Five myths about speeding debunked

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Kristian Dando

If you claim to have never strayed above the speed limit in your car, van or motorcycle then you’re either incredibly cautious or law-abiding, or more likely, telling porkies. There are stacks of pub table myths and a whole lot of hear say when it comes to speed and what you can get away with with. Were you doing 7mph above the speed limit?

Was the policeman wearing a hat when he or she zapped you? Was it 12 days after St Swithens Day, and was the wind blowing in a north-easterly direction? Had the camera been personally approved by the local mayor, and if so, were they wearing full ceremonial regalia?

Unfortunately, much of this is hot air, as we found out after a chat with the Institute of Advanced Motorists' chief examiner, Peter Rodger. A retired policeman, what he doesn’t know about the speed limit probably isn’t worth knowing...

You’re allowed to get away with being a bit over the speed limit

A statistic which is often bandied around is that you’re within your rights to get away with being over the speed limit by 10 per cent plus two miles per hour. “The speed limits are exactly that,” says Peter Rodger. “It doesn’t matter if you’re even 1mph over. “

Fortunately, Britain’s traffic cops have guidelines – and they are only guidelines, not rules – regarding the 10 per cent plus two figure. But whether or not you get let off is purely at the discretion of the police…

You can easily give mitigating circumstances

To appeal a speeding ticket, you need to be fairly certain that you can cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution – that is, that the people who caught you were wrong, or their equipment was faulty. Mitigating circumstances aren’t covered by the law. “There’s very few circumstances in which people can get out of a ticket,” says Peter. “The letter of the law is that you’re either speeding or you’re not. It doesn’t take mitigating circumstances into account. It doesn’t matter if your wife’s in labour and granny is in the back seat,” says Peter Rodger.

However, there have been plenty of instances of very public appeals against driving speeding offences being overturned with some tall stories. While playing for Manchester United David Beckham had a speeding fine overturned as he was “being pursued by paparazzi.” But this case was famously handled personally by Nick Freeman, traffic lawyer to the stars and self-styled ‘Mr Loophole’, a luxury that most of us probably can’t afford.

“If you say that you weren’t speeding, then you’re effectively pleading ‘not guilty’ in a criminal trial, and you need to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution,” says Rodger. “They only tend to be won in extreme cases.”

A lot of the time, going down the appeal route might prove to be more expensive. “ In almost all cases, you’ll end up with a higher penalty than the £60 fine,” says Peter. “You have to have an incredibly good excuse to win.”

Your speedometer is wrong anyway

Another myth about speed is that the speedometer in your car is purposefully inaccurate, to a 10 per cent margin. “Until about 30 years ago, that was the case,” says Peter. “Now, you can’t underestimate your speed. But you can overestimate it within 10 per cent and 4 km/h. This means that you can be driving at 62 mph when your speedo says 70.”

Don’t rely on your Sat Nav, either as there isn’t a statutory requirement for its accuracy when giving speed readings. “They only tend to measure distance from point to point in straight lines – some of them work on a 2D map, and we live in a 3D world,” says Peter.

You can plead ignorance

“A lot of people who get caught for speeding don’t know what the limit is, or didn’t know they were going so fast because they weren’t paying attention,” says Peter. “If you’re a driver who has trouble with sticking to the speed limit, then drive in a lower gear than you would ususally – the change in the revs will make you more away of what you’re doing, so it’s easier to sit at a certain speed.”

The national speed limit might vary, depending on what you’re driving. People who rent Transit-style vans might not realise that the national speed limit is 60mph for them rather than 70mph, for instance.

That getting caught is the end of the world

“If you don’t speed, then detection cameras are an irrelevance in your life,” says Peter. “But if you do get caught, take the experience and learn from it.”

If you’ve been zapped by a police camera whilst speeding, then it might have knock-on effects on the price of your car insurance. But never fear –’s spiffy car insurance comparison service might be able to help you get a cheaper deal.