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Opinion & Analysis

#Stephen'sNiche: Up to speed?

As a victim of a traffic accident some years ago I’m wholly in favour of combatting speeding on our roads.

I therefore welcomed the news that speed cameras installed in some of our ‘hot spots’ are now operational and will be used to identify offending vehicles. Launching the initiative, transport minister Paul Balban revealed that 1,700 drivers were logged breaking speed limits in the space of just one weekend. Recklessness of this sort must be stopped, and if the cameras serve as a deterrent they’re a very worthwhile investment.

There are, however, some issues that I think need clarifying.

The Official Notice announcing the scheme includes the following paragraph:

“All speeding offences captured by (the cameras) will be transmitted on-line in real time mode to inform the offices of Gibraltar Car Parks Limited (GCPL). A Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) will then be issued and sent by registered mail to the registered owner of the vehicle. This will notify the owner of the intention to commence legal proceedings for the alleged offence of speeding. The owner must then reply to GCPL within 28 days providing the full name and address of the driver of the vehicle at the date and time of the offence”.

The only stipulated time limit is the 28 days for the vehicle owner. There’s no similar restriction on the issuing of a Notice of Intended Prosecution.

If many weeks or months elapse before the owner is notified of the alleged offence is it not unreasonable to expect him to remember who was driving the vehicle on a particular day, at a particular time? Better, surely, to specify time frames for both stages of the process.

And how will the authorities prove that an offence was, in fact, committed? What protection does the citizen have from a spurious, or mistaken accusation?

Another misgiving of mine is the one-size-fits-all fine, or “Conditional Offer” as it’s euphemistically termed. Regardless of whether offenders have broken the speed limit by one or one hundred kilometres per hour they can avoid prosecution by paying a £100 fixed penalty. To my mind it’s unfair that a driver who may inadvertently cause his vehicle to exceed the limit by a few kph is penalised just as severely as one who speeds dangerously and deliberately.

Still on the subject of the fixed penalty notice, these will be sent to the driver “as declared by the owner of the offending vehicle”. Maybe there are good reasons against it, but wouldn’t it be more straightforward to make the owner liable in the first instance and not the driver, just as a dog owner is responsible for his pet’s fouling?

Then there’s the question of motorcycles and mopeds, most of which have the number plate at the rear. Will the speed cameras be effective in identifying them, or will their riders be immune from this particular law enforcement measure?

Well, it seems that half of them will be!

The government’s press office told me that “at this point” the system identifies all four-wheeled, but only 50% of two-wheeled vehicles. It didn’t explain which, or by when 100% will be identified, and denied this meant the system discriminates against drivers.

Spare a thought too for postal workers and court staff, who are likely to see their workload increase as a result of this new policy.

My intention in this piece isn’t to shoot down the speed cameras scheme. Like I said at the outset I approve of measures that result in slowing down traffic, thereby making our streets safer. I would simply urge that common sense is deployed in conjunction with the cameras themselves.

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