1 Be it accidental or bloody-minded, we all speed. Blame it on our non-stop lifestyles, the culture of Top Gear, those Fast and Furious movies or just Fleetwood Macís The Chain, itís not an issue thatís calming down any time soon. Which is why the law flexed its long arm in April when the Sentencing Council, which has nothing to do with Paul Weller, and everything to do with ensuring an even playing field in judicial verdicts, had a rethink about how to deter the worst culprits.
2 The change seeks to hit brazen speedsters, given broad agreement from consulting bodies that existing fines didnít reflect the exponential rise in risk as speeds increase. So, if you steam along well above set limits, e.g. from 41mph in a 20 zone, 51mph in a 30, 66mph in a 40, 76mph in a 50 and 91mph in a 60, itís no longer deemed sufficient to hit you with a 100 per cent charge of your weekly earnings. The figureís now risen to 150 per cent, with this trigger for motorway driving set at 101mph. In real terms, this means the maximum you can be clobbered rises from £1,000 to £2,500.
3 Such bodies as the RAC support the new guidelines: ìHopefully, hitting these offenders harder in the pocket will make them think twice before doing it again in the future,î says a spokesman. But they have triggered a chorus of harrumphing among pro-driving protagonists. ìWhat hope has any driver now?î cries the Alliance of British Drivers, while the Honest John website sniffs that ìwhile speeding is easier to police, there are greater road safety concerns attached to driver distraction than creeping slightly over the speed limit.î Elsewhere, comment columns fizz with indignation: ìAnother money grab by an authoritarian government interested in extracting money not safety,î writes one shameless speedophile, ìWe are governed by unrealistic acts designed by bureaucrats utterly divorced from reality. Why do we accept this imposition of yet more costs and extortion? Are we really so stupid as to believe this is all for our own benefit?
4 To gauge if we are so hard done by, letís have a look at how speeding as a social, or anti-social, issue is tackled further afield. In China, a typical speeding fine is little more than £20, and although the country struggles to cope with its nascent motoring culture, the fine system is largely automatic with speeders receiving their penalties in the post. China has recently seen a huge demand for fake number plate stickers among those seeking to dodge the law, but the penalty for using them is up to 15 days in the slammer. Meanwhile, the land of the not-so free, Virginia, is deemed the most draconian state: cruise along at anything from 80mph up (or 20mph more than the posted limit) and you face a reckless driving charge, for which the state can hand out a $2,500 fine plus a year in jail.
5 If youíre flagged down in Russia by the traffic police, also known as the GAI, firstly donít try any lame jokes about their acronym, and secondly do pull over, as they have the right to shoot you if you donít. Itís not so much the ticket price you have to consider, as the going rate to have it conveniently forgotten about: as little as $2 can see you on your way. In India, being caught for racing on the road incurs a standard fine of 500 Rupees, or just over £6, although there are moves afoot, given the average of 400 daily deaths on the nationís roads, to increase the rates. Across the water in Qatar, the speeding fine system works on a points basis, but with an unpleasant twist: if youíre caught, you arenít told of the fine. Itís your duty to regularly check with the Ministry of Interior that you have a clean record. Neglecting to do that can mean your fine bars you from leaving the country.
6 Perhaps unsurprisingly, the largest issued speeding ticket to date stems from a violation in law-loving Switzerland, where in 2010 a Swedish driver was clocked at 186mph in a 6.0-litre Mercedes-Benz SLS. His fine? A stonking £650,000. The earnings-related penalty was calculated on the basis of 300 daysí work at £2,166 per day. Suddenly our latest speed regulations sound incredibly lax.