Police officers clamp down on speeding as part of an enforcement operation being carried out across Europe
Police Officers across Europe have, from Monday 6 August 2018, commenced a week-long speed enforcement operation co-ordinated by The European Traffic Police Network (“TISPOL”). Comparable operations were undertaken in recent years with reported success –in the two operations carried out across all 28 EU member states in April and August last year, cumulatively there were in the region of 1.23 million speed detections.
TISPOL seeks to further raise awareness among the general public about the dangers of speeding, and to remind drivers that travelling at the speed limits set (throughout Europe) benefits all road users. Accordingly, it is said that police officers will be using a variety of speed detection methods, and technologies, on all types of roads across the continent.
TISPOL continues to co-ordinate and promote such operations in a bid to change the general attitude of drivers, many of whom still seem to perceive ‘speeding’ as a harmless or otherwise trivial offence.
President of TISPOL, Paolo Cestra, emphasised that adopting such a view has an adverse impact to the continuous efforts made to improve safety. In doing so, he summarised the impact of speeding, stating:
“Excessive or inappropriate speed has a singularly devastating impact on the safety of road users, increasing both the risk of a crash and the severity of the consequences…It is estimated that speeding contributes to as many as one third of all crashes resulting in death, and is the most important contributory factor to road deaths and serious injuries.”
In recognition of this, the TISPOL’s ongoing targeted approach to speeding aims to reduces the number of road traffic fatalities in line with the European Commission’s target to reduce the current total between 2020 and 2030.
It is in that context there have been recent changes in the law directly effecting motorists, most notably: revised guidelines increasing the sanctions for speeding offences; an increase to life imprisonment for ‘dangerous drivers’ causing a fatality; and cross-border enforcement of drivers across Europe. Further information on the recent changes are contained within our previous articles.
In Norfolk, the Chief Inspector of the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing Unit commented on the campaign, making it clear the speed limits in force have been set based on the maximum safe speed to travel on a particular stretch of road. In doing so, he emphasised that ‘speeding’ is one of the ‘four fatal’ offences.
This year, in Norfolk, 17 people have died due to collisions on the road. Whilst the overall objective of the speed enforcement operation is to reduce the number of deaths, the message from the Chief Inspector is clear:
“One fatality on our roads is too many…”
Therefore, motorists can expect the police to adopt a robust approach if they are caught exceeding the speed limits in place, both during the term of the current campaign and thereafter.
Norfolk Constabulary’s Safety Camera Team discloses that there are currently 25 fixed camera sites throughout the county. Motorists driving in the county can acquaint themselves with the locations of where such speed cameras have been installed via Norfolk Constabulary’s website. In addition to fixed detection devices, the police use a range of flexible measures and methods to identify those flouting the speed limits. Usually, it is not possible to know in advance where such temporary measures are implemented by the police. However, the Safety Camera Team do appear do provide updates via various social media platforms regarding their location and the number of breaches identified.
Motorists will, or should, be familiar with The Highway Code in respect of the overall ‘typical’ stopping distances correlating to the speed at which a vehicle is travelling. They are calculated using a theoretical formula, which includes consideration of both thinking and braking distances. However, there are a plethora of factors that can impact the overall distance a vehicle travels, at any given speed, from the moment a situation arises requiring the brakes to be applied. Such causes include, weather conditions, road surface condition and layout, tyre pressure and quality, attrition of brake pads and discs, the vehicle’s general state of repair and anything effecting reaction times such as tiredness. For example it is broadly accepted that stopping distances double in wet or icy conditions, since it can collectively impact many of the factors mentioned.
Nevertheless, the Highway Code stopping distances do give drivers a sense of the danger they can present as a result of speeding. Applying the distances referred to, a vehicle travelling at a speed of 30mph will travel a further 11 metres before it can come to a standstill when compared to the same vehicle travelling at 20mph. In areas such as those outside schools where such lower speed limits are implemented, and where a number of children are present, the difference between driving at the different speeds could have a severe impact to the outcome if confronted with a hazard. Further, recent studies suggest that even those stopping distances are too short, and inaccurate even as a guide, since the underlying calculations underestimate the average reaction time of drivers (taking account of modern distractions such as using a phone, operating in car functions and alike).
There are many myths in connection with the enforcement of road traffic offences. In particular, there is a general misconception amongst motorists that they are ‘lawfully’ entitled to exceed a speed limit in force by a particular margin without facing liability of enforcement action. Such belief is not correct and motorist should be aware that, from a strict legal perspective, they can face enforcement action including prosecution for exceeding the speed limit by even 1mph.
Therefore, it is perhaps useful to clarify where such a belief is derived, and to explain that whilst it is a practice adopted by some police forces it does not have any legal status.
In 2002 The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) first circulated its speed enforcement policy guidance, which was last revised in 2013. It suggests that enforcement will normally be appropriate if a driver exceeds the speed limit by a certain amount, which is normally 10 per cent over the speed limit plus 2 mph. Further, based on the extent the speed limit has been exceed, thus seriousness, it gives an indication on the type of action considered to be appropriate in accordance the principles underpinning speed enforcement. However, the policy is only guidance and does not form any part of the legal provisions governing speeding offences
Whilst many forces, and officers, have adopted the guidance the policy equally sets out in clear terms that driving at any speed over the limit constitutes an offence and individual officers are not prohibited from exercising discretion in how to proceed with enforcement, including prosecution. In the same vein it declares that non-compliance the guidance does not afford mitigation of a defence for an offence committed.
Therefore, whilst police officers are given wide discretion when identifying an offence, it is suggested they should have regard to tolerances of equipment used to corroborate their opinion and whether the proposed course of action is proportionate and applied in a fair and consistent manner.