|London, 24 July 2000.
For immediate release.
ACPO introduced the guidelines in an attempt to unify the discretion shown by different police forces in deciding to prosecute those breaking the speed limit. They chose the 10% + 2mph figure in an attempt to balance the needs of safety with the requirement to maintain public goodwill. Transport 2000 accused them of exceeding their powers by implementing a de facto change in the law.
"If the police really want to improve safety and maintain public support, then rigid thresholds for prosecution, whatever they are, are not the way to do it," says the ABDís Nigel Humphries. "What they should be doing is recognising that a safe speed varies widely according to the conditions and targeting their enforcement activity on those who are driving dangerously fast because they are not taking those conditions into account."
"Nobody can object to being prosecuted for speeding if a trained police officer can give a good reason why they were travelling too fast," continued Humphries. "It is the relentless march of the pointless prosectution in safe circumstances that incenses people and does so much harm to the image and credibility of road safety."
It was encouraging to hear Lynn Sloman from Transport 2000 (BBC Radio 4 Today, 24July) saying that she was not advocating zero tolerance but that officers should use individual discretion to deal differently with the same speed according to the circumstances. She accepted that someone doing 33mph outside a school should not be prosecuted except when the children were arriving and leaving, for example. This is a position that the ABD can support.
If we are indeed to move back towards a more sensible, proportionate and targeted approach on speed enforcement, then the role of speed cameras must be revisited.
When the car carrying Home Secretary Jack Straw was stopped at an alleged 103mph, one Superintentent Mackenzie claimed on BBC radio that it is difficult to know what speed a modern car is doing without constantly referring to the speedometer. The fact that road deaths (and child deaths) INCREASED last year suggests that he is right, and that ever more rigid enforcement does not work at cutting casualties because it distracts drivers from the business of driving safely.
If the police can put this forward as an excuse for an officer travelling at 33mph OVER THE LIMIT, how can they possibly justify prosecuting people travelling at 33mph unless the specific circumstances dictate that this is too fast?
The ABD calls for real police discretion to be shown towards drivers, with dangerous behaviour being targeted by trained officers and safe driving left well alone. We also call for speed cameras to be restricted by law to specific accident blackspots and to be individually and conspicuously labelled with the exact reason for their presence.
We further call for better engineered roads, better public education in hazard perception and, above all, more encouragement for drivers to undertake advanced training.