Is the 10 per cent speed limit rule a myth?

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

It is a common belief among many Australians that police will give a certain amount of leeway when it comes to exceeding the speed limit.

A 10 per cent leniency is regularly batted around, which would see motorists escape punishment if they manage to stick to within an additional 10 per cent of the speed limit.

To put it simply, if travelling at 77km/h in a 70 zone or 55km/h in a 50 zone, police should turn a blind eye, the theory goes.

But is it all just a myth?

The National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) says while there is no official ’10 per cent’ law, police can allow drivers several kilometres over the limit when other factors are taken into consideration.

However the NRMA duly point outs that motorists would be throwing caution to the wind as it is far from a black and white issue.

The ’10 per cent rule’ in relation to exceeding the speed limit, doesn’t officially exist in Australia. Source: Getty, file.

NSW Police do exercise a level of judgement based on a series of factors, the NRMA says.

Officers take into account a motorist’s driving style, relative speed, traffic behaviour and road conditions when deciding if a level of leeway is to be applied.

It is understood however these variables are harder to determine if the speed camera is fixed and therefore increases the chance of punishment.

However Victoria Police are renowned for being stricter, and while having the ability to do so, rarely apply discretion. Drivers in Victoria have been known to be fined for travelling two or three kilometres over the limit.

“If you are over the prescribed speed limit for a section of road, you are speeding,” Assistant Commissioner John Hartley previously told the NRMA.

A speed camera in Brisbane. Source: AAP

A Queensland Police spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that a ’10 per cent’ rule in the state “is a myth.”

The spokesperson said while there is a “tolerance level” officers have in relation to speeds, identifying a set amount would make existing limits defunct.

“We have never disclosed what it is, as it would create a de-facto speed limit.”

South Australia Police also confirmed the state’s force were unwilling to discuss any tolerance level which is in place.

A level of discretion is needed, according to the NRMA. Source: AAP

“While SAPOL does have a tolerance in each speed bracket, our policy is not to discuss or reveal these as we believe it will essentially set a default speed limit on the roads,” Traffic Support Branch Superintendent Bob Gray told Yahoo News Australia.

“Speed limits are set for the safety of all road users – so stick to the limit.”

He also said the tolerance used by officers can be reviewed and changed at any time.

WA Police also hold a similar policy, with a spokesperson revealing: “In short, it’s a myth”.

“The easiest way to avoid speeding fines is to observe and stick to the speed limit,” the WA’s myth busting fact page states.

Level of leniency needed

The NRMA’s Peter Khoury told Yahoo News Australia there needs to be a level of leeway due to the technology involved.

“There is a discretion,” he said.

“Otherwise you’re assuming the speedometer is 100 per cent accurate and the traffic camera is 100 per cent accurate.

“There is not that degree of accuracy.”

He said one of the reasons states implement their own tolerance level is to deal with that “little bit of discrepency.”

State speeding fines in Australia

Drivers in NSW who breach the speed limit by less than 10km/h can face a fine of $119 and one demerit point, and a fine of $275 and three points is in place for going 10km/h over.

In Victoria, a fine of $201 and one demerit point is in place for speeding within 10km/h of the limit and $322 and three points for over 10km/h.

Queensland’s threshold is at 13km/h, with drivers breaching the limit by less than that receiving a $174 fine and a $261 one and three demerit points for going over 13km/h.

South Australian motorists can cop a $174 fine and one point for up to 10km/h, and a $379 fine and three points beyond 10km/h.

In Western Australia, drivers caught going up to 9km/h over the limit will receive a $100 fine followed by a $200 fine and two demerit points for going over 9km/h.

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