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Can I be arrested for speeding?

Updated: Dec 10, 2023


Speed limits. Judge speaking in the court room.
can I be arrested for speeding?

Long answer?

Probably not.

Short answer?

Yes.


Lets focus on the short answer.


People are arrested for speeding.

Quite often as it happens.


He overnighted in a cell,
the police Airbnb if you will


You see we don’t live in Germany where you can drive at whatever speed you like.

We have speed limits here.

We all know that but consider the notion of a speed limit.

Some people assume that it’s a ‘marker’, an ‘estimate’, something to be ‘aimed at’, sort of thing.


And well, you know yourself, as long as you keep it to within ‘respectable bounds’, as the thinking goes, and don’t go ‘mad’, you should be ok.


That encourages some to take a chance, to assume that the worst that’ll happen is that they’ll get an earful from the police officer and a ticket.

And penalty points.

Don’t forget those.

None of that’s great but that’s assumed to be as bad as it gets.


Often not.


The speed limit on motorways is 120kph.

The operative word is ‘limit’.

You see that’s what speed limits are: they’re limits, the maximum permissible speed in that place.

They’re not aspirational, guesstimates, something to be aimed at, like a dartboard.


Try convincing a Judge that the
golfing event that you were late for
was a good excuse for driving at 195kph


WHEN PEOPLE DRIVE AT excessive speeds, they don’t get a ticket, they get arrested.

They get taken from their car at the side of the road, put into a police vehicle, brought to the police station and maybe placed in a cell for a while.


Then they get brought to court.

And now a Judge is supposed to decide whether to disqualify them for 2 years.


Yes, two years.






I HAVE REPRESENTED a number of people across the country faced with imminent disqualification due to speed.

All were driving on motorways.

All were driving at a high speed, the lowest was 169kph, the highest was 202kph.

All were arrested.


The common excuse -I use the word 'excuse' loosely- was being late for an appointment of some sort or simply not paying attention.

In other words, there was no emergency.

There almost never is.


One was arrested late on a Friday evening and because no court was sitting he was held in a police cell overnight and brought to court the next day.

Yes, that’s right.

He overnighted in a cell, the police Airbnb if you will.


For speeding?

Not quite. For something else.

You see, none of the motorists were arrested for speeding; you can’t be arrested for speeding.

The law doesn’t allow it.

They were arrested for dangerous driving.



Its generally seen as driving that
falls ‘far below the standard of a competent and careful driver’.
How many competent and careful drivers would drive at 196kph?
Exactly.



DANGEROUS DRIVING IS A far more serious than speeding.

And the penalties are far more severe.

Far more.


Firstly, you can be arrested for it and secondly if you’re convicted you will be thrown off the road.

For two years.

That’s 100% guaranteed.

And don’t waste your time talking about ‘mitigation’, ‘never in trouble before’, ‘need the car for work’ etc, etc.

Try convincing a Judge that the golfing event that you were late for was a good excuse for driving at 195kph.

Good luck with that.


Because people can’t be arrested for speeding this is how the police deal with people who travel at high speed.


They don’t bother giving tickets, they just arrest them.


Now you might claim that in your opinion your driving wasn’t dangerous, and that all you were doing was speeding on a motorway.


Again, good luck telling a Judge that.


THE ROAD TRAFFIC ACT defines dangerous driving as:


“Driving a vehicle in a public place at a speed, or in a manner which, having regards to all the circumstances of the case (including the nature, condition and the use of the place and the amount of traffic which then actually is or might reasonably be expected then to be therein) is dangerous to the public”.


The first thing that you notice is that we’re not clearly told what dangerous driving is.

I mean, the law defines theft as “dishonestly appropriating property without the consent of the owner with the intention of depriving it’s owner of it”.

That’s very clear.

We all know what theft is from reading that.


Assault is similar.


You’re guilty of assault if you “without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, intentionally or recklessly, directly or indirectly [apply] force to or cause an impact on the body of another.”

Again, that seems straightforward.


But dangerous driving is different.

It’s not straightforward.


It doesn’t specify what it is; it just tells you that it can be many different things coming together in that place at that time, e.g. overtaking on a bend could be seen as dangerous driving.

So could tailgating someone that ends in a crash.


But look at the first line of the definition: “Driving a vehicle in a public place at a speed…”


Speed.

So, speed its own can be seen as dangerous driving.

So what speed is considered dangerous driving?

That’s something for the court to decide but if you’re driving on a motorway at 140kph then it seems that this would not likely be considered dangerous.


But this is dependent on other factors.


The definition of dangerous driving refers to a whole host of things which combined might constitute dangerous driving e.g. the condition of your vehicle, the condition of the road, the amount of traffic there, weather conditions etc.


Consider this: dangerous driving is ‘very bad driving’.

Obviously.


But here’s something else: its generally seen as driving that falls ‘far below the standard of a competent and careful driver’.


How many competent and careful drivers would drive at 196kph?

Exactly.



Back to the 140kph example above.


If it was pouring rain, with heavy traffic, and your car had a bald tyre or was missing a rear brake light, then that 140kph might well be seen as dangerous.

You see it’s the context that determines the outcome.


Here’s another example.


The speed limit in built up areas is 50kph (30mph in old money).

Imagine your flight back from holidays was delayed 6 hours and you end up getting into the airport at 3am instead of 9pm.


You head home and are driving through the main street of your local town.

It’s a long straight, wide road that has a school located halfway down the main street, a few shops either side and a garage at the end.

But its 4am and there’s nobody around as you drive through the pedestrian crossing.

Weather conditions are dry and visibility is clear.

The limit is 50kph and you decide to ‘put the boot down’, travelling down that wide, straight street at 70kph.


At the end of that street the police are doing a speed check just outside the garage and pull you over.

You acknowledge that you were speeding, and you tell the officer all about your travel chaos. He’s feeling charitable and lets you go with just a warning.


In two years’ time your insurance company
will be licking its lips as it
plucks your new quote out of thin air.
Everyone knows how understanding those people are.
If that doesn’t persuade you to keep an eye on the speedometer
nothing will.



Now imagine that same scenario again, except with some changes.


Its almost 9am and you’re driving to work.

But you’re late.


You’re driving through that same street with exactly the same weather conditions.

Traffic is busy and there are lots of children walking to school.

Some are getting ready at the pedestrian crossing ahead.

Some elderly people are coming out of shops.


For some reason your alarm didn’t go off, or maybe it did, and you pressed snooze, you can’t remember.

Either way you’re late and this is your second time being late.

Your boss is going to kill you, you just know it.







You look at the clock on the dashboard. You figure that if you can keep moving and maybe pick up the pace in a break in traffic you might just get to work only a few minutes late.


Then you can make up some excuse about a road being closed or something.

That’s believable. The Council are always digging up the roads these days.


You’re in luck!

As you approach the top of the main street, the entire road ahead is completely empty of traffic.


You put the boot down and sail down the street at 70kph.

You grimace. It’s a risk you know but the last thing you need right now is to be bawled out by your boss for being late.


You tell yourself it’s worth it. Not nice, but necessary.

As you zip through the pedestrian crossing you think to yourself that you might just get through this.


You start to congratulate yourself.

As you zoom ahead, you’re only vaguely aware of some kids at the lights waiting to cross.






All of a sudden, a motorcycle police officer is right behind you.

You ask yourself where the hell he’s come from.

He motions you to pull over and you do.

You look at your dash and try to remember what speed you were doing.

Another ticket? You already got one of those four months ago.

More points. Great.


You look at the clock. At best you he might just give you a warning and let you go.

You’re still on course to be only a few minutes late so you get your apology ready.

The police officer tells you to step out of the car.


He’s not going to give you a ticket, which is a relief.

Instead, he tells you that he’s arresting you for dangerous driving.


_________________


NOW LOOK AT those two scenarios again.

It’s the same street, same weather conditions, same speed.

In both cases you’re travelling at 70kph.


But they’re different.

The difference is the context.

In the first example the driving is taking place at 4am, in the second its 9am.


Now look at the definition of dangerous driving again.


Its driving that “[includes] the nature, condition and the use of the place and the amount of traffic which then actually is or might reasonably be expected then to be therein…”


Clearly at 4am there are no schools open and almost everyone is in bed.

The ‘use of the place and the amount of traffic which then actually is or might reasonably be expected’ at 4am is therefore quite low.


The reverse is the case five hours later at 9am.


Now you can expect heavy traffic and plenty of pedestrians.

What may not be dangerous driving in one context may well be in another.

Even if all other factors are the same.


Here’s something else to consider.

If you are convicted of dangerous driving, you’ll go off the road.

In two years’ time your insurance company will be licking its lips as it plucks your new quote out of thin air.

Everyone knows how understanding those people are.


If that doesn’t persuade you to keep an eye on the speedometer nothing will.


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