Well, here’s a lovely uplifting story, but I need to add some background for those not familiar with UK traffic laws.
On motorways and many dual carriageways, the current speed limit is 70 mph. This may seem pretty lenient to those in the US who have to contend with 55 mph, unless they live in Montana or are taking part in the Silver State Classic Challenge.
To be fair, the cops are quite pragmatic about this, and generally apply the Rule of 10. Unless you’re driving like a complete tosspot, if you’re cruising at 80 they’ll turn a blind eye. At 85 you may get a tug and a finger wagging. If you want points and a fine, 90 will do it, and 100+ will get you a ban unless you can afford solicitor Nick Freeman who makes sure errant celebs walk away from the charges. He’s known as Mr Loophole.
Enter Olly Martins, who is the Police and Crimes Commissioner for Bedford. He’s had a wizard wheeze. He wants speed cameras operating permanently on a stretch of the M1. Go just 1 mph over the limit, and you’re nicked, sonny. That’ll be 100 quid and three points on your licence. Or you can shell out 90 quid for a speed awareness course.
The real kicker? This is not anything to do with making motorways, already the safest roads in the UK, which in turn is the safest country in Europe, any safer. No, this is a money making exercise.
Not too surprisingly, motoring groups are up in arms about this. Mr Martins is unrepentant.
‘If motorists do not like it they can always stick to the speed limit.’
Well, yes and no. Nearly every modern car will cheerfully do the ton that will get you a ban, and it’s very easy to slip over the limit because automotive design has made the cars quiet. There’s a good reason for this. Noisy cars increase driver fatigue and distract the driver at the same time.
Then we have the thorny issue of instrument accuracy. Most speedometers work from the rotation of an axle and then do some sums to extrapolate what the roadspeed is. There are legal requirements here that I’ll not bore you with, but most manufacturers build in a fudge factor to try and ensure you never get a reading lower than your true roadspeed. However, pump up the tyres, or fit new tyres that are unworn and hence a bigger diameter, and the speedo will miscalculate, and you’ll be going faster than it says. Even hot weather will increase the pressure in your tyres, and you’ll only have an estimate of how fast you’re going. One mph is 1.4% of 70 mph, so a misread of just over 1% will get you nicked.
I don’t drive any longer, but if I did and got a ticket I’d make bloody sure I was one of the thousands who’ll be clogging up magistrate’s courts to contest the fine. It will be chaos.
By the way, Mr Martins is not a policeman. He’s a career civil servant. I hope if this crackbrained scheme comes in he’s the first to get a tug. Might happen. He lives in Luton. Oh, and he’s the guy who suggested squad cars should carry adverts.