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Speeding tickets explained

By Martin Pratt

Learn your rights around speeding tickets, whether it’s worth contesting them and how technology can help you avoid getting any more.

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Whether you think speed cameras are a tool to inspire safer driving or only there to line the government’s pockets, speed cameras are here to stay.

If you don’t want to find yourself faced with a hefty fine and three points on your licence it’s worth understanding the consequences of getting caught speeding, how tickets are enforced and how you can appeal them if you think there’s been a mistake.

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How speeding fines work

Exceeding the speed limit by too much is illegal and if you are caught by a speed camera or police officer any of the following could happen:

  • You are given a verbal warning. This may happen if an officer stops you on the road.
  • You are asked to attend a speed-awareness course. You will be expected to pay for this.
  • You are issued with a fixed penalty notice (speeding ticket), which constitutes a £100 fine and three penalty points on your licence.
  • You are prosecuted for speeding. You would appear in court, which could lead to a fine of up £1,000 or £2,500 if you were speeding on a motorway. Between three and six penalty points will be added to your license, or you will face a driving ban.

The severity of the punishment will usually depend on how fast you were driving. Police officers can use their discretion in deciding how far over the speed limit is punishable. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) suggests the following when enforcing speed limits:

Speed limit Minimum speed for speeding ticket Minimum speed for prosecution
20mph 24mph 35mph
30mph 35mph 50mph
40mph 46mph 66mph
50mph 57mph 76mph
60mph 68mph 86mph
70mph 79mph 96mph

If you are caught speeding - The owner of the car will be sent a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) detailing the offence and a document called a section 172 notice.

Whether you agree with the NIP or not you must complete the section 172 notice declaring who was driving the car at the time of the offence within 28 days.

If you were stopped by a police officer they can give you a verbal warning of prosecution and a NIP is not required if the offence was part of a road traffic accident.

If you receive a speeding ticket – Once the NIP is returned you’ll receive a conditional offer of a fixed penalty notice (FPN). You can either pay the fine and accept the penalty points or contest the fine in court.

To uphold the fine a court only needs to prove you were speeding. Saying that you did not intend to speed, didn’t realise you were speeding or you only exceeded the limit briefly won’t hold water.

If you are prosecuted for speeding – If you have eight or more points on your licence, or you were driving way above the speed limit, the police may choose to prosecute you in court.

In this eventuality you will be sent a court summons - the police have up to six months to issue it.

How to contest a speeding ticket

If you disagree with your speeding charge you can contest it. A fine is unlikely to be overturned unless you can prove one of the following:

  • You were not speeding.
  • You weren't driving when the offence took place.
  • There was no proper notice of the speed limit.
  • The vehicle caught speeding wasn't yours.
  • Your car was stolen.

Some police forces accept informal appeals for speeding tickets. These should take the form of letters that detail why you believe you shouldn’t have received a speeding notice.

If your local police force does not accept informal appeals or your appeal was rejected you can launch a formal appeal by requesting a court hearing. You can do this by completing the relevant part of your fixed penalty notice.

It’s worth seeking legal advice before you embark on a court hearing to find out if you are likely to win and the consequences of losing.

Contesting a speeding offence in court

These are the steps you may need to go through.

1. Plea and mitigation form

If a legal expert thinks you stand a chance of overturning the ticket then you’ll need to complete and return a plea and mitigation form.

You can either plead guilty with mitigating circumstances or not guilty.

Guilty with mitigating circumstances - If you aren’t facing a driving ban you can usually plead guilty by post. In your statement of mitigation you’ll be able to outline why you were speeding and why this warrants a more lenient penalty.

This information will be presented in court and may persuade the magistrate to impose a lighter punishment.

Not guilty - At the speeding charge hearing you’ll plead not guilty. You’ll then be asked if you wish to call any witnesses and your case will be scheduled for a trial.

You or your legal representative will attend the trial to defend your plea.

Sometimes you’ll be given the option to move through the initial hearing process by post in which case you won’t need to attend the hearing.

2. Request evidence of the speeding offence

You can ask for the police and prosecutor’s evidence of the offence before the hearing. This can be helpful if you can’t remember who was driving, believe an error was made identifying the vehicle or you think a mistake was made when your speed was recorded.

You or your legal counsel can base your defence on these findings.

3. The speeding offence court appearance

At the trial the prosecution must prove you were the driver of the vehicle at the time the offence took place and your speed exceeded the limit for that stretch of road.

4. Guilty or not guilty

If you’re found guilty you can be fined up to £1,000 (£2,500 if you were speeding on a motorway), between three and six penalty points can be added to your licence and you may be disqualified from driving if you were more than 30mph over the limit.

If you are found not guilty then no further action will be taken.

Speeding tickets in Northern Ireland and Scotland

Speeding ticket enforcement in Scotland and Northern Ireland works in much the same way as it does in England and Wales, but there are some differences:

  • Northern Irish drivers who commit a speeding offence in Britain are able to accept endorsement points on their licence by applying to the DVLA for a GB counterpart licence. This means the driver can take advantage of the fixed penalty system and won’t need to go to court.
  • In Scotland speeding offences are reported to the procurator fiscal for prosecution and any non-payment will normally be referred to the district court.

How to avoid speeding fines

The easiest and safest way to avoid speeding fines is to obey the speed limit, but as cars get more powerful and the ride more stable it can be easy to creep over the legal limit, especially on roads you are familiar with.

Dedicated sat navs, sat nav apps and some on-board car computers can alert you when you break the speed limit prompting you to slow down and stay safe. These same devices can also flag when you’re nearing a speed camera, giving you time to check your speed and ensure you aren’t fined.

To find out which are the best sat navs to help you avoid speeding visit our sat nav reviews.

Having advance warning of an impending speed camera is even more useful when you consider that the authorities are under no obligation to signpost whether speed cameras are in operation on a road.

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