A leading police officer has criticised proposals to penalise drivers who break the speed limit by 1mph, saying it is “out of touch” and will alienate motorists.
His comments were in response to Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, who suggested ending the 10 per cent “buffer” over speed limits.
Existing guidance suggests police forces should only issue penalties for drivers caught at 10 per cent plus 2mph over the limit – 35mph in a 30mph zone as an example.
Mr Bangham, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on road policing, said in a speech at the Police Federation Roads Policing Conference on Tuesday: “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.”
Mr Bangham also said speeding awareness courses were being used too widely instead of penalty points and fines.
Chief Inspector Ian Hanson, chairman of Greater Manchester Police Federation, criticised the speech, arguing the measures would be “alienating those communities we are there to serve”.
“I find it absolutely staggering that the effective policy lead for policing should show himself to be so out of touch,” Mr Hanson said.
“Mr Bangham says that motorists should stop ‘whingeing’ ... but if I got a speeding ticket in his home force of West Mercia for doing 1mph 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 per cent, public order offences are up 38 per cent and overall crime is up 5 per cent ... and my Chief Constable seemed so distracted and intent on going backwards.”
Breakdown recovery experts were among those who warned the proposals might make drivers paranoid and constantly check their speedometers.
Edmund King, AA president, said: “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.”
Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, said: “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 a few miles an hour above the limit.”
However, road safety campaigners supported the proposals, arguing speed limits were put in place for public safety.
“The limit is the limit, but lack of consistency on speeding has allowed urban myths about thresholds and revenue raising to take hold in the minds of far too many drivers,” Neil Greig, director of policy and research at road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, said.
Rod King, founder of the 20’s Plenty for Us group, which campaigns to set speed limits of 20mph in built-up areas, added: “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.”
Figures obtained last year revealed 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 four have no fixed speed cameras at all and 13 have fewer than half actively catching speeding drivers.
A total of 1,710 people were killed on the roads in the year to June last year, according to the latest statistics.