Would a massive fine stop you speeding?

This is a photo of a man caught speeding, he could be fined 150% of his weekly wage after 24th April 2017
Caught going 66mph (and above) in a 40mph zone? Stricter sentencing is coming your way
"In 2015, 166,695 people in England and Wales were sentenced for speeding offences, and 166,216 were fined"
  • | by Amanda Bathory

Get caught speeding tomorrow and you could be be ticketed for 100% of your weekly wage for up to £1,000, or £2,500 if you're caught on the motorway.

But a review of sentencing guidelines for the England and Wales magistrates’ courts has made for harder and more costly punishments, increasing the most serious fines by 50%.

Fast-forward to 24 April, 2017 and the limit will increase to 175% of your weekly wage. Drivers might be disqualified for 56 days if the breach is excessive.

The average UK worker earns £26,364 annually, putting approximately £760.50 in their pockets for every week and a half worked before tax.

With bills, mortgages and mouths to feed, a 150% is enough to make you wince. 

Will greater sentences reduce speed?

In 2015, 166,695 people in England and Wales were sentenced for speeding offences and 166,216 were fined.

The average fine wasn’t as shocking, racking up to £188 per sentence. But two people actually went to prison for speeding in 2013.

If six months in the clink doesn’t stop drivers putting the pedal to the metal, will the 150% fine have any impact at all?

Fifth Gear presenter Vicki Butler-Henderson, reckons: “Speeding in urban areas is not on - there are far too many risks.

"I am all for increased fines for speeding in urban areas, and there should be more police monitoring for bad driving, too.This is a photo of Fifth Gear presenter Vicki Butler-Henderson.

“When it comes to the 70mph speed limit on motorways, this was put in place back in 1965. A time when cars had no seatbelts, let alone anti-lock brakes and airbags.

"In 2017 there has to be more flexibility with the limit because there are occasions when you might find yourself with other traffic at 80mph.”

Motoring TV presenter Mike Brewer agrees there should be allowances on motorways: “I think it's a good thing particularly in towns and around schools.

"Maybe to make things even they should raise motorway speed limits to 80mph,” he says.

Policy and research director at road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, Neil Greig, suggests that the increased fine could simply reflect the growth of the economy, rather than signify a move towards tougher punishments:

“At IAM RoadSmart we support more consistent penalties but there is no clear evidence that they actually reduce offending.

“An update of the levels of fines was probably overdue to keep up with incomes and inflation.

“It is important that the new fines structure is well publicised to give it maximum effect. If more drivers are aware that their fine will be related to their income it might make them twice before speeding.”

Can't stop speeding? Blame your brain

This is a photo of a car driving safely through the countryside.

Cognitive neuroscientist Chris Chambers told The Guardian that drivers may be affected by psychological biases when they get behind the wheel, leading to bouts of invincibility and dangerous habits such as speeding.

For example, drivers failed to notice their own aggressive behaviour, dehumanised other road users and overestimated their own driving skills.

According to research in 2004, drivers became more reckless when travelling solo, and a study in 2008 found that drivers put their foot down to reach their destination faster, but were unprepared for an increased braking time.
If you’re prone to ‘punch it’ past the speed limit (and any concerns about the 150% fine bite the dust the minute an Audi driver tries to overtake you), a few moments of calm before setting off may help slow down fast habits. 

An (un)progressive punishment

THis is an image of £20 notes. Motorists can be fined 150% of their weekly wage for speeding after 24th April 2017

If you think the fine is heavy-handed, spare a thought for Finnish drivers.

In Finland, speeding fines are calculated based on the offender’s income - one 16th of the mean monthly income after tax - and it can get quite expensive.

‘Progressive punishments’ cost one Finn £39,000 in a single speeding incident, after announcing €6.5m earnings on their tax return. 

The new powers awarded to magistrates might not worry wealthier speeders thanks to the cap, but a £2,500 fine may cause distress to the less well-off drivers who are caught speeding. 

But, the severity of the punishment depends on how drastically the driver raced past the limit and the 150% fine is the worst of the worst.

The police are watching for drivers who excessively speed. For instance, if you jump to warp in a 60mph zone and exceed 91mph, or if you gun it in third and beyond 41mph in a 20mph zone.

Sentences and car insurance

If you are slapped with a 150% fine, it may have an impact on your car insurance premium.

“The 150% speeding fine is applied in excessive circumstances, but there are exclusions such as a clean record and good character that may reduce your sentence.

"In addition, if you can prove a real emergency made you break the speed limit, magistrates may offer you more leniency," says Matt Oliver, Gocompare.com’s car insurance expert. 

“Nonetheless, a conviction may have an impact on your car insurance premium. It’s your responsibility to announce motoring prosecutions - including punishments such as fines, points and disqualifications - to an insurer when applying for a car insurance policy.

“You may fear a price hike, but if you withhold details of a 150% speeding fine, you could be accused of ‘misrepresentation’  and the insurer may refuse to pay your claims and even revoke your policy.

“It’s the insurer’s choice whether those circumstances raise your premium, or if they insure you at all, but make sure you shop around to find an insurer who can protect you at a fair price.

“To reduce the cost of the premium, you may want to take a speed awareness course.”

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