A police federation has slammed a road policing chief’s call to punish drivers for going just 1mph over the speed limit, saying his remarks show a “woeful lack of understanding”.
Chief constable Anthony Bangham reportedly called for an end to the 10% “buffer” over the limit and said speeding awareness courses were being used too widely instead of penalty points and fines.
Bangham, the National Police Chiefs Council lead on road policing, added that drivers caught speeding should “not come whinging to us about” it in a speech that the Greater Manchester Police Federation said showed a “woeful lack of understanding”.
According to the Daily Mail, the West Mercia chief said in a speech at the Police Federation Roads Policing Conference on Tuesday: “Let’s change the message – we are proud to be law enforcers.
“I do not want the public to be surprised, I want them to be embarrassed when they get caught… They need to understand the law is set at the limit for a reason.
“They should not come whinging to us about getting caught. If booked at 35 or 34 or 33 [in a 30mph zone] that cannot be unfair because they are breaking the law.”
Current guidance suggests police forces should only issue penalties for drivers caught at 10% plus 2mph over the limit – 35mph in a 30mph zone, for example.
Greater Manchester Police Federation chairman Ian Hanson said he was “absolutely staggered” by Bangham’s comments which “demonstrate a woeful lack of understanding of the sensitivities around speed enforcement and the relationship between the motoring public and the police”.
I find it absolutely staggering that the effective policy lead for policing should show himself to be so out of touch with not only the overwhelming number of police officers who are out there keeping our communities safe and putting themselves in the way of danger every day, but also alienating those communities we are there to serve.” Greater Manchester Police Federation chairman Ian Hanson
Hanson acknowledged that speed enforcement “has always been a thorny issue since it can encompass even the most law-abiding of us”, but said police had “moved on from the days of random speed traps being put in place to pick off easy targets”.
The federation further questioned how Bangham’s suggestion could be implemented, and in light of rising crime figures and staff cut backs, why it was been discussed: “We have lost more than 21,000 police officers from our numbers across England and Wales since 2010 and we can barely keep even the most basic numbers of police officers on the streets to deal with ever rising crime figures and the threat from terrorism.
“Mr Bangham says that motorists should stop ‘whingeing’… but if I got a speeding ticket in his home force of West Mercia for doing 1 mile an hour over the speed limit I think I would have a lot to whinge about - living in an area where in the last year violent crime has gone up 17%, public order offences are up 38% and overall crime is up 5%...and my Chief Constable seemed so distracted and intent on going backwards.”
AA president Edmund King also warned against the crackdown: “We need alert, safe drivers checking the road ahead and adhering to the limits rather than paranoid drivers forever checking the speedometer to check they are 1mph above or below the limit.”
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said the plan “doesn’t seem sensible”
“While speed is clearly a contributory factor in many road accidents and there is no question that drivers should obey the speed limit, it doesn’t seem sensible to make motorists constantly look at their speedometers for fear of drifting 1mph above the limit,” he said.
However, Rod King, founder of the 20’s Plenty For Us group, which campaigns to set speed limits of 20mph in built-up areas, said: “Where society sets speed limits, you should abide by them.
“Where there’s a buffer you have effectively changed the speed limit.
“Who would want to be driving illegally? Unless you want to be a criminal … If you are going 35 in a 30mph zone, then you are breaking the law – that’s it.”
Tory MP Sir Greg Knight also warned against an “overly aggressive policy against drivers”, telling the Mail: “It will make criminals of motorists who are basically good drivers trying to obey the speed limit, while keeping an eye on the road.”
Figures from the RAC Foundation, a transport policy and research organisation unconnected with the breakdown provider, show that enforcement of speeding limits and punishment of offenders varies dramatically across the country.
In 2016, Avon and Somerset Police caught 184,654 motorists driving above the speed limit. However, neighbouring Wiltshire Police caught just 989 motorists speeding.
In 2016, Nottinghamshire Police sent 1% of speeders on a speed awareness course, compared with 62% sent by Durham Police.
RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “While Anthony Bangham’s mission to make our roads safer is one we should all support, is stern and strict enforcement by itself going to get us there when, year on year, we see cuts in resourcing for roads policing and festering suspicion about the motive for deploying cameras?”
“The two million drivers caught speeding last year are unlikely to think the police have gone soft,” he added.
A total of 1,710 people were killed on the roads in the year up to June 2017, according to the latest statistics.
Last year, figures obtained by the Press Association found only about half of fixed speed cameras in the UK were actually switched on and catching offenders.
Data released by 36 of the 45 police forces in the UK found that four have no fixed speed cameras at all and 13 have fewer than half actively catching speeding drivers.