I don’t ordinarily look to the pages of the United Kingdom’s Practical Classics for hard news, but the witty, old-car restorers’ monthly for August contained the rather surprising item that Britain’s David Cameron government plans to quadruple speeding fines, with penalties up to £10,000 ($16,980) for drivers who exceed Britain’s 70 mph limit on a motorway. Being a blogger, of course I haven’t confirmed the actual factuality of this remark for myself – it does sound hard to believe, on its face – but I mentioned it on my Facebook page and several English friends and acquaintances spoke of it while not attempting to debunk it, so utilizing the low standards that have made internet “reporting” what it is, I’m going to go with it.
[Editor's Note: Practical Classics was correct. Newspapers are reporting that the plan will quadruple the maximum fines for speeding.]
For starters, crikey, that’s a lot of money to fine someone caught speeding, not just for someone who’s going 74 mph. It’s even a lot for someone nabbed going 70 mph over the posted limit. On the other hand, if you’re going 70 mph over the limit, you will be going 140 mph and I can certainly see why as a matter of social policy you’d want to discourage people doing that in their private automobiles. I’m just surprised that a Tory government would be the one endorsing such an intrusion on its fastest, job-creating-est citizens’ liberty.
Hey, what’s the difference between a Tory and a Tea Partier? The former support £10,000 speeding tickets, a none too subtle tax on wealth.
It was even less subtle, once upon a time, when 140 mph meant you were most assuredly talking only about the wealthiest car owners, persons who could afford to pay a whopping fine. Guitarist and my pick to win music’s most successful career coaster award, Eric Clapton, lost his license and got a whopping (but still smaller) fine driving a Porsche 134 mph on the highway some years back, but he was in France, where you’d expect such wealth-intolerant policies.
But apparently even the British are watching their spending these days, and want to raise revenues every way they can – which is another difference between them and the Tea Party. I don’t have a problem with taxes on wealth, as a general rule, when it comes to cars. If you can afford a big engine and lots of gasoline, you can afford a little more tax. And if you don’t have a car, there’s no way you’re getting towed from an illegal parking space or getting pulled over for speeding. Yet today, with even the lowliest GTi’s capable of hitting 140mph or pretty close to it, this new regimen of mega-fines could fall more unevenly, harming the less well off as well as the most. The unfairness seems most acute when you imagine someone going ten miles over the limit and for whatever reason getting a £10,000 fine. None of it sounds very conservative (small “c” or large.) Frankly, I can’t say I think going 80 mph or 90 mph under certain circumstances isn’t a perfectly safe and reasonable thing to do. And I say this not just as a patriot and lover of liberty, but as a parent and squeamish guy who doesn’t like the sight of blood.
The Germans have always boasted about how unlimited speed limits on the autobahn led the likes of Mercedes, BMW and Porsche to build cars of exceptional quality and dynamic ability. The lore of enduring British brands like Jaguar and Aston Martin is similarly peppered with tales of high speeds, in the Britons' case on the M1, the first of Britain’s motorways, which had no speed limit at all until 1966. It’s hard enough figuring out what the cars with 550-horsepower (such as the Jaguar F-Type R coupe) are meant for, but when they’re handing out £10,000 fines for going more than 70 mph in them, a speed that could be easily attained with 450 less horsepower, you’ve really got to wonder what the point is.