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Speeding … what you need to know

The number of speeding fines issued to motorists is now the highest it has ever been as a new generation of digital speed cameras catch drivers creeping over the limit with increasing regularity.

In fact, in 2014, more than 115,000 motorists in England and Wales were issued with fines of at least £100 by magistrates and in Avon and Somerset the number handed out rose by 34 per cent.

Between 2010 and 2014, a total of 452,540 speeding fines were issued by magistrates, netting the Treasury more than £45million.

Of course, the easiest and safest way to avoid speeding fines is to obey the speed limit, but as cars get more powerful, it may be easier to edge over the legal limit without always realising - especially on roads you are familiar with.

However, difficulties escalate when the points add up and you reach 12 points on your licence - meaning an automatic six month driving ban if you are a first time offender.

Is there anything you can do?

It is possible to avoid or reduce a ban when reaching 12 points if the Court accepts a submission of what is known as 'exceptional hardship'.

All motorists are allowed to make a case for being able to keep their licence and the Court will take into account individual circumstances relating to the effect a driving disqualification would have.

If the motorist is able to show that a driving ban would be an exceptionally harsh punishment, the Court can either reduce the ban from the standard six months or even allow the driver to keep their licence.

Although there is no specific legal definition of 'exceptional hardship', what is clear is that the onus is on the defendant to convince the Court that a ban, in their case, would cause exactly that. It is a complicated area of law and one in which specialist legal guidance is highly advisable.

  • James Hardiman, of Croyde, North Devon, the owner of three travel companies, was let off a ban after he failed to comply with road markings, taking him to 12 points. He claimed it would prevent him doing his role and risk the jobs of 250 of his staff.
  • Former England cricket captain, Andrew Flintoff, already had nine points for speeding when he escaped a driving ban for exceeding the limit in his Bentley. Magistrates accepted a ban would lead to exceptional hardship because of the effect on those who rely on his extensive charity work and the privacy of his three children.

Instant driving ban

On average, up to 250,000 motorists a year are banned from driving when their speed exceeds the designated limit by such a margin that it becomes within the magistrates' power to instantly take away their licence for between seven and 56 days or, in extreme cases, for as long as 120 days.

There is no 'exceptional hardship' argument available under these circumstances, so the only option is to try and persuade the magistrates to award penalty points instead of issuing an instant ban.

Common questions…

  • Can I argue it was an emergency? No …. unless you were actually driving an emergency vehicle. Otherwise you'd have to prove you had no alternative but to exceed the speed limit in a real emergency - for example, a passenger becoming seriously ill in your car.
  • Is a ban more likely the faster I was going? Often, yes. The faster you are driving over the designated speed limit, the greater the risk you will end up losing your licence.

For help and advice on this area of the law, please contact Michael Gupwell directly at Wards Solicitors, Bristol.

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