With more Gatso cameras and speed traps on UK roads than ever, motoring fines are, sadly, a way of life. As drivers we are worried about where we park our car, about the speed we are doing and where we are dong it, and even which bit of the road we are driving on.
And all because we are trying to avoid accidental and expensive points on our licences, and accidental expense too!
So how can we avoid getting ‘stung’ with a motoring offence that we commit ‘accidentally’? Here’s some advice on avoidance and what you can do to keep your licence clean and your bank balance healthier.
It's very easy to get snapped for drifting slightly over the limit, but there is no real defence if you decide to mindlessly speed..
The best way to avoid a speeding ticket is to behave yourself and obey the law, but it's probably a good idea to make a mental note of where cameras are on your regular journeys and form a habit of sticking rigidly to, or slightly below, the limit in those locations. If it’s an area that you are unsure of, watch out for speed limits, and listen to your sat nav (if it’s on) – that telltale beep is a good one to listen for.
But, if you've been ‘flashed’ and photographed, then first of all check that all the details on the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) are correct. What it should do is list, in full, details of the vehicle, and date, time and place you were snapped at. If not, you can contest the fine. The NIP should also arrive within 14 days of the offence - if it hasn't then you can challenge it.
You are also well within your rights to ask to see the photograph taken by the camera and any other supporting evidence. If there is any ambiguity about who was driving, you’ll find this quite useful.
Firstly, as obvious as it may seem, plan ahead. If you know you're heading somewhere with heavy parking restrictions then check out potential spots beforehand. And if you're travelling to London, with its well-known lack of parking spaces and high-cost car parks, you’ll need to plan even more!
Secondly, know your road markings. Double yellow lines mean no parking, double reds mean absolutely no stopping at all, and single yellow lines are time dependant – but watch out for single yellows on the actual pavement. And, avoid at all costs 'zig zag' lines leading up to a zebra crossing!
Thirdly, if you do find a space and you need to pay for parking, never leave the car alone to get change. Even if you genuinely are nipping to the nearest bank, this excuse won't wash with most parking attendants.
It’s all part of planning ahead, and then it’s just your parking that will be fine, not your wallet!
But, if you do get a ticket, and you think that it’s unfair, then appeal. Up to 65% of appeals are successful, and parking attendants aren’t renowned for sticking exactly to the strict regulations set out by local councils, so the powers that be are often very quick to drop the charges.
Write to the issuing body named on the back of the ticket and explain clearly and politely why you think you shouldn't be fined. Probably best to be honest and not make up a wild and wacky excuse though - chances are the ticket appeal people have heard it all before.
Even though the Congestion Charge is seen as a ‘tax on drivers’, there is little excuse for not paying it. So planning ahead is the best way to avoid any fines beyond the actual charge itself..
The best advice is that if you know that you'll be driving into the London Congestion Charging zone then pay in advance. You can pay up to 90 days ahead of the journey and it costs £8 in advance or on the day. Pay the following day and the charge goes up to £10 - leave it any later and you're in for a penalty charge.
There’ll be a record of you paying (either online or not) so if you get a ticket, you should be able to question it – and win.
Yellow box fines
Entering a yellow box without being able to get out of it is an offence, so advice here is a bit obvious: simply avoid entering a yellow box in the first place and make a note of where the yellow boxes and cameras are on your regular journeys.
If your car has only just crept over the line of the box and, crucially, it wasn't obstructing other traffic at the time, then you may have a strong case for appeal. Make sure all the details on the NIP are correct and that it has arrived within 14 days of the incident. Don't be afraid to ask to see the photograph if the original letter doesn't contain one - it's your legal right to do so.
So, avoidance is the best policy, but if you do get ‘caught’ and you think it’s unfair, then appeal. If it’s unfair, then you’ll win!