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Fixed penalties for careless driving… a terrible idea

May 11, 2011 by in category Careless Driving, News with 0 and 0

Alleged bad drivers who tailgate, undertake and weave at speed in and out of motorway lanes will get on-the-spot fines under new measures to improve road safety to be outlined by the government today.

Under the plans, motorists accused of “careless driving” will be issued with fixed penalties by the police rather than being taken to court. Motorists issued with the penalties for careless driving, which media reports said would involve fines of at least 80 pounds and three points on their licence, would be able to appeal but our concern is that the new proposals will be open to abuse by officers rather than actually solving the problems with Britain’s motorists.

Ministers say motorists who tail-gate, undertake or cut others up often go unpunished and that introducing instant penalties would be more efficient.

Critics say the approach – likely to be introduced in 2012 in England, Scotland and Wales – is too simplistic.

Currently motorists who have driven in a careless manner have to be prosecuted through the courts.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond will give a written statement to MPs today explaining the new strategy for England, Scotland and Wales.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it would also include a crackdown on drug-driving and the closing of loopholes that allow people to escape drink-driving charges.

Disqualified drivers would have to undergo retraining, and possibly take another test, before they got their licence back.

Courts would be encouraged to make more use of their powers to seize vehicles for the most serious offences.

Ministers insist the new approach will try to target genuinely reckless motorists rather than those who normally follow the rules but make an inadvertent mistake.

Senior partner, Jeanette Miller aka Miss Justice said of the proposals,

“We have grave concerns about the scheme being abused rather than being a genuine move in the right direction against the worst drivers out there,,,,motorists are already targeted unfairly in many instances we come across. This scheme will simply make it easier for heavy handed policing and the motorist will, once again, become a cash cow with only the wealthiest out there being in a position to challenge the allegations.”

“The definition of careless driving means this is an offence that is open to wide interpretation and we are frequently successful in securing acquittals for clients who are prosecuted. If a police officer becomes the judge, whilst it is still possible to challenge the allegation, it will mean there are more and more cases where motorists accept penalties because it is easier and cheaper than fighting the allegation.”

A DfT spokesman said: “The strategy will focus on cracking down on the really reckless drivers through more efficient enforcement.

“By giving the police the tools to deal with those who present the greatest danger to others we can make our roads even safer.

“While seeking to do everything possible to tackle the most dangerous drivers, the strategy will also help the responsible majority to improve their driving.

“This is the government’s twin approach to improving road safety.”

But the Institute of Advanced Motorists said on-the-spot fines were not necessarily the right approach for careless driving because, unlike speeding, cases were often not clear-cut.

It also said their introduction could make police reluctant to enter into lengthy prosecutions even in more serious cases.

Edmund King, President of the AA motoring organisation, said fixed penalty notices could be effective but on-the-spot fines would be problematic.

“Not many people or drivers carry 100 pounds in their pocket,” he told the BBC, adding he also questioned whether there would be enough police resources to enforce the plans.

 

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