One in every six speeding offences detected by police forces in England and Wales is eventually cancelled, analysis suggests. A study of government data by the RAC Foundation revealed 17 percent of speeding offences recorded in the 2020-21 financial year were chalked off.

According to the RAC Foundation’s analysis, the 2020-21 financial year saw a total of 2,426,950 cases of speeding recorded by constabularies in England and Wales before being reported to the Home Office. However, some 404,355 of these offences (17 percent of the total) were later cancelled and no further action was taken That followed a 2019-20 financial year in which there were 330,623 cancellations, making up 13 percent of the 2,584,571 speeding offences detected.

Greater Manchester and Warwickshire, however, saw 39 percent of recorded speeding offences cancelled, while Wiltshire saw just two percent of its offences scrubbed. The RAC Foundation suggested that result might be down to the fact Wiltshire recorded the lowest number of speeding drivers (just 912) – possibly because it has no active fixed speed cameras, and 96 percent of all speeding offences across England and Wales were detected by cameras.

Car drives past speed camera

The RAC Foundation said the reasons for cancellation were not recorded, but they could include issues with the equipment used to catch speeding drivers, emergency vehicles lawfully breaking the limit under blue lights, and delays in issuing notices of intended prosecution. Other reasons for cancelling a ticket could include a lack of resources to bring the case to court or cloned vehicles carrying false number plates.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said the figures suggested the technology used to catch drivers breaking the law is not reliable enough, and the government should act to find out what the problem is.

“It is correct that drivers caught speeding should face the consequences but it is also important that the systems of detection and prosecution are robust,” he said. “The hundreds of thousands of ‘cancelled’ offences each year indicate they are not. At the very least it is an administrative burden the police could do without. We urge the Home Office to start collecting data from police forces about these cancelled offences so we can understand where the problem lies.”

Meanwhile Dr Adam Snow, a lecturer at the Law School of Liverpool John Moores University, and part of the team that worked on the report, said number plate cloning was a growing issue for police forces, and could be contributing to the increase in speeding ticket cancellations.

“Police forces and local authorities are seeing number plate cloning as a growing problem,” he said. “With the increasing reliance on camera enforcement for clean air zones and moving traffic violations there is some evidence to suggest more motorists are seeing this as an acceptable response even though it is fraud.”

Police speed camera van on city road in UK