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UK Government Considers Exempting Taxman from Speed Limits
British government prepares to revise rules so tax compliance officers can break the speed limit.

HM Revenue and Customs
Speeding can sometimes save lives, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) admitted late last month. The department is currently considering whether to give customs and revenue agents license to break the country's speed limits. This would free the agency from the strict monitoring to which ordinary motorists are subjected through one of the world's largest speed camera networks. Drivers are held to account if accused of speeding by only a few miles per hour, with UK tickets carrying a minimum £60 fine (US $96) plus three points against the driver's license. Receiving four tickets within three years results in a license suspension. These penalties would not apply under proposed rules for revenue agents.

"Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs are seeking exemptions from speed limits for its covert surveillance vehicles," the DfT consultation document explains. "Customs surveillance operations mirror the activities of the police service and they have extensive arrest and investigatory powers."

Under current law, only police officers, firemen, ambulance drivers and serious organized crime agencies can legally ignore the posted limit. In addition, designated emergency services can run red lights and pass traffic on shoulders. The proposed regulations would allow a handful of other categories of drivers to enjoy the same privileges if they meet certain requirements.

"The legal exemption to speed limits would only apply when observing them would hinder the use of the vehicle for the purpose that it was being used for on that occasion," the proposal states.

Exempt drivers would also have to complete a high-speed driving safety course. The British version of the Internal Revenue Service has about 500 officers who would qualify to have a license to speed after completing the training requirements.

"The department's primary concern is one of road safety, but it acknowledges that there are certain vehicle purposes that are used to respond to 'life or limb' situations, where staying within the speed limit may have a detrimental effect on national security, preventing crime or saving lives," the proposal states.

Additional exemptions would be provided for vehicles used to deliver transplant organs to hospitals, various types of rescue vehicles, and bomb disposal units. The DfT will also consider extending exemptions to other government agencies as part of the consultation process. Other changes would reduce overly restrictive laws that currently apply to paramedics.

"A further consideration within the consultation document is to exempt paramedics and other medical personnel from the requirements to wear seatbelts in the back of ambulances, particularly when providing emergency treatment," Under-Secretary of State for Transport Stephen Hammond said in a November 27 statement.

The proposal is open to public comment until February 27.

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