Ambulances on emergency calls were issued with more than 300 speeding tickets – worth £32,100 – in three years.
The South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) was issued with a total of 321 fines from 2011 to 2014. A Freedom of Information request to all ambulance trusts in England showed trusts received a total of 23,227 speeding tickets between 2009 and 2014. Only 400 of the tickets were upheld.
A spokesman for SECAmb said: “Our ambulance crews are of course able to exceed the speed limit where appropriate and crews are trained to drive to the conditions of the road to make progress swiftly and safely.
“It is important that the small number of occasions when staff do not drive in the manner we expect are brought to our attention.”
However, the trust is not fined for speeding ambulances.
“If our vehicles are on an emergency – our Computer Aided Dispatch system (CAD) is checked – they are exempt.
“If they are not on an emergency, the driver of the said vehicle at the time of the alleged incident will have to pay the fine personally.”
Since 2011, 18 fines have been given to drivers of vehicles which were not frontline A&E vehicles or which were not assigned to an incident.
Once the trust receives a speeding ticket, staff check to see if it was responding to an emergency.
A spokesman for SECAmb said: “If the incident is not on the CAD the driver in question will have to pay the fine personally or appeal if they feel it was unjust in any way.
“Their personal details will be completed on the reverse of the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) form and sent back to the Police who will then send out a new NIP to the driver to deal with personally.”
Section 87 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 states if blue lights are displayed, police will assume the exemption is valid and ‘no paper work will be sent to the organisation concerned’.
Health bosses have called for the automatic exemption on emergency vehicles to be better enforced as staff from trusts around the country spend more than 40 hours a month appealing against the fines.
Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Barry, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “When an emergency vehicle clearly displaying blue lights triggers a camera, but the police can see that it was being driven safely in accordance with the law with blue lights displayed, they would generally stop notices from being sent out.
“This has been made more difficult with the introduction of average speed checks in recent years, which usually capture the speed and number plate of the vehicle but not necessarily an image.”
Carl Rees, from the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, said ‘common sense should be applied’ and ‘notices should only be sent out if no blue lights can be seen flashing’. “After the appropriate checks have been made the PCN (penalty charge notice) should be waived. We understand that this is what happens in the majority of cases,” he said.
SECAmb employs one person to deal with speeding, penalty charge notices and bus lane incidents received from the police, councils or private car parking companies.
During the financial year 2013/2014 the Trust made more than 650,000 emergency responses.
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