Jim Fitzpatrick, the Transport Minister, has set out new guidelines on penalties for speeding in a Road Safety consultation paper. The proposed changes will mean that motorists caught driving significantly over the speed limit could face a penalty of six points on their licence, rather than the current three points. This would mean that after two speeding offences a driver’s licence could be revoked, without a court hearing. As the law stands, only the courts can impose a penalty of more than three points for a speeding offence.

The Government is hoping that by tightening up the law it will provide a deterrent for drivers. Those caught driving between 90mph and 100mph in a 70mph zone, at 60mph in a 40mph zone and at 50mph in a 30mph zone could all face the increased penalty. In these circumstances, drivers will be given a six point penalty and a fine of £100. Currently, the penalty is three points and a £60 fine.

In a discussion paper put forward in 2004, the Department for Transport had suggested that drivers caught narrowly exceeding the speed limit would only receive a two point penalty and a £40 fine. However, it appears that the Government does not intend to make this change. Rob Gifford of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety recently stated that “lowering the penalty for any speeding offence would encourage drivers to take more chances.” This attitude is unsurprising, given that in 2007 there were 727 deaths in which speeding was deemed to be a contributory factor. Research shows that a pedestrian who is hit by a car travelling at 35mph is twice as likely to be killed as one hit at 30mph. Mr Fitzpatrick is of the view that “it would be counter-productive and against everything we are saying to tell someone ‘you were doing 35mph so you should only get two points’. The big message we are putting out is that it’s 30 for a reason.”

Under the current Association of Chief Police Officer guidelines, drivers are entitled to a ten per cent leeway over the limit, plus 1mph (i.e. 34mph in a 30mph limit). Mr Gifford has called for the police to be given more power to enforce even minor breaches of speed limits.

The consultation closes at the end of this month