It’s this week’s #LifeSchool, and after helping out a mate with a query on these most irritating of niggles life wise, I thought we’d cover driving related stuff.
I don’t drive myself- I feel that my eye sight is such that I would be a danger to myself and other’s if I was to be in charge of anything other than a bike- but after Elder has enlightened me to how daft you can be about parking, knocks and other such car related fun, I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.
CIVIL OR POLICE MATTER?
There are different types of parking fine or traffic infringement that will make all the difference to what or even whether you’ll have to pay up.
If the contravention is a Speed Camera fine, then you’re pretty much stuffed should you have been speeding.
You can ask though to see the offence via a PCN number, and, should you have been forced to go against the speed limit- for example due to another motorist putting you at risk of accident, or because the road has a variable speed limit that isn’t made clear- you can appeal.
First thing you need to do is try and recall what happened on the day the offence took place. Is this a road where others have been caught by an unfair speed camera? The easiest way to find out is ask online. Many areas in the UK now have “Gossip” or “Residents” groups on Facebook, and these are great for asking locals opinions on all manner of local issues. Perhaps the road markings aren’t clear? Does the speed decrease suddenly and without warning? Are signs obscured due to street furniture or over grown trees?
If another resident has had a speeding fine overturned, then you have a great point to start with. You will have to answer the notice given by the Police and let them know you wish to go to court.
Yep, court. If you’re not 100% sure you aren’t fully to blame, then it’s probably not worth wasting the courts. Its probably easier to take the fine on the chin, or see if you can take part in a £90 Speed Awareness Course.
Speed Awareness Courses take place all over the country, and you are eligible if you haven’t been to a previous course within a year, and haven’t exceeded the speed limit by more than 9mph. It does offer you the chance to not get any points on your licence, which, in some industries where a clean licence is part of your job description, is worth the £90 and the telling off nature of the course.
NOT THE POLICE? WHAT CAN YOU DO?
One big con these days is car parking.
Now, we’re not talking your usual, but equally irritating, council appointed Traffic Warden. We’re talking those private firms who have set up in Hospitals, Supermarkets and Fast Food Car parks.
These guys are cowboys. Simple as that. However, unlike the council Traffic Wardens, these are working on the assumption that us road users are gullible and will pay up for fear of bailiffs and Police knocking to seize our cars.
It’s this fear that you need to swallow when dealing with these firms.
Just recently, I was speaking to a resident who had parked, fairly, in Asda’s parent and child parking with his 9 and 12 year old. These companies love Parent and Child Parking, and no doubt the “rules” they make up to suit them are a steady revenue stream. In most cases, the supermarket will specify children as anyone 12 and under, but when this Dad had innocently asked the “Warden” why he was ticketed when he parked with children he was told the rule was under 5s.
He felt there was nothing he could do, he had appealed it, Asda didn’t offer help, so he was on the verge through fear and fake threats of losing his vehicle of paying it.
However, that changed when I explained that, actually, these fines are barely enforceable as they are a “civil” matter. Civil matters means it’s a disagreement between two unofficial parties with opposing views. In the case of the bogus fine- or even fines for over staying parking times, or for not using the store the car park is in- if it’s a company rather than a council issuing the fine, there is very little this company can do.
Sure, they could chose to take you to court, but for every 100 tickets they give out, most will be paid by people who just don’t wish to have the hassle of appealing or who aren’t aware of their rights, so the few who refuse to pay for any reason will be more than these cowboys can be bothered with. They hate the intelligent, they have no rights to find you via the DVLA, so they can only hope to gain your details via you contacting them to pay.
No contact means no contract, ignore them, or at most email them with no details other than your christian name, and tell them you have no intention of paying and they can take this (add your own reason) as your appeal against their ticket. No doubt you will get a couple of emails trying to get you to give in and pay, ignore them and they will soon give up.
APPEALING FINES, TICKETS AND EVERYTHING ELSE
Another example from Elder is one which could have proved costly.
When we first moved, we barely knew Reading, and, within days, Elder had driven through a Bus Lane.
Now, despite this happening in 2014, we never heard anything about it until late 2015. Despite Elder letting the DVLA know of our address change, when the local council asked them for his address to send a PCN notice to, they gave our address at the time of the contravention. 14 miles away.
In the mean time, the council sold the fine debt to a Private debt agency. These jokers never contacted him until months and months later, by which point they had made the fine a whopping £405!
How much did Elder have to pay due to my savvy use of laws on civil matters? £0.
There were a few points to use on this case.
For starters, the minute they bought this “debt” from our council, it became a civil matter, and thus, enforceable by fear alone.
For another point, these Debt Collectors had our telephone number for the entire time they had the debt- between August 2014 and July 2015. However, it was only after near on a year had passed that they contacted his phone about the debt.
The worst point to my mind though was that, when they did finally call, I answered, and was told they wished to speak to Elder, and on asking who they were, I was told they were “from the council” regards “non payment of council taxes”. Now, I know we owed not a penny, so found that both worrying and annoying, but of course, I handed the phone straight to Elder to deal with as they wanted to speak to the named person on our bill. This is completely against the law. You may not, at any point, impersonate another body to gain access to someone, it is just not acceptable, and, had she said she was a debt collector, I would have asked where her proof was and what it was regarding before giving my email address for her to send details to.
Never admit you are at fault unless you know all the facts. No company can demand money when you are without full facts, so give an email address and never give your own home address.
After he spoke to this awful, lying woman, he put me back on the phone, and I said I would not be paying until we had seen a PCN, and full details of why they had lied about who they were, why they hadn’t contacted us in a year, and why she felt the need to be rude.
I waited for the email, and waited. It took 5 days until she sent it, by which time I had researched this company online and had contacted them myself regards the behavior and practises employed by their call staff.
In the end, they sent it, and it turned out if the council had of been given our correct details, the bus lane is one which constantly has people snapped but which 99% of those who appeal win as the point the normal lane becomes a bus lane is negligible, and the markings on the road are non existent.
Still, this company demanded my address and their £455 (it went up £50 per email). It reached £555 by the time I got rid of them, and it wasn’t too hard to do so.
I simply emailed them an attached letter- it looked very official although I didn’t make up any solicitor names I used lawyer speak and said I was “handling the alleged contravention on behalf of Elder.” I quoted various points of where they had failed in their duty of care. I also pointed out as a Civil Matter, Elder was in his right to take them to court for their demanding money via false representation. I said I considered the matter closed, but would not hesitate to come to court and present the facts to the court if they wished to pursue us further.
All very scary to them and suffice to say we’ve heard nothing since!
Sometimes, all you need is to keep calm, do research, and you can usually wave goodbye to these types of fine.
DEALING WITH PROPER PEOPLE
Of course, even the official folk who can screw you for your car in the longterm can be avoided and dealt with if you use sense.
If you did commit the offence and are bang to rights, then pay- it makes sense to do so as fines will only increase.
If you feel you aren’t at fault- such as with Elder and the Bus Lane markings, or you’ve been ticketed when you didn’t flout rules, then appeal.
Its simple to do, you will be asked to pop into your council building in most cases, and you will be given the chance to put your point across of why you feel you aren’t at fault. If it’s over staying on a public highway when you can prove you didn’t, bring evidence, such as receipts of when you were in a shop, or the original ticket to show how long you paid for compared to when the ticket was issued. If there was no signage or it was unclear that you couldn’t park in a space- or there was a time limit- bring photographic evidence of the area showing the lack of signage.
The independent adjudicator will then ask you to leave the room whilst they decide whether you are at fault or not. If you win, you leave with no costs to pay, and if not, you will have to pay the full fine.
DRIVE SAFE, LOOK FOR SIGNS AND YOU CAN BE FINE FREE!
Of course, the best thing to do is always be aware of your speed as speed kills even at 10mph over 30. So, if you keep your speed in check you shouldn’t have any fines to pay.
If parking, check for signs saying if you can park and for how long, and keep an eye on the time. Don’t park in bays you aren’t entitled to, and keep your tickets in case you don’t face a parking charge notice.
Happy motoring everyone!