Bigger penalties the faster you go: are the new speeding fines fair?

Drivers who let their speed to creep up on the road will soon have to be extra vigilant. Next month, bigger speeding fines will be introduced across England and Wales. A review of sentencing guidelines for magistrates’ courts has prompted maximum fines to rise by 50 per cent.

The tougher guidelines will be based on both the severity of the offence and the driver’s weekly income. The current limit for a speeding fine is 100 per cent of the driver’s relevant weekly wage. Now magistrates will be able to hand out a maximum fine of 175 per cent of a driver’s weekly income.

The fines have been increased after a 44 per cent rise in speeding offences over the past five years.

It means that those caught speeding through town at 41mph in a 20mph limit would find themselves on the receiving end of the severest financial penalty as well as incurring points on their licence.

And anyone caught doing 101mph on a motorway could face the 175 per cent means-tested penalty.

More drivers are likely to face fines for speeding

At the same time, the changes will make it more likely that low offending speeders incur three penalty points on their licence and a fine of between 25 and 75 per cent of their weekly income. Previously, they may have avoided a penalty by opting in to take a speed awareness course.

District Judge Richard Williams told the BBC the changes are aimed at reducing discrepancies in current sentencing guidelines. She said: “Before we introduced this change, you got the same fine for doing 60mph in a 30mph zone as you would for 41mph in a 30 limit. We didn’t think that was right. A lot of people who responded to the consultation suggested that for the highest speeds, there should be a bigger fine.”

Although the proportional increase of fines has been made more severe, the previous maximum limit for fines remains. That means £1000 on minor roads and £2500 on motorways.

Concerns some drivers may be unfairly penalised

Some critics are worried that anyone earning more than about £47,000 a year won’t be as heavily penalised as those on a lower income.

Judge Williams said such views were inevitable. She explained: “There comes a point where for those who earn a lot of money, the maximum fine of £1000 is going to be proportionally less of a hit on their pocket than the equivalent percentage fine on somebody who earns less.”

However, the RAC’s Pete Williams welcomed the changes. He said: “Anyone who breaks the limit excessively is a danger to every other road user and is unnecessarily putting lives at risk. Hopefully, hitting these offenders harder in the pocket will make them think twice before doing it again in the future. While greater sentences for excessive speeders are obviously a deterrent, the best deterrent of all is more effective enforcement.”

How are the speeding fine bands calculated?

The new fines come into force on 24 April 2017. These dictate the majority of band A fines will equate to half of the offender’s weekly wage. Band B fines will start at 100 per cent of weekly income. Band C are set at 150 per cent. However, all fines can be adjusted to be lesser or greater, with the range spanning 25 to 175 per cent.

This will be subject to the court’s discretion and based on the specifics of the case in question. Influencing factors might include poor weather, the population density of the area or the timing of an offence in relation to previous convictions committed.

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James Mills

James is a motoring journalist and former magazine editor at BBC Top Gear and Auto Express. He has scooped, reported on and reviewed most new cars of the past 20 years, and currently contributes to the Driving section of The Sunday Times.

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