Cautious welcome for new speed penalties

A FLEXIBLE new system of speeding penalties last nightreceived a cautious welcome in Suffolk.Under government plans new points meted out to speeding motorists will depend on how fast they were driving.

A FLEXIBLE new system of speeding penalties last nightreceived a cautious welcome in Suffolk.

Under government plans new points meted out to speeding motorists will depend on how fast they were driving. Those marginally over the limit will receive just two points on their licence while the most serious offenders will get six. The move comes in response to mounting anger from motorists over increasing use of speed cameras.

Leading road safety figures upheld the approach of not overwhelming Suffolk roads with the cameras but rather using them to target accident blackspots.

Peter Monk, Suffolk county councillor responsible for public protection, said: "I think it's always a good idea to not be too draconian. We have been careful about how we place our cameras in Suffolk and we haven't jumped in like other counties.

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"We've looked at specific areas, such as the Haughley Bends, where we have dramatically reduced the number of fatalities and accidents there, and also Coddenham.

"We haven't rushed in and put cameras in and we are constantly reviewing it as well. We came in quite late to the safety camera partnership.

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"I would rather in a way that we didn't have any fines or any speeders but that's not practical.

"We have always done it in a more educative process, where there's a 30mph limit of course we enforce it but we also have the approach of reminding people about their speed."

Suffolk currently has four fixed speed cameras on the A14 at Haughley. There are other cameras at the A140/B1078 junction at Coddenham and the A12/A1094 junction at Benhall. Cameras are also installed along the A140 at Brome and Earl Stonham, the A1065 at Brandon, on the A1144 at Lowestoft and the A1304 at Newmarket.

Christine Laverock, chairman of Suffolk Police Authority, said there were no plans to remove the fixed speed cameras in the county.

She defended monitoring speed as an effective way of cutting the number of road crashes, and said that the police were not there to catch people exceeding the limit but to ensure the roads were kept safe.

She added: "The police do get complaints from members of the public for spending time on speeding. I suspect these plans will be popular with the public."

Meanwhile Essex Police Authority is to launch a "fundamental review" of the use of speed cameras.

Essex Police issued almost 200,000 fixed penalty notices in 2002, compared with just over 60,000 fines written out by the Metropolitan Police.

Authority chairman Robert Chambers said: "I think we may have been going over the top a bit. That's why we are looking at the whole issue.

Last week Essex was branded the "speed camera capital" of Britain with more cameras than any other county - in the region of 100 fixed and mobile roadside cameras - and that despite the prolific success of cameras in catching motorists, death and serious injury rates were not going down.

Mr Chambers added he supported moves to introduce new measures meaning the number of points given to a speeding motorist would depend on the speed, time and location of the offence.

Drivers currently caught breaking the speed limit automatically receive three points regardless of their actual speed.

An automatic ban is slapped on anyone racking up 12 points - or four offences - within three years.

Motorists caught speeding way over the limit can face up to six penalty points or disqualification if they are convicted by a court. A consultation on the changes will be launched next month alongside independent research commissioned by the Government into the impact of speed cameras.

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