From this autumn Police Scotland, are planning to act against drivers exceeding speed limits, even by as little as 1 mph and police forces in other parts of the UK could be set to follow.
Police Scotland have said that a driver who is fractionally over the speed limit will be issued with a warning. But, should the same driver be caught again, they would be issued with a fixed penalty, or reported to the procurator fiscal
It is known that the College of Policing, which sets guidelines for forces in England and Wales, are due to review their guidelines on speeding later this year and there are indications that they may introduce similar guidance.
A zero tolerance approach to speed limit enforcement may sound logical. After all a limit is a limit.
But, dig further into the issues and it becomes increasingly obvious that a zero tolerance approach may be impractical and unwise.
In short, it could clog up the offices of prosecuting authorities and the courts with drivers whose only crime was to pay too much attention to the road and, in doing so, find themselves straying one or two miles per hour over the limit.
Police Scotland have not made public how they currentlydecide when to prosecute. But, it is known that many forces in England and Wales allow 10% for accuracy of speedometers and speed detection equipment, plus a 2 mph margin.
So, a driver doing up to 35 mph in a 30 limit or 46mph in a 40 limit is unlikely to be prosecuted in police force areas using these guidelines.
One of the reasons for having a margin is that speed cameras normally operate to a tolerance of 2mph at speeds up to 66mph and 3% at higher speeds.
What could be wrong with enforcing a speed limit?
In 2005, Department of Transport statistics show that in just 5% of accidents was exceeding the speed limit a factor.
The greatest cause of accidents (a factor in about a third of all accidents) was “failure to look properly”.
The big concern is that rigid enforcement of the speed limit, with no latitude, is tantamount to telling drivers they must drive with their eyes on the speedometer, in case they should inadvertently creep over the limit.
When the greatest cause of accidents is ‘failure to look properly’ is encouraging drivers to pay more attention to the speedometer really sensible?
AA President Edmund King makes exactly that point:
“We need drivers to concentrate on what is on the road in front of them, not always looking at the speedo. If a driver strays over the limit by 2mph, they shouldn’t be. But, it’s better they do that and stay focused on what is going on around them.”
In the future, the slightest lapse of concentration on your speedometer could prove expensive.
Goodness knows, what that may do our concentration on observing the road and other road users.
That is the big fear.