Can you blame your cruise control for your speeding fine? Motoring expert Paul Murrell explains how this reader could potentially successfully challenge a speeding fine.
I have recently been issued with a penalty notice for exceeding the speed limit at a fixed camera site at Gaven in Queensland. At this point on the motorway, I always use my cruise control if safe to do so and set it at the stated speed limit of 110 km/h. The infringement notice shows my vehicle in the furthest left-hand lane of the four available (i.e. the slowest) and purports that my vehicle is doing 124 km/h. To the left of my vehicle is shown the converging lanes of the Smith St overpass, with the cab of a large vehicle in the picture moving in front of my vehicle (i.e. overtaking my vehicle). The notice states it is 09.41 on 18/06/2019, which is a Tuesday, when I was travelling to Harbour Town to meet friends at 10.15, which is means I had more than 30 minutes for a trip that requires much less than this. Issues with this notice:
1. With no other vehicles apparent around my car on the motorway, I would most definitely have been using cruise control set at 110 km/h.
2. Who sets their cruise control at 124 km/h?
3. As the notice states the time as 09.41 and my arranged meeting time was 10.15, I had sufficient time to arrive at my destination without needing to exceed the speed limit.
4. I am travelling in the ‘slowest’ lane of the four-lane motorway with no vehicles apparent to the right of my vehicle, which would indicate that I was not overtaking any vehicles on the motorway.
5. The notice shows the cab of what appears to be a semitrailer overtaking my vehicle on the left from the converging road, so I wonder if this vehicle has been issued with an infringement notice in excess of 124 km/h?
I shall not be paying this penalty and will be electing a court hearing. I should appreciate comments from others about this fixed speed camera site and the accuracy of these speed cameras in general.
A. Unfortunately, the news for our reader is almost all bad, as it is for any of us accused of speeding when we dispute the charge. I speak from personal experience when I say that using cruise control is not going to be taken into consideration or accepted as a valid defence. If your cruise control was not able to maintain your car at the set speed, you will be told that it is your responsibility to keep the vehicle under control at all times. Claiming that you could not have been exceeding the speed limit because you were using cruise control will not be accepted, since the authorities are well aware that cruise control is not a failsafe means of maintaining a set speed (and you would have to prove that your cruise control was set to the appropriate speed in any case).
Now, some potentially good news. The large vehicle identified in the photo may provide sufficient grounds for reasonable doubt that it was, in fact, you travelling at 124km/h.
In the first instance, I would respond to the address listed on your infringement notice with a letter (on the rear of the notice, there will be an address for you to challenge the infringement, or at least, put your case for it to be withdrawn). Don’t delay. Send your letter as soon as possible.
In your specific case, I would suggest that your points about cruise control, lack of vehicles in the right-hand lanes and having allowed sufficient time to reach your destination should be included but will have little or no bearing on any decisions a review board makes. Also, any mention of a previously excellent driving record will have no effect (certainly in Queensland; a previously perfect driving record does not mitigate against a speeding or other driving offence, as clearly stated in a letter to a motoring journalist colleague, nor does it help in South Australia as I can attest from personal experience). Whether or not the truck was issued with an infringement notice will also be considered irrelevant.
The only real point in your favour is that there is another (and larger) vehicle in the photograph, and since you are sure you were travelling at the posted speed, the only possible explanation for your receiving an infringement notice is that it was this vehicle that was travelling at 124km/h and your vehicle has been incorrectly identified as the speeding vehicle. In your claim to have the infringement notice withdrawn, and indeed in any subsequent action you take, this will be your best defence.
The most likely response to your letter, sadly, will be a communication from the appropriate authority saying, in essence, “I am satisfied that the alleged offence was committed, and the issue of the notice was justified, therefore my interference in this matter is not warranted.” In other words, “we consider you to be guilty unless you can prove, in a court of law, that you are innocent.” The authority will also tell you that they will not consider any further applications for internal review of the notice.
You have stated that you will elect to have the matter heard in court. Well done! You will need to complete the relevant section on your infringement notice and return it. Make sure you keep copies of all your correspondence. It may sound extreme, but you should consider sending your election to have the matter heard in court by registered post; that way there can be no dispute about your notice having been received.
There is a slight possibility that even asking for the matter to be heard in court will lead to the matter not being pursued, but don’t raise your hopes too high.
If at any time before appearing in court you decide that the whole matter is too onerous or stressful, you can withdraw your objection and pay the fine. There will be no extra costs to pay, even if you (or the police) have requested a number of adjournments. If the matter isn’t heard within 12 months, the matter will be dropped.
Should you decide to challenge the notice in court, as you have suggested you will, be prepared for a long and potentially expensive process. Handling it all yourself is possible, but time consuming. We would strongly suggest you seek legal advice (find a lawyer who will make the first consultation for free). Another source of useful advice and direction is a group called Aussie Speeding Fines. Some of their suggestions are a little extreme, especially since they seem determined to take on the entire system, but for a small fee they will provide you with an ebook and sample letters to use in your defence. You can claim for expenses incurred in defending your case (time off work, legal advice, research material, etc.), but only if you win. Conversely, you may be liable for costs if the decision goes against you, so once again, we strongly recommend seeking legal advice before embarking on the journey.
If you do finally appear in a magistrate’s court, resist the temptation to do your best Perry Mason impersonation. Stay calm and reasoned, and ensure you have all the supporting evidence with you. Hold on to your belief in your innocence and make it clear that you are the person being inconvenienced. Your prime objective is to create a reasonable doubt in the mind of the magistrate that it was not you who committed the offence.
The system is seriously flawed, as you and many tens of thousands of other motorists have discovered. Once again, I can only recommend you seek legal advice before challenging your infringement notice. After that, I wish you the very best of luck in winning your case. Let us know how you go.
* Not his real name
seniordriveraus.com recommends seeking legal advice before taking action. Information contained in this article is for guidance only.
Have you ever successfully challenged a speeding fine? How did you go about it?
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