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‘We don’t have to be visible’: Speed reduction officer busts myths about laws of the road

Gareth Thomas, a speed reduction officer, spoke to North Wales Live about some of the biggest myths when it comes to speed cameras. Gareth said: “The aim of cameras is to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads. Go Safe prefers to educate drivers rather than punish them with fines and penalty points.” One of the biggest myths, is that speed vans have to be visible at all times. According to Gareth, there are no laws about visibility so there is nothing to stop an officer from operating in the dark.

Gareth said: “Legally, we don’t have to be visible. I could camouflage myself if I wanted to – but it’s all about being fair, education and preventing an accident.

“Even if I parked my van and went for a walk somewhere, it would deter people speeding right away.”

Also, any car that passes a Go Safe van is recorded on the officer’s camera.

Therefore, the rumour that officers can only catch motorists travelling in one direction is not true.

If you are exceeding the speed limit, whether in the same or opposite direction to a van, it is likely you will receive a speeding ticket.

However, one rumour that is true is that the 10 percent rule does indeed exist.

You will not get a ticket provided your speed does not exceed the limit by more than 10 percent, according to Gareth.

So for example, travelling at 35mph or above in a 30mph zone will be recorded as a speeding offence.

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However, Go Safe say thresholds vary and can change without notice.

Officially, any speeding offence occurs at 1mph above the limit, but most forces will allow a variance.

Officers are not a revenue collector for the government, according to Gareth.

Gareth explained: “We’re not here to get figures or to make money. We’re just here to catch the people who are speeding.

“If I get a day where I don’t get any drivers speeding, then I know I’ve done my job.

“If I’ve been working an eight-hour shift, I just hope at least one person that day has escaped injury or a crash has been avoided.”

The current position with Go Safe is that if you are caught speeding twice in 20 minutes, it will be treated as one offence.

In theory, a driver with a previously clean licence could be caught several times on the same day, and as a result, be at risk of disqualification.

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If you are caught speeding several times on the same journey, you could be at risk of a penalty points disqualification.

Gareth says this can happen quite easily, for example where several speed cameras are placed on the same road.

Another true rumour is that it is indeed illegal to obstruct a van’s view of the road.

Moreover, officers can enforce things other than speeding.

Gareth says that officers are there to make sure you are wearing a seatbelt and are not using your mobile phones behind the wheel.

Anyone caught breaking these laws will be prosecuted.

This is the reason why sometimes there is a GoSafe speed van in an area where there are already permanent speed cameras.

Furthermore, it is not actually illegal to eat behind the wheel.

However, if you get distracted while snacking behind the wheel, the police could prosecute you for careless driving.

Gareth, said: “It is endorsable. I had one lady in view once and she was looking in the mirror and putting lipstick on.

“She was riding on the cat’s eyes in the centre of the road and veering.

“I recommended that she was prosecuted for driving without due care and attention.”

If drivers choose to flash their headlights to warn others about a speed van, they could be in breach of the law.

Under section 89 of the Police Act 1997, it is an offence to “wilfully obstruct a constable in the execution of his/her duty”.

However, Gareth says while it is an offence, it is very difficult to prove.

He said: “It doesn’t bother me that people flash to warn them of the speed van – I just want to educate people and the van to act as a speed deterrent.”

For technical reasons, a speed van will only remain in a certain spot for 90 minutes, Gareth said.

During his average eight hour shift, Gareth will normally visit three different spots across the region where he has been ordered to visit.

The minimum penalty for being caught speeding on the UK’s roads is a £100 fine.

But Gareth explained in some circumstances, police can offer speed awareness courses, an alternative to a fine and penalty points.

Gareth said: “An accredited course is far more likely to improve driver behaviour and consequently make our roads safer.

“Courses are available to drivers who respond quickly to the ‘notices’ and who were driving at no more than 10 per cent, plus 9 mph above the posted speed limit.”

So, for example, anyone travelling over 86mph on a motorway would not be offered the awareness course.

For those who do not have a clean licence at the time of the offence, it is unlikely the awareness course will be offered.


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