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New plan to expand speed limit exemptions

THE type of emergency services allowed to break the speed limit could be increased.

Currently police, fire and ambulance services as well as the Serious Organised Crime Agency in England are allowed to disregard speed limits in the course of their work.

However, a consultation launched by the Department for Transport could result in other services engaging in life-saving activities allowed the same exemption.

It would cover emergency services in Scotland.

The agencies that have expressed interest in being exempted include Ministry of Defence bomb disposal units, conveyance of human tissue for transplant, blood transfusion, mountain rescue, mine rescue, radiation emergencies, coastguard and lifeboat launching, the DfT said.

A number of fire-fighting vehicles not currently covered, such as those used by the Forestry Commission, could be included as a result of the consultation, due to close next February.

Additional training will be mandatory to ensure that drivers can operate safely when exceeding speed limits, though the consultation acknowledged that the risk of accidents would increase.

Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond said: "Police, fire and ambulance service drivers are at times required to exceed the speed limit in order to save lives.

"It is only right we look at allowing other services whose duties can mean the difference between life and death to exceed the speed limit when responding to emergencies."

The consultation document, published yesterday, acknowledged that breaking speed limits was more risky. "It is inevitable that there will be additional risks even if the drivers of emergency vehicles are highly trained. However exceeding the speed limit, as opposed to the mere use of blue lights, is liable to be associated with the higher risks," it noted.

A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: "This is a reserved matter, and one on which we have had contact with DfT in the past. We will give due consideration to the document before making any substantive response."

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