers can carry on driving until they have received twelve points on their licence, at which point they will normally face a disqualification for six months.
Some police forces offer speeding drivers the chance to attend a speed awareness course as an alternative to fines and penalty points. You will only be offered a speed awareness course if:
- You have admitted to being the driver of the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence and returned the documentation within the 28 day period calculated from the date the notice was sent to you.
- No more than 12 weeks have elapsed since the date of the alleged offence.
- There were no further offences committed at the time of the alleged offence.
- You have not attended a speed awareness course within the 3 years prior to the current offence.
- You were driving within permitted limits
What if I get a Summons?
If the police send a summons rather than a fixed penalty notice then the case needs to be dealt with by the court. Usually it can be done in the driver's absence, and the driver will have the opportunity to send a letter setting out any points that they want to raise. If however the magistrates are considering a disqualification then the driver must be given the opportunity to attend and make any representations that they want to.
The first things to check when you receive the summons are that the details are correct, and that the summons has been issued in time. The process for obtaining a summons must be commenced within six months of the date of the offence, and this time limit cannot be extended. The summons will contain a box giving the date that the "information was laid" and this is the crucial date. That cannot be more than six months after the date of the offence.
Also check that the other details on the summons are correct, although minor errors in your address will not invalidate the process. In particular, is the address correct, and is the vehicle registration correct?
If you dispute the speed that was alleged, or you dispute speeding at all, then the court will have to hold a trial. This will not occur on the date of the first hearing but will occur at some later date. There you will be able to put questions to the police officers and challenge their evidence, although do bear in mind that the chances of success are very limited if you are simply going to argue that the officers got it wrong. If you win a trial then that will be the end of the matter, but if you lose you will need to pay a fine and the court costs, which can often run to a further £300 - £400.
If you plead guilty to the charge you will also need to pay a fine and costs, but here the amounts will be lower. The fine will be assessed by the magistrates depending on what your level of income is. They will not want to impose a fine that you cannot pay.
Whether you plead guilty or are convicted after trial, the magistrates will also need to impose penalty points on you. The minimum number of points for a speeding offence is three, although it could be more depending on the speed being travelled.
What if I get to Twelve Points?
Normally here the magistrates would have to impose a disqualification for at least six months (longer if you have had a recent previous totting up disqualification). Magistrates can only waive this if the driver can show that they would suffer exceptional hardship, and that the implications and effect of a disqualification would go far beyond that which would normally be anticipated This is a difficult hurdle to overcome - the mere loss of employment for example, may not be sufficient. You will need evidence proving the hardship and will need to explain the position to the court on oath.
If the magistrates do find that you would suffer exceptional hardship they are not then obliged to impose a disqualification. However a driver is only permitted to argue exceptional hardship once in any three year period. It is not something that can be used repeatedly.
How Can We Help?
Our experienced lawyers are able to offer advice covering all aspects of motor and road traffic offences, as well as represent you in any cases involving personal injury.
For information of users: This material is published for the information of clients. It provides only an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice. Therefore no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.