Speed limit drop: did Met Police cut speed threshold by 1mph? ‘Stealth drop’ explained as drivers face fines

259% jump in drivers facing prosecution after Met Police quietly reduces the leeway given to those breaking speed limits

Hundreds of thousands more drivers have been hit with speeding fines after the Metropolitan Police reduced its “speed tolerance” around London.

The force quietly lowered the threshold at which motorists will be prosecuted by 1mph, leading to a 259% increase in drivers being hit with fines or told to attend speed awareness courses.

Between January and June this year 347,000 drivers have been warned they face prosecution for breaking the speed limit, compared with 97,000 in the six months before the change, according to The Times.

Driving at any speed above the posted speed limit is an offence but more forces allow a small degree of leeway before drivers are prosecuted. The Met’s threshold was previously more generous than the guidance set out by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) but the unannounced change, which was made in May 2019, brought it in line with most other forces.

The change has seen a 259% rise in motorists threatened with prosecution for speeding
The change has seen a 259% rise in motorists threatened with prosecution for speeding
The change has seen a 259% rise in motorists threatened with prosecution for speeding

The previous Met tolerance was 10% plus 3mph above the limit. That meant drivers could get away with driving at 25mph in a 20mph zone or 36mph in a 30mph zone before they would be prosecuted. The Met now applies the NPCC’s recommended threshold of 10% plus 2mph, meaning drivers will be prosecuted at 24mph in a 20 zone and 35mph in a 30 zone. On 70mph stretches, that means the Met’s threshold has dropped from 80mph to 79mph.

The force said that the change was not announced publicly because: “posted speed limits are the maximum speed that road users should travel at any time, subject of course to conditions irrespective of the speed threshold that police commence enforcement action.”

Responding to a Freedom of Information request, it confirmed: “The MPS changed the enforcement threshold from 10% +3 to 10% +2 mph with effect from 14 May 2019. The threshold is now consistent with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) guidelines.”

One taxi industry representative said the change had cost drivers their livelihood after being caught out by the lower tolerance level.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said the body  had seen “an absolutely massive increase” in the number of taxi drivers being caught multiple times in the space of a few weeks.

He told the Times that drivers ”some of whom have been driving 35 years as a professional driver without a single point on their licence”, were being hit with up to 12 points in the space of a month.