March 2005: The government now intends to ban the use of radar detectors. Unfortunately for them, this will not happen before Britain's 25 million drivers have the opportunity to ban the government...
 
 
In January 1998 Lord Justice Brown ruled that radar detectors were not illegal under the wireless telegraphy act of 1949, as they could not be used to "obtain information as to the contents, sender or addressee of any message."

Driver David Foot had been convicted in 1996 of using an "Electrical Field Meter", he lost an appeal in Knightsbridge Crown, but battled on to the Queen's Bench Divisional court for a full judicial review.

Our illustrious government has now decided that they cannot possibly allow people to go around with Electrical Field Meters, and so intends to bring in specific legislation to make any such "speed enforcement detectors" illegal.

The offence would carry a £60 fine and 3 points on your driving licence, or a Court could impose a fine up to £1000 with 3 to 6 points.

Not content with that, they also plan to use the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 to make it an offence to install or use any such receiving device without a licence (which of course you won't be able to get). The maximum penalty for this offence would be £5,000 in a Magistrates' Court.

This is far more serious than just banning radar detectors. The legislation includes the phrase: "any device or apparatus designed, adapted, or intended to be used in order to avoid the detection by ... a camera" — which could be construed as including location warning devices such as GPS receivers. It is not clear whether this is their intention, or whether the vague wording is down to incompetence.

Equally it is not clear whether the use of the word "camera" is a giveaway as to their true motives — ensuring a good revenue from speed cameras — or whether the person who wrote the draft is too stupid to know that police hand-held radar/laser units are not called "cameras".

Nor does it seem to have occured to them that CB radios, mobile phones, WAP phones, laptop computers, car headlights, are all "devices" that could be "used to avoid detection". It will be interesting to see the government try and ban these.

The effect of this legislation on companies who supply such devices may well be devastating. These companies include:

 

The government invite comments on their proposals by 30th March. They don't make it clear where you should send comments — we can only presume the address mentioned in the Draft Statutory Instrument.

Part of the DETR Draft Statutory Instrument is reproduced below with our comments.
The full version with additional Acrobat documents can be found here.

 

DETR Statutory Instrument

NB All typographical errors in this column are the DETRs not ours.

ABD comments

Until January 1998 the use of devices to detect police speed enforcement equipment was considered to be illegal in England, Scotland and Wales under Section 5(b)(i) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949. However, a judgement by the Queen's Bench Divisional Court found that the Act did not specifically preclude their use. The Government believes that the sole purpose of detection devices is to allow the drivers that intend to speed do so with impunity. It is their aim to reinstate a prohibition of the use of such devices.

The purpose of such devices today is to avoid becoming a victim of the government's increasingly fanatical driver persecution exercise.
During 1999 there were 3,423 people killed and over 320,000 injured on our roads. The Government has set a target of a 40% reduction of deaths and serious injuries by 2010. Research suggests that around one third of these accidents have vehicle speed as a major contributory factor. If the target is to be met, effective speed management will clearly have a major role.

Research in fact shows a figure between 4 and 7%. Propaganda put out by the government claims one third.
The Speed Policy Review and the Government's Road Safety Strategy set out comprehensive range of policies for managing vehicle speeds. These include engineering measures, as well as publicity and education. However, for those that refuse to comply with speed limits, enforcement will play a part — indeed enforcement has been shown to reduce markedly both vehicle speeds and accidents.

Notice how they say "refuse to comply with speed limits" rather than "refuse to drive safely". In Suffolk, unnecessary speed limit reductions were cited by a coroner as contributing to several fatal accidents, and accidents overall have increased.
Two draft Statutory Instruments (SIs) have been prepared to prohibit the use of detection devices. Secondary legislation is being used as this provides the most rapid means of creating an offence. In choosing this option some limitations have to be accepted. For example, making SIs under existing powers prevents the setting of penalties specific to a new offence. The penalties that would apply are those already set out under the Act in question.

 
The first SI, The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use)(Amendment) Regulations, would be made under section 41(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988. This would create an offence of using detection devices in a motor vehicle. The offence would attract either a fixed penalty notice (currently £60) with a three point licence endorsement, or a Court can impose a fine up to £1000 with a three to six point licence endorsement.

 
The second SI, The Wireless Telegraphy Apparatus (Receivers)(Exemption)(Amendment) Regulations, would be made under powers in section 1 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949. This would make it an offence to install or use these devices without a licence. The maximum penalty for this offence would be £5,000 in a Magistrates' Court.

The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 is the same wonderful piece of post-war legislation that made it illegal for millions of people to listen to pirate radio stations in the 1960s.
If there is a successful conclusion to the consultation exercise, the SIs will create legislation that will apply in England, Scotland and Wales.

 
We would welcome comments on the draft SIs, particularly on their scope and the penalties which they would attract. The deadline for comments is 30 March 2001.

Additional copies of this consultation document can be obtained from:
Ian Edwards, Road Safety, DETR, 2/13 Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR
Tel: (020) 7944-2058

The ABD urges all drivers to oppose this legislation, whether they have a radar detector or not. Prosecutions for "speeding" have risen dramatically in recent years, yet accident figures have not fallen. This is not about road safety, they are simply out to get you.

Regulatory Impact Assessment

Issue

The Government is proposing to make secondary legislation to ban the installation and use of speed enforcement detection devices.

 

 

The government sees car drivers as public enemy number one and will not allow drivers access to any technology that might be used to defend themselves.

Background

Until January 1998 the use of speed enforcement detection devices was considered to be illegal in England, Scotland and Wales under Section 5(b)(i) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949. However, a judgement by the Queens Bench Divisional Court found that the Act did not specifically preclude their use.

Successive governments have considered speed enforcement detection devices to be objectionable — the sole purpose of these devices is to allow drivers that speed to do so with impunity. This view was not altered by the judgement on the application of the Wireless telegraphy Act. Indeed, since the ruling the current government has been looking for a way to reinstate a ban.

 

Such devices had never been declared illegal.

We can't have courts undermining government anti-car, sorry, road safety policy can we?

A study in the USA by Yankelovich Clancy Shulman in 1987, showed that detector users had a 23% lower accident rate than non-users.

Since the ruling an unidentified number of companies have begun to sell this equipment. Some claim their devices help motorists slow down by identifying approaching safety cameras. This in itself implies that those motorists will maintain an excessive speed when they believe they will not be caught. Ultimately, motorists would not require such devices if they were complying with the law, and speed limit signs and speedometers are all that a driver requires to enable them to do so.

Companies have not 'begun' to sell this equipment; many of these companies have been in existence for many years.

If all speed limits were reasonable, there would be no need to exceed some speed limits whilst travelling at a speed perfectly safe for the road conditions.

Risks

The risks of introducing legislation are hard to quantify. There is no official trade association for companies selling the devices. Whilst advertisements regularly appear in automotive magazines, few of the companies adopt a high profile. It is not known how many companies are involved in the trade, nor how many devices are sold each year. It is therefore impossible to assess the precise cost to business.

However, what is certain is that:
The proposal to re-introduce legislation covering speed enforcement detectors will have an impact on those companies that make or sell the devices.
Some companies may rely heavily on the income generated by the sale of detectors and a ban on detectors could put some out of business. That said, the trade itself relies upon customers breaking the law.

 

It is not a matter of choosing not to 'adopt a high profile', these are small companies. Such intentionally nasty phraseology seeks to imply that these companies are deliberately trying to avoid attention, which is utter nonsense.

Benefits

The benefits of re-introducing legislation to ban speed enforcement detectors are more clear cut. In 1999 there were 3,423 people killed and over 320,000 injured on our roads. Research suggests that excessive and inappropriate speed is a contributory factor in around one third of all road accidents.
A ban on the use of speed enforcement detectors would make the threat of enforcement a more potent deterrent. This will assist the Government in its target to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 40% by 2010.
It is estimated that each road fatality costs in the region of £1million. As such the likely reduction in speeds (and accidents) would not only reduce human suffering, but also deliver a substantial saving in financial terms.

 

There is nothing 'clear cut' about it. The figure of £1 million is deceitful nonsense. It is contrived by including every conceivable cost that could in any way whatsoever be related to the accident. Including the cost of building the road, the cost of buying all vehicles and equipment, the cost of employing and training everyone involved, the cost of building and maintaining every building involved. It is creative accounting to the point of absurdity.

Costs

As indicated, it is not possible to assess the size of this trade. All we do know is that devices range in price from £50-60 to around £550 depending on the particular model.

 

They do not appear to have made the remotest effort to try.

Securing Compliance

The police are keen to see their powers to prosecute motorists who use these devices re-instated and are likely to be in favour of this legislation.
The proposal would create an offence of using detection devices in a motor vehicle. The offence would attract either a fixed penalty notice (currently £60) with a three point licence endorsement, or a Court can impose a fine up to £1000 with a three to six point licence endorsement.
In addition, The SI amending The Wireless Telegraphy Apparatus (Receivers)(Exemption)(Amendment) Regulations, would make it an offence to install or use these devices in a motor vehicle without a licence. The maximum penalty for this offence would be £5,000 in a Magistrates Court.

 

The ABD is aware of many serving and ex-police officers who disapprove of the government's single-minded obsession with speed, to the exclusion of all other issues relating to road safety; but are afraid to say so for fear of being victimized.

Conclusion

We do not believe a full Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) is required for the following reasons:

  1. Only those people who break the laws, and those who seek to profit from this activity will be affected by the proposal.
  2. Effectively we are re-instating powers that previously existed.
  3. The benefits clearly outweigh the potential disadvantages.

 

Translation: We think we can get away with this.

  1. Only those who seek to drive at a reasonable speed for the road conditions, and honest traders will be affected.
  2. There were no such powers in existence.
  3. They don't give a damn how many people they put out of work.

Don't let them drive you out of your car