Minor speeding penalties to be cut

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The Independent Online

Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport, is preparing to lower the penalties on motorists for minor speeding offences to defuse a growing row over speed cameras.

Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport, is preparing to lower the penalties on motorists for minor speeding offences to defuse a growing row over speed cameras.

Downing Street has become alarmed by motorists' hostility towards speed cameras. Speeding offences incur three penalty points and drivers who amass 12 points on their licences face an automatic ban.

Mr Darling will try to calm the public outcry by launching a consultation next month on proposals to reduce the number of points for each offence from three to two, if the driver has been marginally over the speed limit. The penalty for those caught travelling well in excess of the speed limit could be raised to six points.

In 2002, 30,000 drivers lost their licences through the totting up of points. The number of motorists caught speeding on camera in 2002 rose by 40 per cent to 1.5 million, Home Office figures show. That could double to an estimated 3 million this year.

Many drivers have to pay high insurance premiums and some can lose their livelihoods if they cannot drive. Many motorists who live in the countryside, and who need their cars to shop or work, regard the speed cameras as a plague.

Mr Darling said: "We must reduce speeding but the public must have confidence that the punishment fits the crime."

Some police forces have been criticised for using the cameras to raise money through fines. Mr Darling said: "The best camera is one that doesn't issue a single ticket as it means people are driving safely within the speed limit."

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

But, he said, the proposals were "too simplistic". The Government should rely on traffic police patrols, rather than cameras, to determine whether someone was driving dangerously or recklessly, he said.

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