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Speedings Fines – Determining Whether they are Valid or Not

Speeding fines, like death and taxes, are an unpleasant but usually inevitable consequence of our lives, sometime or another.  While we should all adhere to the road traffic rules for our own safety, and that of other road users, a time may come where someone may be stopped as result of faulty equipment, in which case the fine should be declared invalid.  While it is obviously extremely difficult to prove whether the speeding cameras that are used are in fact faulty, there are various safeguards and regulations in place to ensure that the machines utilized for the purposes of prosecuting traffic offences is serviced regularly, and in accordance with specific guidelines, to ensure that all offences are prosecuted fairly. 

In order to inform you of your rights as a road user, specifically where the validity of traffic fines are concerned, this article on the guidelines for prosecution with regard to speed and traffic offences, highlights the various principles and rules that the traffic officials are obliged to adhere to, and which, if not followed, will render your fine invalid.

The Equipment

All speed measuring equipment, distance measuring equipment and time interval measuring equipment must be calibrated at least once every twelve months by an accredited laboratory.  In the event that the twelve month calibration period has expired, the equipment must be calibrated before it may be used for prosecution purposes.

In order to determine whether an instrument has been calibrated, a calibration certificate must accompany the speeding camera or device (at all times).  This certificate will take the form of a document with the serial number of the device, the date of the calibration, and the accredited laboratory’s details. 

This information is also found on the actual device itself, often in the form of sticker, which is attached to the hand held speeding camera, which indicates the corresponding serial number, date of calibration, and in some cases the date of the next calibration.  In the event that the serial number on the calibration sticker (on the speeding camera) does no correspond with the serial number on the calibration certificate, the speeding may be invalid.

Similarly if the date of the last calibration is more than twelve months prior to date of the incident, the fine will also be declared invalid.  

The Operator

Operators (traffic officers) of all speed measuring equipment (SME), must have attended and passed a course on speed measurement, and if applicable, traffic light monitoring.  As a result the operator must be in possession of an operator’s certificate (or license) for the specific type of SME being used. 

As a result, in the event of being stopped, a driver may request a copy of the operator’s certificate, in order to determine whether the operator of the speeding camera has the necessary qualifications to operate the device.  Should the operator not have a certificate or licence, the fine may be declared invalid.  The same principle applies to a person driving without a licence.

Please remember however, that the operator who took the speeding measurement must be the person in possession of the operator’s certificate.  It often occurs where one traffic officer may be in possession of the operator’s certificate or license, while the other takes the necessary readings.  In the event that the operator of the speeding camera does not have an operator’s certificate with him, the fine may be declared invalid.

It is important to know that these are your rights in terms of the National Road Traffic Act, and as such you are fully entitled to view the aforementioned calibration certificate as well as operator’s certificate on request, and same cannot be withheld from you.

Distance

Another important factor when determining whether a speeding fine is valid is the distance from where the measurement was taken, in relation to the commencement of a speed limit zone.

Specifically, no fine may be prosecuted where the speed measurement was taken within 300 metres of the commencement of the speed limit zone.  Put plainly, if your recorded speed was taken less than 300 metres from the speed limit sign, indicating the change in speed zones, no prosecution may be instituted. I.e. they can only start trapping after 300 metres from the speed limit sign.

Similarly, the speed measurement cannot be taken more than 500 metres from the incident.  I.e. your speed measurement must be taken within 500 metres.  This distance is displayed on the speeding camera itself, and as result should the measurement be more than 500 meters away, no prosecution may be instituted in respect of that measurement.

Lastly, when operators select a site from which to take speed measurements, they must have a clear and uninterrupted view of the road and the vehicle for the duration of the measurement.  This means that where vehicles are overtaking each other and a measurement is taken during the changeover, the fine may be declared invalid.

Wet Film Cameras, Video Cameras, Digital Cameras (Photographic Speeding Fines)

Where fixed cameras are utilised, the photograph/image must at least record the following, for the fine to be prosecutable:

  1. Date of the offence
  2. Time of the offence
  3. Speed measured
  4. Where sensor lines are installed, a view of the whole width of the traffic lane covered by the sensor lines
  5. The location code
  6. At least two photographs/images indicating the position of the vehicle of the offender, with a clear image of the number plate
  7. No obstructions must be apparent

If requested (where no image accompanies a fine), a copy of the relevant photograph/image must be supplied free of charge to an alleged offender or licenced owner of a vehicle.

And lastly, a notice of offence under Section 341 of the Criminal Procedure Act must be generated and sent to the alleged infringer within 30 days of the date of the alleged infringement/incident.  If it is generated on the 31st day, it is unlawful and must be withdrawn without argument.