April 10, 2006 at 12:56 pm #11885Born2BMildParticipant
Drivers use address scam to cheat speed cameras
Gaby Hinsliff, political editor
Sunday April 9, 2006
Rogue drivers are evading thousands of speeding tickets by exploiting a loophole in the law that enables them to ignore roadside cameras.
One motorist has been clocked speeding more than 100 times without being caught, while another has got away with driving at 119mph in a built-up area. The phenomenon has prompted police to call for a change in the law.
The scam involves offenders registering their cars at one of a network of ‘mass-mailing’ addresses used legitimately by businesses instead of at their own homes. When the driver triggers a camera, the penalty notice is sent to the mass-mailing address. Police seeking the motorist find only a shopfront where nobody lives.
Speed cameras generated more than £114m in fines last year and are credited by safety campaigners with saving lives. Figures released last week revealed that the speed of most drivers had dropped as the number of cameras had increased.
Tory frontbencher Andrew Selous, who is campaigning for a change in the law, said uncontrolled speeding by individuals with no fear of being caught risked deaths and serious injuries.
‘There is the danger, and there is the sheer injustice of it,’ he said. ‘If you or I are caught doing 35mph in a 30mph limit, we get three points on our licences and a £60 fine. People may resent that, but understand there is a reason for it. But there are segments of the population who have wised up to clever ways of getting round this, which is extremely dangerous and downright unfair.’
The MP, who represents Bedfordshire South West, was alerted to the scam by his local force, which he said had recorded 1,000 offences in one month alone on which no action was taken because the cars could not be traced. That figure could include some overseas drivers only registered abroad, but also those using the mailing-address ploy.
Drivers have been photographed gesturing obscenely at the camera, apparently knowing they will not be caught, but the cameras do not usually yield identifiable images of their faces.
Another 13 forces have reported similar problems.
Selous recently met South Yorkshire’s chief constable, Meredydd Hughes, representing the Association of Chief Police Officers, and was told the association was seeking legislative changes. It is not illegal to register a car somewhere other than the driver’s home; employees may be given company cars registered at the firm’s headquarters. It is, however, an offence to give the DVLA false details.
The mail-drop addresses often consist only of locked mailboxes from which post can be collected, rather than staffed offices. Insurance may be registered at the same false address, or the offenders may drive uninsured.
Edmund King of the RAC Foundation said the incentives to cheat could have increased because more offences were now enforced by camera: ‘It’s not just speed cameras people are trying to avoid: in London it’s things like the congestion charge, bus lane enforcement with bus cameras, and yellow box junction enforcement.’
But he said the planned introduction of automatic number plate recognition cameras, which automatically connect a passing numberplate to a database with insurance and other driver details, would be harder to deceive.
One of the most frequently used mailing addresses, in Chelmsford, Essex, has been used by drivers caught speeding in several counties. Tory MP Simon Burns, who represents the town, said the Home Office appeared reluctant to act: ‘They argue it’s all about company cars. But if it’s happening here I would be very surprised if it’s not happening elsewhere.’
A Home Office spokesman said the national identity register being introduced to back up planned ID cards would help, and added: ‘We are examining how serious the issue is.’
A Department for Transport spokes-man said the DVLA database was ‘97.5 per cent accurate’.
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