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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 May, 2004, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
New speed penalty plans welcomed
Police officer with speed gun
Motoring offence penalties are being reviewed
Motoring organisations have given a cautious welcome to proposals for a new flexible system of speeding penalties.

But they said the plans were "too simplistic" and did not take into account if people were driving safely.

Penalties will range from two points for those just over the speed limit up to six points for those driving much faster, the Sunday Times reported.

The Department of Transport confirmed a consultation exercise on the scheme will begin after the June elections.

Currently, an automatic ban is given to anyone who clocks up 12 points, or four offences, within three years.

If drivers are significantly over the limit, they face receiving six penalty points or disqualification if they are convicted in a court.

I think it is important to differentiate between somebody who does one or two miles over the limit and those who are driving 30 or 40 miles over the limit
Alistair Darling, Transport Secretary
Motorists currently receive three points on their licence, regardless of how fast they are going.

Ministers are worried people who need their licences for work are having them removed. In 2002, 30,000 people were suspended from driving.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said: "I think it is important to differentiate between somebody who does one or two miles over the limit and those who are driving 30 or 40 miles over the limit."

But the RAC urged the government to take the circumstances of speeding offences into consideration.

Driving just above the limit outside a school may be more dangerous than going much faster on a dual carriageway late at night, spokeswoman Rebecca Bell said.

And AA Motoring Trust head of road safety Andrew Howard said drivers might take the lighter penalties less seriously - even if they are penalised more frequently.

Speed camera review

Tony Vickers, spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, said: "It's good news that the government has recognised that the sledgehammer weapons of mass prosecution approach by speed cameras is causing a great deal of injustice and resentment."

But he said the fundamental problem was the way the law was enforced.

He said the government was effectively relying on speed cameras rather than police patrols, who could assess how risky a driver's speeding was, to enforce the law.

The transport secretary had earlier defended the use of speed cameras, saying they contributed to safety on the road.

An RAC survey indicated 72% of drivers felt cameras were more about raising funds for the Treasury than improving road safety.

Not only are they beginning to adopt our policies, they are now adopting our language too
Shadow cabinet minister Theresa May

Home Office figures show the number of motorists caught speeding by the cameras rose by 40% in 2002 to 1.5m, compared to the previous year.

But Mr Darling said: "Independent research shows that they reduce death and serious injury by 35% at sites where they have been placed.

"We must reduce speeding but the public must have confidence that the punishment fits the crime."

Shadow cabinet minister Theresa May said government ministers had stolen Tory road safety policies, and "not for the first time".

"In the past few weeks, they have already adopted our proposals on increasing speed limits on motorways, introducing driver education courses, and reducing speed limits outside schools, and now they are accepting our proposal for variable points," she added.

"Not only are they beginning to adopt our policies, they are now adopting our language too."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Janet Barrie
"The government hopes the new proposals might restore confidence in speed cameras"



SEE ALSO:
Police clock driver at 150mph
04 May 04  |  Scotland
Concern over French motoring laws
05 Feb 04  |  Politics


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