I was once caught in a speed trap. In my defence, I would say that it was on a road I travel reasonably often - at least twice a year and some years four or six times for the past 30 years or so - and it had always been subject to the national speed limit of 60mph. I had noticed on the time in question that the limit had been reduced to 40mph but I had not slowed down as much as I should have done. The result: a £60 fine and 3 points on my license. I have thought for many years that that is the standard penalty, unless the accused wishes to contest the matter in court. In that case, I think I have always been aware that the fine could be higher. If asked, I would probably have guessed the likely fine to be about double - say £120 - or maybe even as much as £250. Those would be wild guesses, though - perhaps more like shots in the dark than guesses. You will therefore understand my astonishment when I read that the maximum fine for speeding is actually £2,500 - and the Government is drawing up plans to increase that to £10,000. Ten grand!
Reading that news caused me to ask myself - it had to be me that I asked as there was no-one else around at the time - several questions.
- What speed does one have to have reached for the maximum fine to be applied?
- Which 'normal' driver would be able to pay a fine of that magnitude?
- I would have thought that if the maximum fine is appropriate, there must be other offences committed. In that case, why not bring a charge of dangerous driving, for which the guilty driver could be imprisoned?
- Whatever happened to "let the punishment fit the crime" - or is that a purely Gilbert and Sullivan idea?
Personally, I have always maintained that a limit of 30mph is right in built-up areas - except for roads that pass school entrances. On those, the limit should be reduced to 20mph while children are arriving and leaving. These times would be marked by flashing orange lights on the signs indication the lower speed limit, the lights being switched on either by a lollipop man or lady, or by the school staff. In any case, all drivers should adjust their speed according to road conditions. There are some roads where even 20mph is too fast; as for the rest, many drivers - including police - ignore the 20mph limit already introduced. I leave you to guess what I do.