Thursday, 5 November 2015


How is the proposal by Bedfordshire's Police to fund its budget shortfall by rigorously enforcing speed limits materially different from the arbitrary road blocks set up in various third world countries by their police solely for the purpose of extorting bribes from motorists?

Update. Mark in Mayenne makes a valid point about road useage.  To elaborate, the third world road block bit is usually justified by a 'document check' or similar which can take hours, unless you pay the bribe.  And the bribe is often the only 'wage' they get.


Mark In Mayenne said...

because there's a law against breaking the speed limit, and not one for driving legally on the road

Mark Wadsworth said...

It is vaguely similar, I must say.

The optimum amount of revenue from speeding tickets would be £nil because jn a perfect world speed limits would be set sensibly and nobody would break them.

Bayard said...

Lola, don't give them ideas for a plan "B", should Bedfordshire motorists prove disappointingly law-abiding.

mombers said...

+1 to MIM, speeding fines are entirely optional, you just have to avoid speeding. I haven't driven since 2007 though...

Lola said...


See here

Speed limits can never be 'absolutes' because the 'man on the spot' is always better informed than the traffic engineer (or more accurately bureaucrat) which is why most Police Forces sensibly permit a leeway. And they are predicated on the 'average' for safety. On the M25 at rush hour 70 may be too fast. On the M25 at 04.00 on a balmy summer morning between junctions with no traffic about clearly 80 or 90 would not be 'unsafe'.

Anyway, 1 mph is the thickness of your speedo needle and I have never yet seen a speedo that was more accurate than plus or minus 2 mph. (Mine is 6 MPH out at 70 - that is I am doing 70 when my speedo reads 76...

Lola said...

MW. I personally think that we only have a 'speeding' offence because it's hard to prove 'dangerous driving', which is what too high a speed in the wrong place and the wrong time actually is. That'd be a subjective judgement. And bureaucrats (i.e. the police) by definition can not be permitted judgement and definitely not subjective judgement. They have to work by the book.

Furthermore speed limits are really 'driver information'. This is especially useful on the UK's evolved road system where it is often impossible to read the road ahead - blind crests, hidden dips, badly sited junctions etc. etc.

mombers said...

I'd say that speed limits are less important on dual carriageway motorways with islands - they are by far the safest. Where the real tragedies happen is people driving too fast on urban roads, e.g. 30 in a 20 zone. In urban areas, pedestrians should be the priority and cars should really be guests.

Bayard said...

"Speed limits can never be 'absolutes' because the 'man on the spot' is always better informed than the traffic engineer"

Country roads are the most dangerous roads (accidents per kilometre travelled, I think) because there it is easiest to be driving dangerously fast while still being within the speed limit.

Curmudgeon said...

@Lola - yes, in the old days when speed limits were actually enforced by traffic police, speeding was effectively an easier-to-convict proxy for careless and dangerous driving. It wasn't just a numbers game.

And, if set correctly, they do provide useful driver information about the characteristics of the road. If, on the other hand, you're driving along a high-quality rural A-road in Derbyshire with a 50 limit, and there's a sign saying "It's 50 for a reason", the only information it conveys is that the council are a bunch of ****s.

Bayard said...

C, perhaps there should be a code, so that speed limit signs have a small sign underneath telling you the reason for the limit, e.g. BA for Built-up Area (or BW for "the council are a bunch of ****s").

Bayard said...
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Bayard said...
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pen seive said...

Because ordinary cars don't have calibrated speedometers, ACPO guidelines allow a margin of error of +/- 10% plus 2 miles per hour. So, in a 30mph limit area, no action should be taken for a vehicle travelling up to 35mph, 46mph in a 40 limit, 57 in a 50 limit and so on, up to the 70mph limit.
Some Police force's "Road Safety Units", usually staffed by non-Police officers, often rely on the public's ignorance in such matters and send out their threatening letters in the hope that the vehicle owner is not aware of this. If they are, the force usually drags it out to a court appearance where, suddenly, they offer no evidence. By remaining in their office, and on full pay, they derive some sadistic satisfaction that the motorist has had to take a day off work and may even have gone through the expense of instructing a defence solicitor. For them, it's a win win situation, and there is sod all that anyone can do about it. EXCEPT, take the Chief Constable of the force to the small claims court for the expense incurred. I have done this twice, and the force had settled rather than a senior Police officer having to attend on behalf of the CC and defend their force's unlawful action.

Lola said...

PS. So the whole threat by Bedfordshire is not only unlawful but could backfire when everyone starts challenging them?

The Stigler said...

Curmudgeon is spot on. When the police had to actually stop someone driving, that effectively took them out of stopping someone else, so they did it only with people driving like arseholes, not people driving fast but reasonably.

I did a speed camera day and everyone there were clearly utterly resentful of what had happened. They hadn't gone to learn about driving better, they'd gone just to avoid getting 3 points. At the end of the day, not one of them seemed to feel differently about speed. And talking to them, they were all like my situation - inadvertent speeding. In my case, I drove through a road works area at 40 that was supposed to be a 30. But as it was Sunday with no workmen around, I was driving safely. A woman on my course was done at just over 40 driving out of town on a hill at midnight.

I now have an app on my phone that does route planning, but it's always on in the car just because it gives me speed warnings. If I go over 34 in a 30, I get beeped at. Now, I'm not doing that because I believe I'm driving badly. I'm doing it because I want to avoid prosecution.

And that's also why Gatso's make no difference to road casualties: most people drive to the conditions. They make a safety judgement. And boy racers are all armed with speed camera apps, so just slow down when there's a camera. Statistics from Swindon and Oxfordshire that switched them on and off are that it makes no difference. The predicted bloodbaths from Brake just didn't happen.

Shiney said...


Inadvertently speeding = driving without due care and attention. So by rights you should've got points and a bigger fine. Feel lucky.

>>> At the end of the day, not one of them seemed to feel differently about speed<<<
Says everything about the selfish attitude of drivers on the road today.

And by the way, before you ask, I've had the same happen to me.... twice. And I consider it my own fault for not paying attention.

mombers said...

1/3 of accidents are caused by people driving drunk. 1/4 are caused by people speeding. It's not rocket science that 2/3 are caused by people who haven't had enough to drink, and 3/4 are caused by people who aren't speeding. So you can be up to 12 times safer by being smashed and driving as fast as you can!
H/T Viz comic

Lola said...


With respect I think you are missing the point, or rather sticking to the 'rules is rules' argument.

Inadvertently speeding is not 'driving without due care and attention'. It is in fact exactly the opposite - often. The judgement of the 'man on the spot' who is paying full attention is that it is safe to do the speed that they are doing, which may be in excess of the speed limit.

What is happening now, as it always does with excessive and largely unworkable rules, is the system comes into disrepute and everyone starts gaming it. It also coarsens society.

In a previous life I was a highway engineer. I was caught exceeding the speed limit (a 50 limit) at a location I absolutely know has become safer over the years since I surveyed it in about 1982 when it was safe then at 70 mph (just). The location has since been bypassed and the traffic volumes massively reduced and hence it is actually now safer than it was in 1982. And pretty well all the other factors have not changed.

The police are just gaming the whole thing as well.

Mark Wadsworth said...

There is a simple solution to the original issue raised. Instead of allowing the police to keep the speeding fines, make the fines payable to the county council or ministry of transport or something.

Lola said...

MW. Yep. Hypothecation only encourages corruption.

Curmudgeon said...

The fines are paid to the Treasury, but the police keep some of the income from speed awareness courses.

The whole concept of the authorities profiting from any kind of enforcement is invidious, as it creates a perverse incentive to maximise the number of offences detected. We already see this with parking enforcement, where the revenue possibilities are infinite as there is no prospect of drivers getting banned.

mombers said...

OTOH, isn't a large part of the problem of rogue landlords and housing benefit fraudsters not being prosecuted down to the paltry fines that they get, and most of the fines going to Treasury instead of the council? I believe the former is being addressed in the otherwise terribly flawed Housing Bill though.

Lola said...

@ C 12.21

Serendipity strikes again:

DP said...

Dear Lola

"And the bribe is often the only 'wage' they get."

So in effect they are self-employed. Like Dick Turpin or Dennis Moore.


Shiney said...


Yes it is DWDCAA because TS was 'inadvertently' speeding, not making a conscious decision to drive at a particular speed.... well, that is what he stated as the reason he got caught.

And, in the main, going slower is safer. Especially in built up areas.

I cycle (a lot) and TBH most drivers are fuckwits and couldn't drive safely out of a paper bag. You notice this when not surrounded by metal, crumple zones and airbags.

Bayard said...

"And I consider it my own fault for not paying attention."

Me, too, at least the last time I was caught. The man with the gun was standing in full view with a hi-viz on. I went for re-education, which was useful, because it gives you tips about speed limits and where to spot them.

There is no God-given right to go as fast as you like where you like and, despite improvements, about 8 people a day are still killed on our roads. It's very easy to be gung-ho about being "only 10% over the limit" until something goes wrong and you kill someone. It's not even much consolation that you were below the limit when someone has just died messily before your eyes.

"Statistics from Swindon and Oxfordshire that switched them on and off are that it makes no difference. The predicted bloodbaths from Brake just didn't happen."

There is no point in having speed limits unless they are policed. In fact there is no point in having any laws unless they are policed; history is littered with unenforceable laws that were simply disregarded. Speed cameras make people keep to the speed limit. Anyone who remembers driving before cameras were invented knows that. If you don't like speed limits or think they are pointless, campaign for them to be removed, not for them not to be enforced. As is well known on this blog, traffic lights very often hold traffic up more than they speed it up, yet no-one is calling for motorists to disregard them.

Lola said...

@ Shiney. With respect you are missing the point I was making. As speed limits are an average and often based on all sorts of things that may have nothing to do with real 'road safety, they are mostly wrong - too high or too low. And the only person that can judge that is the man on the spot.

Taking the specifics of speed in built up areas I would heartily agree that slower is safer, if for no other reason than to protect death wish cyclists from themselves.

Mind you cyclists can also go too fast. I live in the countryside. Lots of sunken lanes. My caution recently saved a cyclist from himself - freewheeling too fast down the hill in a sunken lane - easily stopped; he didn't as he couldn't and near as a toucher ran smack into me. It was only my swerving into the bank a bit that saved him. Any thanks or apologies? Not a chance.

I learned to drive in the late '60's in London. The basic premise was you looked out for everyone else and they looked out for you and the game was to keep the place moving. And that involves a lot of give and take. Nowadays the roads are woefully selfish and I think that that is a direct result of the coarsening of society by ever more pernicious rules and regulations.

Speed limits are driver information. They have been over used such that road users are contemptuous of them, but as it's now easy to enforce speed limits they are enforced. Then you get the statistics of 'lives saved'. Good Grief! By the number of lives saved people must now be spontaneously popping into existence all over the place.

It's all part of the nanny state.

Bayard said...

"Nowadays the roads are woefully selfish and I think that that is a direct result of the coarsening of society by ever more pernicious rules and regulations."

I think the ever more pernicious rules and regulations are because of the bureaucratic belief that you can legislate your way to a perfect world, which is bound up with Socialist myth that there are two types of humans, the good guys (the regulators) and the bad guys (the regulated). The coarsening of society is to do with the wane of the influence of two world wars and the religious and ethical revival in the late C19th.

DP said...

Dear Bayard (6 November 2015 at 17:53)

" ...about 8 people a day are still killed on our roads."

That figure dates from 2007. DoT figures since 2000:

Year Ped Cyclist M/cyclist Car Other All % change

2000 857 127 605 1,665 155 3,409 -0.4
2001 826 138 583 1,749 154 3,450 1.2
2002 775 130 609 1,747 170 3,431 -0.6
2003 774 114 693 1,769 158 3,508 2.2
2004 671 134 585 1,671 160 3,221 -8.2
2005 671 148 569 1,675 138 3,201 -0.6
2006 675 146 599 1,612 140 3,172 -0.9
2007 646 136 588 1,432 144 2,946 -7.1
2008 572 115 493 1,257 101 2,538 -13.8
2009 500 104 472 1,059 87 2,222 -12.5
2010 405 111 403 835 96 1,850 -16.7
2011 453 107 362 883 96 1,901 2.8
2012 420 118 328 801 87 1,754 -7.7
2013 398 109 331 785 90 1,713 -2.3

Hope the formatting holds.


Interesting falls in 2008/9/10 - recessions good for reducing road deaths?

All categories halved or better since 2000, except cyclists.


Mark Wadsworth said...

DP, yes, one of the few things in which we are pretty much world champion is low number of road deaths.

I do not know whether that is because cars are safer, medical treatment is better (so fewer deaths, more cripples), people are more sensible or road layout and general law enforcement (speeding, drink driving), but it's all good.

Bayard said...

9 in two days is a lot better than 8 a day, but it's still a lot of deaths.

By comparison, nuclear power, which everyone thinks is insanely dangerous, has only killed 30 odd people since the 50s.