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Make the speeding laws work FOR road safety

Comment 2nd July 2010

There undoubtedly are many laws on the statute book that need drastic revision or outright repeal and it is to the credit of the present government that these are being examined.

Of course there are also laws that are perfectly reasonable if they are used properly for the purpose for which they were intended but are being abused for purposes other than that intended. The anti-terrorism legislation is a well recognised example of how a law intended for one purpose has been corrupted for use for other objectives. Another example that touches a very large number of people in the UK is the way in which road traffic laws, particularly speed regulation, are being abused. One might forgive an element of abuse if the objective of improving road safety was being achieved but unfortunately there is a plethora of data to demonstrate that the very opposite is the actual situation. The law is being routinely abused and corrupted by those who should be upholding it and to add insult to injury it is being abused to the detriment of road safety.

Motoring cases are, for the most part, subject to summary trial. Of course the whole basis of the summary trial is contrary to one of the basic precepts of our legal system which demands that the accused is tried by a jury of his peers. But, important as it is, I shall leaving that aside for now.

One of the basic safeguards to try to ensure the veracity and integrity of evidence is that no-one can be convicted of a criminal offence unless there is at least two independent positive corroborating evidences demonstrating guilt. The situation with speeding offences is that a single officer or civilian camera operator provides all the evidence. What should happen is that the officer/operator must first form an opinion that a specific vehicle is exceeding the speed limit. This is called Prior Opinion. Only then may he turn to the “camera” to provide verification of the speed. Leaving aside the proven unreliability of the information produced from such devices, while the requirement for 2 evidences may just about be satisfied in no way can it possibly satisfy the requirement for independence. In reality what happens is that the officer/operator uses his “camera” to go on a fishing trip to try to detect a vehicle exceeding the limit and when he does succeed he retrofits his prior opinion that the vehicle was speeding. The officer/operator will swear black and blue that he formed his opinion prior to using the camera but examination of the video, if there is one, invariably demonstrates that, unless the officer/operator has the speed and agility of Superman it is inconceivable that he could perform both tasks consecutively in the correct sequence.

Even when the officer/operator is demonstrated to have been lying to the court his evidence is accepted to convict the often innocent and almost always perfectly safe driver. It is a stain on our hitherto excellent road safety record and a very black stain on the reputation of British justice. I am also convinced that these injustices are adversely affecting the relationship between the law abiding general public and the police. I believe that perfectly safe drivers who are “fleeced” by this process well, and I believe often do, resolve never again to give the co-operation to the police upon which they depend for their effective operation.

Again, if road safety were improving and only dangerous drivers were being targeted as a result of this activity albeit illegal a tacit “blind eye” might be turned to what is going on but that is not the case. Thousands, perhaps millions of perfectly safe drivers have their lives adversely affected and in some cases destroyed by a process that has also massively damaged road safety. It has no redeeming qualities.

There are those who say “if you break the law, i.e. speed, you must suffer the consequences”. That is the absolute view but the pragmatists know perfectly well that laws are not and cannot be written to encompass all situations so common sense musty be used in the application of the law. An excellent case demonstrating this is the law against assisting suicide versus those who help someone to avail themselves of Dignitas. Clearly they break British law but common sense demands they will not be prosecuted. The law is not and can never be absolute.

You might think that I wish to see all speed regulations abolished. If you did you would be wrong. It is true that a lot of work needs to be done to make them realistic and effective but to abolish them would not be wise. What I would like to see is properly resourced traffic patrols back on our roads with their clearly stated mission to improve road safety. Specifically they must not be tasked by any means to improve clear-up statistics or to be quasi revenue agents. For the most part, education and training is the answer but for the few who are reckless and dangerous they would have the traffic laws, including speeding, to take these bad and dangerous drivers off the road.

We must regain the position of being in the vanguard of countries for Road Safety and return to a position articulated by the MP who, when he introduced them to the UK, stated that safe, responsible drivers should have no fear of speed limits.

Despite the length of this document, for which I apologise, there are many more facets to this and a lot of information and data to back up what I say here.
Although I am frankly sceptical that this will be addressed, I am prepared to supply the data and information of which I speak and to work with anyone who genuinely wishes to fix this appalling situation.

Why does this matter?

The present situation is destroying our hitherto excellent Road Safety record.

The injustices perpetrated by this situation is destroying the relationship between the public and the police and that is making the police's job harder not just in traffic issues.

Thousands, perhaps millions, of law abiding perfectly safe drivers are being penalised and their lives and livelihoods are being adversely affected, and in some cases destroyed, for no good effect.

Our hitherto respected legal system is being brought into disrepute.

And the real killer – literally – There has been an estimated 10000 (ten thousand) additional deaths on our roads compared to what would have reasonably been expected if the pre 1995 trends had continued.


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