Frequently Asked Questions

I receive numerous e-mails relating to this site, asking questions and seeking further information. I am more than happy to answer sensible queries, particularly those with local relevance to North-West England, but I have noticed that some topics come up time and time again. So I've created a Frequently Asked Questions page to cover some of those points.

Q: What are the ACPO guidelines for speeding prosecutions?

A: These guidelines set out the minimum figures at which a Fixed Penalty Notice and a Court Summons would normally be considered appropriate for a speeding offence, if there are no other aggravating circumstances. The minimum figure for a FPN is the posted limit + 10% + 2 mph. These figures are shown in the table below:

The ACPO Speed Enforcement Guidelines
Speed Limit (mph) Fixed Penalty Summons
20 25 35
30 35 50
40 46 66
50 57 76
60 68 86
70 79 96

The full details can be found on the ACPO website.

Bear in mind that exceeding a speed limit by any amount whatsoever is an absolute offence, and a police officer is fully entitled to charge a driver for doing, say, 31 in a 30 limit outside a school at closing time, or in a busy High Street.

However, since a speed camera or Talivan is unable to make any judgment as to aggravating circumstances, automated FPNs issued by these means should not normally fall below the Fixed Penalty level set by the formula. In the past, many Gatsos had thresholds set much higher - in the Metropolitan Police area they were originally set at 43 mph in 30 limits - but in recent years most have been brought down to the minimum ACPO figures. However, I have yet to see a case where someone has received an FPN from a camera or Talivan for a speed below these guidelines - although obviously this can be done by a police officer in person.

Given that most car speedometers overread by up to 10%, if you drive past a speed camera at up to an indicated 5 mph above the posted limit, you will normally be OK. On the motorway, an indicated 80 mph should not cause any problems.

Q: When was the 70 mph motorway speed limit introduced in Britain?

A: The 70 mph National Speed Limit was introduced as a temporary measure in December 1965. It is often blamed on Barbara Castle, but at the time the Minister of Transport was Tom Fraser.

The reason given was a spate of serious accidents in foggy conditions, but it is often claimed that the MoT had been alarmed by AC Cars testing their latest Cobra on the M1 at speeds up to 180 mph.

It was confirmed as a permanent limit in 1967, by which time Barbara Castle (a non-driver) had become Minister of Transport.There was surprisingly little debate at the time: the fact that the average family car of the time could only just exceed 70 mph perhaps had something to do with this.

It should be noted that this limit applied to all previously "derestricted" roads, not only motorways.

All rural roads in the Isle of Man (including most of the famous TT course) remain genuinely derestricted, as a matter of interest.

Q: I have been flashed by a Gatso on the opposite side of the road when driving towards it? Am I likely to be prosecuted?

A: No. A Gatso camera can only catch vehicles travelling away from it. When there is no film in a Gatso, the trigger threshold for a flash is often lowered, and the camera may be set to also flash approaching vehicles. This is what gives rise to the phenomenon you have observed.

It is important to distinguish Gatsos from Truvelo cameras, which do catch oncoming vehicles, but only emit a faint infra-red flash. Until recently, these have been very rare in the North-West, but are now becoming more common - for example, there are four on the A57 through Glossop in Derbyshire.

Q: I have received an NIP after being caught by a Gatso. However there are no camera signs anywhere near the Gatso. Does this give me a valid defence?

A: No. The official guidelines on the placing, visibility and signage for speed cameras are precisely that, guidelines. They have no legal standing. If a "Safety Camera Partnership" persistently ignores these guidelines they may - theoretically - have their powers to recycle fine revenue into road safety projects withdrawn, but if an individual camera does not conform to these guidelines it does not invalidate any resulting prosecutions.

Q: I have received an NIP for doing 36 in a 30 limit. This was on a wide suburban dual carriageway where there are no speed limit repeaters. Surely this is invalid if there are no speed limit signs?

A: No. Under current signing regulations, no 30 mph repeater signs are required (or indeed permitted) on a road with a continuous system of street lighting, regardless of the level of development. This allows highway authorities to reduce a limit from 40 to 30 by the simple expedient of removing the pre-existing repeater signs, and it is all too easy for drivers to be caught out.

In the more enlightened days of the late 1950s and 1960s, many highway authorities increased speed limits on major suburban dual-carriageways from 30 to 40 mph. There are still examples in cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, although more and more are now being reduced to 30. This has given rise to the misleading myth that the default speed limit on an urban dual carriageway is 40 mph.

If you're in anything remotely resembling a built-up area, you should always assume that the prevailing speed limit is 30 mph in the absence of any repeater signs saying otherwise.

Q: If a single-carriageway road has speed limit signs saying "50 mph", does that mean HGVs can legally travel at 50 mph rather than the standard 40 mph?

A: No, and frankly I'm surprised that anyone should think it would. The Highway Code is perhaps not as crystal clear as it should be on this issue, but Rule 103 does say: "You MUST NOT exceed the maximum speed limits for the road and for your vehicle."

The fact that a single-carriageway road has speed limit signs for 50 or 60 mph does not override the national limit of 40 mph for HGVs on single carriageway roads, and there is no requirement for specific speed limit signing for HGVs.

Q: I'm an HGV driver and have been charged with driving at 48 mph on the A556. Surely that's a dual-carriageway where the HGV limit is 50 mph?

A: No. A dual-carriageway is defined by the presence of a central reservation, either paved or grassed over. The number of lanes in either direction is irrelevant. Indeed, a dual-carriageway can have only one lane in each direction, so long as there is a central reservation. Four-lane single-carriageway rural main roads are relatively rare in the UK, but the A556 between M6 Junction 19 and Northwich is one of the longest stretches.

Q: I have been charged with a motoring offence. Can you recommend a good solicitor?

A: From personal experience, no, as I have a conviction-free driving record stretching back to January 1981 and firmly intend to keep it that way. There is a list of recommended solicitors on the ABD website, but I'm not sure how up to date it is. The ABD also offer a premium-rate legal helpline.

It is also worth taking a look at the Pepipoo website.

The following are some firms of solicitors with offices in the North-West with a specialism in motoring law, but I must stress I am not recommending them as such and have no personal experience of their services:

Byrne Frodsham & Co.
DFR Solicitors
Geoffrey Miller Solicitors
Levys Solicitors
Mary Monson Solicitors
Mortons Solicitors
Pannone LLP
Richard Silver Solicitors
Charles Stansfield & Co.
Stephensons Solicitors
Sweetmans Solicitors

The following firms are based in Scotland - bear in mind that Scotland has a distinct system of law from England and Wales, and so you will need local legal representation if accused of an offence:

Kilcoyne and Co. Solicitors
Michael Lyon Solicitors

The point is worth making that if you have been charged with any kind of motoring offence, particularly of a more complex or serious nature, it is always recommended that you take professional legal advice.

(Last updated May 2013)

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