BEEN STOPPED FOR SPEEDING? Or snapped by a speed camera? Well you're in good (or, if you prefer, bad) company because speeding is the most common motoring offence in the UK. Most people get away with it most of the time, of course. But if you speed long enough, and often enough, and (dare we say?) carelessly enough, you'll eventually get what's coming to you.
Usually, the penalty for speeding is a £100 fine plus 3 points on your licence (2019 figures). And generally, you'll incur this penalty if you're 10% plus 2mph over the speed limit. But this is a Home Office guideline and isn't rigidly applied. Repeat that to yourself if you will because many people get that wrong.
A 30mph speed limit is the limit. No ifs, no buts. Ditto for 50mph, etc.
But to help keep the general public on-side, the cops/government often apply a little latitude. So riding at 35mph in a 30mph limit usually—and we said usually—won't get you ticketed. Except that we know of one or two people who have incurred such a fine and points for riding just over thirty.
It's a fickle world.
Fortunately/unfortunately, if you're nabbed by a camera you might be offered a speed awareness course. This offer will usually arrive in the post within a few days of the offence. And that will mean you'll avoid the fine and the points.
But why do we say "unfortunately"? Because these speed awareness courses, which last three-to-four hours or so, are invariably a slow torture delivered by some of the most smug, arrogant, self-righteous and patronising on-message know-it-alls in the British Isles. We know this to be true because we've been there and done it, and we've still got the mental and emotional scars.
Then again, unlike a speeding ticket, taking such a course doesn't appear to add anything to your insurance policy, and that could otherwise be expensive. However, the next time we get a speeding ticket, we'll take the points and the fine. A quick death is preferable. And note that the speed awareness course isn't free. It can cost anything up to £100, and if you're busted again for speeding within three years of the first offence, the course is not an option. A merciful fine will come your way.
But if you've been stopped for speeding whilst riding more than 45% over the limit, you'll bypass the fixed penalty and the speed awareness course and will be up before the beak. In that instance, you could face a much heftier fine and/or a driving ban of weeks, months or conceivably years.
So what is the UK maximum
Well, for speeding on A and B roads, the limit is £1,000 plus 3 points on your licence. But for speeding on motorways, that ramps up to £2,500. These numbers are correct for November 2019 and are subject to revision.
If the police stop you for speeding, you could be sent an FPN (Fixed Penalty Notice). You'll usually receive this within 14 days. Or they could report you directly to the courts. Or they could give you a verbal caution and send you on your way.
Should you talk to the police when stopped for speeding? Our advice is not to. Yes, you might get "let off" with an aforementioned caution. It happens. Or you might get an FPN. But as ever, the police habitually gather evidence on anyone they stop, and if you engage in chit-chat with the cops you could expose yourself to other risks. Ultimately you have to call it as you see it. See elsewhere on this feature about being STOPPED BY THE POLICE.
If you reject the caution and the FPN and insist that you're not guilty, you risk being summoned. Meanwhile, take note that if you plead not guilty you could also end up with a riding/driving ban for anything up to three years depending on your riding/driving record.
Worse still, in some circumstances your licence could even be revoked; i.e. taken away completely until you're permitted to re-take a driving test and start "from scratch". Special rules apply to new drivers.
Also note that court fines are usually means tested. So a magistrate will therefore ask about your earnings or income or savings and will factor that into the penalty.
Either way there are risks. Naturally, the best defence is not to speed. But you have to be realistic. Riding around at the legal limit on British roads is likely to get you rear ended sooner or later if not shunted into a ditch. So do what you feel you have to do, then pay the price.
The police can lawfully stop you if they:
suspect you've been drinking
have committed a motoring offence
have been involved in a road traffic accident (RTA)
... and they can stop you lawfully if they believe you have committed a non-motoring offence or are the subject of an outstanding warrant.
Challenging speed camera evidence
This is a complex area and best left to the experts. But generally speaking, you need to show that there are technical or substantial errors with the ticket, such as wrong date, wrong time, wrong vehicle registration number, wrong driver.
This latter point arises when a vehicle is routinely being used by numerous people, such as a car pool, or a delivery motorcycle that's being used by a team of riders.
And if the road signage is wrong (and there are very strict conditions that camera authorities have to meet), or if the camera itself can be shown to be faulty, you might have a case to argue. But it could end up costing you substantially more if you lose. You might have to pay a lot for your principles.
Meanwhile, there are all kinds of other dodges that sharp solicitors and enterprising companies will employ to "get you off the hook". For a fee. But unless you're absolutely certain that you can win a case (and most losers typically are absolutely certain, take note), you're probably best advised to pay the fine, accept the points, and be more careful on the road.
Speed cameras are unfair
They certainly are. It's not that we're in favour of speeding or having no controls on the street. There has to be limits. Fact is, most riders/drivers will exceed the limit time and time again. Often there will also be a dangerous component to that speeding.
Our problem is that speed cameras demand that you convict yourself. The speed camera system makes the assumption that it was you riding the offending bike or driving the offending car at the given location at the given time and on the given day.
If you refuse to say who was riding/driving, you'll be committing an offence and will be treated accordingly (heavier fine, and possibly extra points).
Moreover, anyone who's cloned your vehicle number plates and is using your numbers can speed with impunity while you get the Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) and/or have to defend yourself in court at your expense.
Manifestly, that's wrong and goes against the basic principles of British justice that tells us all that we can't be compelled to convict ourselves.
Except that we can.
Simply, the law is the law, and there's no evidence that's it's about to change any time soon—not least because there simply aren't enough traffic cops on the streets to deal with issues such as speeding, dangerous driving, etc.
Such officers, of course, would have the ability to identify a speeding rider/driver at the point where they're stopped. That sounds fair and just. But to avoid paying the wages of thousands of extra police, the easier/cheaper option is to simply frame a law telling us, effectively, that we have to name ourselves when an FPN or a summons lands on our doormat.
Or we can point the finger at someone else.
And if someone volunteers (for a fee or otherwise) to nominate themselves as the rider/driver, you're looking at jail time for perverting the course of justice when the scheme unravels.
Don't risk it.
And while we remember, the Truvelo cameras (see above right) are able to photograph the rider or driver which supposedly rules out mis-identification. But it doesn't. The images are often very poor, and a lot of people look like a lot of other people. And even if you can show that the driver or rider wasn't you, you could still spend a lot of time and money proving your innocence—and it's not always easy to get access to those images before you're ready to put in a plea of guilty or not guilty.
The system is a mess.