28 January 2008
Penalty Points Changes
Rob Fisher

The fog at Heathrow is lifting but my flight is delayed for some time yet, so a blog post is in order.  My in-flight entertainment, this month’s Bike magazine, has an article about DfT’s proposed changes to the penalty points system.  The idea is to introduce 6 point penalties for “excessive” speeders.  They have a nice chart illustrating speeds at which various penalties apply under the current and proposed systems.  Currently, on the motorway, you won’t (in theory) be prosecuted until you drive at 79mph.  Between 79 and 83mph you’ll be fined and offered a “speed awareness course”.  I can only imagine how useful that course is.  Between 83 and 96mph you’ll be fined and get 3 points.  Over 96 and you’ll be banned.  The proposed change is to introduce a 6 point penalty at 94mph.

The changes make more sense in a 30mph zone, where you’ll face the 6 point penalty for going faster than 45mph, and a ban for going faster than 50.

Various people are quoted.  Paul Mostyn of the Met is the most interesting.  He says, “Personally I don’t think the threat of more points will scare people into slowing down.” He goes on:

The DfT has completely given up on dealing with driver standards and they just want to focus on speed.  Even though their own figures show that 50% of drivers regularly exceed the speed limits—70% of drivers on motorways—excessive speed is a contributory factor in in only 5% of accidents.  The real issue is the decline in standards, with 80% of of accidents caused by the worst 20% of road users,

Suppose we drive past a school at 3:45am at 35mph.  The place is deserted and no danger is caused.  But to drive past the same school at 3:45pm with traffic everywhere and kids spilling off the pavements also at 35mph may well be extremely dangerous.  Clearly these two offences are not equal, but the new penalty proposals will make them equal.  It’s absurd.

This sort of common sense is why I like the idea of police having discretion about who to prosecute.  As ever, I wonder what type of penalty system would be used if insurance companies made the rules.

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