Organ transplant drivers near new speed limit laws

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DRIVERS transporting organs are set to be given the same freedom from speed limits as emergency services.

The move comes after a private ambulance driver was fined for speeding while rushing a liver from Edinburgh’s Sick Kids to a hospital in Leeds.

Ministers today said they were “keen” to make sure vehicles delivering life-saving organs were exempt from speed limits.

Under current rules, drivers transporting organs are subject to national speed limits.

However, it is at the police’s discretion as to whether they enforce the law within their own force boundaries.

Andy Thomson, 46, a driver with Lifeline Medical Transport Services, was caught driving 84mph in a 70mph zone on the A1 at Gladsmuir, East Lothian, on October 8 last year.

His bosses had ordered him to use the vehicle’s flashing blue lights and sirens to reach Leeds as quickly as possible.

But, earlier this week, he was slapped with a £60 fine and had three penalty points added to his licence.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “Ministers have said that they are keen to change the law to bring these vehicles in scope of the exemption and plan to consult later this year. It remains the decision of individual police forces whether or not to take forward any individual case.”

Mr Thomson said Lothian and Borders Police’s decision to enforce the limit could have tragic consequences.

He said: “We are now at a point where ambulance contractors will refuse to transport urgently required donor organs within Lothian and Borders for fear of being prosecuted.

“It will only be a matter of time before a patient loses their fight for life through the quite unnecessary delays being caused by Lothian and Borders Police.”

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “Lothian and Borders Police Road Policing Unit work closely with the NHS to establish the authenticity and credibility of any agency claiming to be carrying out work on their behalf when caught speeding. The decision to prosecute a driver for any motoring offence is made by the Procurator Fiscal.”

RULES OF THE ROAD

The rules on speed limits for drivers of emergency service vehicles – an area reserved to the UK Government at Westminster – are set out in the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act.

Section 87 of the Act states that speed limits do not apply to motor vehicles used for fire and rescue, ambulance or police purposes if these are likely to hinder use of the vehicle in an emergency situation.

Drivers of vehicles carrying transplant organs are not exempt from national speed limits as organ transport is not classed as a core emergency service function.

Any private ambulance driver transporting organs who was caught speeding would be subject to fines and other penalties.

However, the Department for Transport says it is at the discretion of police forces as to whether or not they enforce the law.