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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 December, 2004, 10:20 GMT
Will flexible speeding fines work?
Flexible speeding fines and increased penalties for using mobile phones in cars could be introduced by the government in a bid to improve road safety.

Motorists caught doing 40 to 45mph in a 30mph zone could receive six points on their licence but drivers going just over the limit could get just two points.

Using a mobile phone whilst driving could see a driver fined 60 with three licence endorsement points.

The new laws would also allow courts to compel the worse drink-drivers to retake their driving tests and extremely poor drivers could also be forced to retrain.

Will the government's proposals improve road safety? Will the flexible approach work? Does downgrading some speeding fines send out the "wrong message"?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Uninsured and unlicensed drivers are the most dangerous factor on our roads. The sentences handed out by the courts are laughable and are totally ignored by these people who are free and only too willing to re-offend. The starting point for fines should be from the insurance that they should have paid. Re-offending should be an immediate jail term. It is time that sentences be passed down that reflect the crime, with the intent of putting a stop to it.
Tom Curry, Sutton, Surrey, England

We already have flexible speeding fines, inasmuch as the courts and the police are allowed to use their discretion. The idea of reducing certain penalties smacks of the government appeasing the vociferous road lobby, but the end result will probably be more prosecutions for the most minor of violations.
Johnny W, Hull, England

Reducing the penalty for motorists travelling at between 30 and 40 mph in a 30 mph zone is an absolute disgrace. The greatest danger to children living in urban areas is from speeding motorists and for a child hit by a car, the difference of just 5 mph is critical. This is an extraordinary move that may will lead to an increase in fatal accidents - currently more than 3500 every year.
Gary Wigglesworth, London

Here in Sweden, if you overstep the speed limit you are fined on the spot. If you are over the speed limit by 30 kmph, your licence is instantly taken away and your car is driven to the nearest pool, to be collected by your nearest. I thought we are all in the Common Market, so why don't you send your academics here to see how efficient the system is and learn something?
Georges Didier, Lidkoping, Sweden

Some uninsured young lad drove into me not so long ago, it turned out to be a car with illegal plates also, and he gave me a false address, this cost me 2000 in repairs. I pay a huge amount in tax and insurance every year, why can't they concentrate on criminals, and I believe there are many thousands of uninsured drivers in Britain, find and fine all of them not people doing 33 mph.
Neb, London, England

None of this will help until traffic laws start to regain motorists' respect. Put the speed limits back at sensible levels. Ban hands-free kits - the research showing driving while talking on a phone is dangerous didn't say "but it's OK on a hands-free". Stop messing up traffic light timings. Stop wasting half the road space with hardly-used bus lanes. When the basics are sane again, this might be more than another money grab.
Chris, UK

Speeding in cars is a minor issue that only gets up the populations nose
Neil D, B'ham UK
The Government should just leave drivers alone. Speeding in cars is a minor issue that only gets up the populations nose. Driving should only be tackled when all crimes such as rape or murder are solved, then maybe the country will accept this rubbish.
Neil D, B'ham UK

The Magistrates already have a scale of points for speeding. It is the application of the fixed penalty by the police that is wrong with the upper threshold for 3 points being set too high. Also going from 2 to 3 to 6 points does not seem to be very progressive.
Marten, High Wycombe England

Yet more from the dictator. Talk about democracy, It's becoming a Police State where we are told how we have to live our lives. The State is becoming a dictatorship. I wish I could leave and live somewhere else, for this country has gone to the wall.
M Charlton, Pontefract UK

What about having part time speed cameras that only go active during busy periods when excessive speed is dangerous and don't just sit there making money when roads are empty?
Fabian, UK

All the police seem to do is issue parking tickets and speeding fines
Keith T, Putney, UK
The police need to tackle dangerous driving not just speeding and parking. Just this morning I was nearly knocked over by a car jumping a red light at a pedestrian crossing while just a few yards away a car full of traffic wardens were too busy looking for illegally parked cars to care. All the police seem to do is issue parking tickets and speeding fines.
Keith T, Putney, UK

Natural justice demands that the greater the speeding, the greater the punishment. What natural justice does "not" demand is a reduction in the starting point from 3 points to 2. If implemented it will send completely the wrong message.
Chris, Colchester, UK

It's about time speeding fines became the province of a policeman's judgement. Speeding along at night on an empty motorway should not carry the same penalty as speeding through a residential area during the day.
Tony H, Middle Wallop, UK

The move to camera based enforcement has taken too many traffic police off our roads
James, London, UK
Punishment should just be one arm of the drive to improve road safety. What we're not seeing any of is a commitment to better driver education and increasing awareness of the dangers of inappropriate speed and bad driving. The move to camera based enforcement has taken too many traffic police off our roads, which is why road deaths are rising again and drink-driving offences on the up. But then traffic police don't make money, do they?
James, London, UK

As there are no traffic police there is fat chance any of these penalties will be enforced. Traffic forces are being disbanded and road fatalities, uninsured, untaxed, unlicensed and drink/drugged driving are all on the increase. The above are the real causes of accidents not exceeding a speed limit which can be altered and doesn't necessarily reflect a sensible speed for the road. Exceeding an arbitrary limit on its own is not a cause of accidents. When it is the drivers are invariably joyriders, off their head or plain inexperienced.
Suzette, Newcastle, UK

The speeding problem will never be solved whilst speed cameras are painted bright yellow. The same people who are likely to do 45mph in a 30 zone are also the same people who will slam on just before the camera, thus putting other drivers at risk. Hide all the cameras - then people will have no choice but to observe the speed limit.
Lee, Stevenage, England

If you want to have a flexible approach to speeding offences, then you must also have a flexible approach to variable speed limits (used in Europe and on the railways), and also road works and speed cameras. Otherwise the whole thing just becomes a cynical exercise in money making and progressive speed reduction.
Paul Spelzini, Harrow, Middlesex

I now check my speedometer much more frequently
Darren Wall, Bracknell, UK
I was caught travelling at 36mph in a 30mph zone while in the Thames Valley region. As this was my first offence I was offered the chance to take part in a speed awareness class rather than take the points on my licence. The course was very good and I would highly recommend it. While I was not a fast driver in the first place, I now check my speedometer much more frequently and am more aware of the speed I'm driving at and the limit for where I'm driving.
Darren Wall, Bracknell, UK

I think it's a reasonable approach providing the minimum points for an offence are set high enough to be a deterrent. Doing 35mph in a 30mph zone is a lot more dangerous than 75mph on a motorway. Ordering re-tests for convicted drivers is also a very good idea. But a 60 fine for using a mobile phone is still simply inadequate.
Jenni, Cambridge

Well they certainly won't work on the massive numbers of unlicensed people driving unregistered and uninsured vehicles. At a time when traffic police numbers are being reduced, this obsession with catching basically law-abiding folk who stray a little over the speed limit on our inconsistently regulated roads is never going to make a significant difference to anyone.
Peter, Telford, UK

Ban every driver that speeds. The economy would collapse and the government would run out of money from fines.
Paul Weaver, Twyford, Berks

I regularly ride my horse on country roads (to get to bridle paths, not because I want to) and regularly have cars speeding past me at 60mph. I think that the speed limit on country roads should be reduced to at the most 40mph. However, I do think that the speed limits on motorways are ridiculously low and should be increased.
Emma, York

I would endorse an instant 100 fine
Jane, London, UK
I don't think the proposals for driving whilst on a hand-held phone go far enough. I would endorse an instant 100 fine plus a guaranteed minimum of 3 points on your licence, more if you're obviously driving carelessly as a result. There's absolutely no excuse whatsoever for this infringement and I've lost count of the number of times I've had to take evasive action because of some idiot on a phone!
Jane, London, UK

Yes, but only once the speed limits in this country are looked at and made more appropriate for the road conditions. 20mph limits are perfect outside school during the high risk periods, but completely nonsensical at 2am. Once drivers can see that speed limits are being set at levels which reflect reality then they're more likely to respect them.
Mark Lowes, Somerset

Could this be a ploy by our wonderful government to increase revenue to fund their excessive spending habits under the guise of "safety"? It is interesting that only fashionable offences such as mobile phone use is being targeted. If this was really about safety, they could extend the scope of "driving without due care and attention" to include smoking and eating whilst driving. Issuing more penalties may eventually decrease congestion too, creating a temporary illusion of success until commerce grinds to a halt! Another example of government distancing itself from the public.
Andy Bird, Cheshire, UK

I thought of a radical way to avoid getting any points - don't speed!
James Murphy, Dorset, UK

This is just another fund raiser. Of course it's wrong, because it's not using common sense. People who drive dangerously should be taken off the roads, there's no two ways about that. However, people are generally intelligent and this must be taken into account too. One shoe does not fit all sizes.
Anonymous, London, UK.

Perhaps if we were given back the sensible speed limits that we used to have about 5-10 years ago then there wouldn't be so much fuss over how much the speeding fines are. All too often we are still seeing plenty of totally unnecessary speed limit reductions which have little to do with safety and more to do with being anti-car gestures.
Lionel, Devon

Why not have more sensible speeding limits and enforce strongly? This might mean putting some 30 mph zones up to 40 then giving large fines to anyone going 41 or over. It would make more sense than giving lower fines for 'just' going over the limit because everyone accepts that's a safe speed to go, and most people would see this as fairer.
Clare, London, UK

Changing fines for speeding is addressing the wrong problem
Chris Turner, Thatcham, Berkshire
Like many things this government does, changing fines for speeding is addressing the wrong problem. Rather than wasting resources on the majority of law abiding motorists it should be focusing on the dangerous, unqualified, disqualified, drunk, drugged and uninsured drivers who are responsible for a significantly higher proportion of accidents and motoring offences. How will a variable fine for speeding solve the problem of an unqualified, uninsured driver in an unregistered or stolen car? How will making someone retake their driving test stop them from driving while banned?
Chris Turner, Thatcham, Berkshire

If somebody is caught driving using their mobile phone then crush their car.
David, Leeds

What sends out the wrong message about speed limits is the sheer inconsistency of them. One moment you can be on a 50mph motorway, the next on a 60 mph single track road with passing places and farm houses.
Jonathan Kelk, Dalry, Scotland

What would be really helpful is a grown up policy towards road safety and not the ridiculous proposal by this government. The real punishment should be dealt out to those drivers who speed, drink and drive etc and kill. If there were stiffer punishments to those drivers then maybe the rest will be more likely to keep to the speed limits.
Ray, London, England

I've been caught once, going through restricted speed road works at 3am on a Sunday morning. I paid my fine, was endorsed three points - and I will NEVER speed again! However unpopular these penalties are, they are certainly effective.
Sue, UK

Why not confiscate the mobile phone on the spot? That would cause more problems for the offender than 3 points and a fine.
Dennis, Stone, Staffs

Conventional fines don't really work. I used to live in Crouch End, a fairly affluent area of London. The prevailing attitude among the school-run mumsies was that a fine was an acceptable risk for double parking in the High Street, at bus stops etc because quite simply they could afford it. I heard one joking that her husband earned more in his lunch hour than the cost of the ticket she'd just been given. I know it would be a logistical nightmare, but what about fining people based on a percentage of their gross household income or have the fine based on the value of their vehicle or property?
Jack Judge, Leighton Buzzard, UK

Flexible speeding fines unveiled
30 Nov 04 |  Politics

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