Court threat forces police to toughen rules on speeding

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Chief constables have been forced to adopt a tougher policy on speeding motorists that could see drivers prosecuted for travelling at just one mile an hour over the limit.

Chief constables have been forced to adopt a tougher policy on speeding motorists that could see drivers prosecuted for travelling at just one mile an hour over the limit.

Under old rules by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), motorists in 30mph zones were not stopped unless they topped 35mph. But that policy has been revised after the campaign group Transport 2000 threatened to challenge police in the High Court, saying it was illegal and costing lives.

In a compromise, chief officers emphasise that motorists can be prosecuted for breaking the limit by as little as one mile an hour. Police will have discretion over whether to press charges. The guidelines will allow officers to crack down on those speeding in busy, built-up areas, for example, and give more leeway those just breaking the limit on quiet roads at night.

Although motorists could now be prosecuted for exceeding the limit by a tiny amount, this is considered unlikely, largely because it is extremely difficult to measure speeds accurately and any case involving a dispute over one or two miles per hour would be challenged in court.

In most cases, the police are expected to continue to use their current guidelines, which allow 10 per cent plus two miles an hour on any limit. This means in a 60mph zone motorists could travel at 68 without being prosecuted. Ken Williams, Norfolk Chief Constable and chairman of the Acpo's traffic committee, said: "Our guidance to chief constables on the prosecution of speeding offences has recently been enhanced to give proper emphasis to the important part that discretion plays within the decision-making processes of patrolling officers."

Lynn Sloman, assistant director of Transport 2000, said: "We believe tougher enforcement will save lives. Britain has one of the worst child pedestrian death rates in Europe."

* The Home Office yesterday dismissed claims that the Intoximeter EC/IR breath-test equipment used by eight English forces and all Scottish ones gave higher readings than other models. It was tested and found to be accurate.