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Speeding, penalty tickets, and the Law: How to lose your Driving Licence


Is there a margin of tolerance within which motorists can exceed speed limits and yet expect to avoid prosecution?

The National Police Chiefs’ Council issues guidelines which currently set out a formula whereby motorists should face no action unless they break the speed limit by 10 per cent plus 2mph. This would mean that a motorist in a 20mph limit could exceed the limit by driving at 23mph without receiving a fixed penalty or being offered a speed awareness course. (On a 70mph road the comparable speed would be 78 mph.) However, the ‘law’ recognises no such margins of tolerance; if you exceed the speed limit you are breaking the law and commit an offence. Without a doubt motorists should obey the law and do risk prosecution if they exceed speed limits.

How are motorists misled?

The guidelines issued by the NPCC are intended for police forces. However, not all police forces observe the guidance at any one time. This means that one could currently exceed a 20mph speed limit by 3mph in London without expecting to be prosecuted. However, driving at the same speed in a different part of the country could meet with a different result. This is clearly a recipe for confusion. Furthermore, one cannot be completely confident that the guidance will always be followed even in an area in which the police force has been instructed to follow the guidelines.

The Consequences

The Sunday Times, 25.9.22, reported that,
‘The Met reduced its speed tolerances from a formula of 10 per cent plus 3mph (25mph in a 20 zone) to 10 per cent plus 2mph on May 14, 2019, but did not announce it, saying: “Posted speed limits are the maximum speed that road users should travel at any time … irrespective of the speed threshold that police commence enforcement action.” ’

The newspaper states that ‘’… 347,000 drivers have been warned they will be prosecuted for speeding between January and June this year, compared with 97,000 in the six months before the change.’’ This is clearly a dramatic increase in the number of prosecutions.

Bearing in mind that once a motorist has 12 or more penalty points endorsed on his or her licence, for offences committed within 3 years of each other, that he/she is likely to be disqualified for a minimum of 6 months (a penalty points disqualification which can only be avoided by proving that ‘exceptional hardship’ would result). Thus the increase in prosecutions has very serious consequences for motorists (as loss of licence is often accompanied by loss of job, for example).


Motorists should always drive within the official speed limits both to avoid the risk of prosecution and to ensure road safety (breaking speed limits is associated with increased deaths and more serious injuries amongst pedestrians). Motorists should always be mindful of the number of penalty points endorsed on their DVLA records. Once the number reaches 12 or more it can be difficult to prove that ‘exceptional hardship’ would follow as legal precedent (case law) has ensured that this is a high barrier to overcome. Therefore, notwithstanding the proliferation of speed cameras around the country motorists would do well to try to ensure that they minimise the breaking of speed limits bearing in mind that one conviction too many may well result in a 6 month ban. If you are at risk of loss of licence for a one-off offence or because of an accumulation of penalty points don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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