Safety Groups Slam ‘Shameful’ Proposals For Speeding Laws In Britain

There is outrage at moves to reduce penalties

28 November 2022

New Government plans to go soft on some speeding motorists have been condemned as “shameful,” “grossly inappropriate,” and “a disgrace” by road safety groups.

Safety organizations have warned that reducing the penalties for drivers who break speed limits by nine to 13mph could cause more road accidents, injuries, and deaths. In addition, it is woulorganizationsawbreaking and undermines ministers’ attempts to improve road safety.

In the Road Safety Bill unveiled this week, the UK government will propose powers to vary fixed penalties for speeding. The plan is to reduce penalties for exceeding the limits by a few miles per hour but to increase them for driving much faster than the limits.

At the moment, anyone breaking any speed limit is liable to a flat-rate penalty of three points on their license plus a fine of £60. However, under the new scheme, going up to 39mph in a 30mph zone will only result in two points and a £40 fine.

The new, reduced penalties will also apply to speeds of up to 50mph in a 40mph zone, 72mph in a 60mph zone, and 83mph in a 70mph zone. But depending on the site, those exceeding the limits by more than 15 to 24mph will face six points and a £100 fine.

The Government says the graduated fixed penalties are designed to make the punishment more accurately reflect the offense. “Nobody is disputing the dangers of speeding, and if you are caught, you will get punished,” explained the Department for Transport spokesman. “But we need to bring people with us.”

However, all the major road safety groups have come out strongly against reducing the penalties. They point out that drivers traveling at 35mph are twice as likely to kill someone as drivers traveling at 30mph.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), cars traveling at 35mph need 21 feet more to stop than cars moving at 30mph. As a result, two-thirds of all crashes in which people are killed or injured happen on roads with a speed limit of 30mph or less.

“The government’s research establishes that exceeding the speed limit by small amounts, especially in urban areas, is dangerous and a serious road safety problem,” a Rospa spokesperson said.

It is backed by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Pacts), which describes as “grossly inappropriate” the lower penalties in 30mph zones. “Reducing penalties in these areas sends the wrong signal to drivers about the safety and acceptability of driving at relatively ‘small’ margins over the speed limit,” a Pacts spokesperson said…

“This has the shabby stench of political expediency and double standards from a government urging compliance and respect for the rule of law,” said Ken Sutherland, a veteran transport campaigner from Bearsden in Glasgow. “Reducing the punishment would be a spineless and shameful act by this government and a grievous act of irresponsibility, leading to an increased level of death, injury, personal suffering, and grief.” Full story from the Sunday Herald

DSA Comment

Well said, Mr. Sutherland!

While we strive not to make purely political comments on this website, this story pushes too hard on our self-imposed restraint.

Having made itself dangerously unpopular with voters over key issues recently, such as the Iraq War, Tony Blair’s Government is now desperate to regain votes before the next General Election, which will likely occur in the Spring of 2005.

The spokesman for the Department for Transport [see above] who said, “We need to bring people with us” was, in truth, making a more accurate comment about his Labour Party employers’ need for votes rather than any need for uninformed or selfish drivers to be happy about a safety ruling.

It has been well known for years that making stringent laws to limit the dangers caused by errant motorists has proved unpopular with voters (who — to be fair — can hardly be expected to comprehend the many complex difficulties of road safety fully), and this is the crux of the matter.

This proposed reduction of speeder penalties would gravely affect pedestrian safety in areas with the highest number of people being killed.

Our opinion at Drive and Stays Alive is that the desired differential in penalties should be created by leaving the minimum punishments precisely as they currently stand and raising penalties significantly in respect of drivers who exceed speed limits by proportionately higher amounts.

If the British Government has neither the sense nor the humility to listen to RoSPA — among the most knowledgeable road safety practitioners in the world — then the British Government will be guilty of a scandalous dereliction of duty.

Given that they have recently resorted to using the draconian ‘Parliament Act’ to force through legislation against the will of the upper house (the House of Lords), it is hard to see where Mr. Blair’s Labour Government will cease in its abuse of power and dangerous self-interest.

This is not about votes, Mr. Blair; it is about lives.