Spot fines for careless drivers planned in UK

Government outlines its safer roads strategy – mixed CTC response

Spot fines for careless driving could be on the cards according to the UK government, with 2012 the likely date for their roll out in England, Scotland and Wales. Currently all motoring offences that are not admitted must be dealt with through the courts.

Responses to the new fine proposals have been mixed, however, with both the CTC (UK's national cyclists' organisation) and the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) doubting whether the fines will be effectively enforced.

Motoring sins highlighted as possibly incurring the on the spot fines include tailgating, undertaking and cutting up others. The minimum fine would be £80 and offenders would also get three points on their licence.

The proposals - revealed by Transport Minister Philip Hammond - and still to pass through Parliament - are part of a range of measures that aim to reduce the current rate of KSIs (killed and seriously injured) on the UK's roads from the current annual rate of around 25,000 to 10-15,000 by 2030.

Other measures announced include a rise in fixed penalty notices for motoring offences from £60 to £80-100, the possibility of a new offence of 'driving with a specified drug in the body', encouraging courts to make greater use of powers of seizure for the most serious offenders, compulsory retraining for disqualified drivers and more educational offerings for offenders.  

CTC response

CTC, the UK's national cyclists' organisation, welcomed the proposals for fixed penalty notices for careless driving and increased fines but believed that with police forces facing huge cuts, the new policies are unlikely to have a substantial impact on driver behaviour unless more traffic police appear on the roads.

Roger Geffen, CTC's Campaigns and Policy Director said: “A careless driving fixed penalty notice is welcome, but should only be used where no injury has occurred and the driving is demonstrably careless, not dangerous. We have concerns that too often driving which is objectively dangerous is treated by police and prosecutors as merely ‘careless’.

“Too often bad driving – even where a death occurs – is going unpunished.”

CTC noted the proposals are vague on what they feel are other important areas for cyclists, for instance lower speeds. New guidance on 20mph limits is promised and CTC will still be pushing to make 20mph the standard limit in urban areas.

Motorists organisation critical

The IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) said on-the-spot fines were not always the right approach for careless driving as cases were often not clear-cut.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation also echoed CTC concerns: "The three things needed to make these plans work are enforcement, enforcement, enforcement. With police services being cut it is far from certain the desired results can be achieved. Without adequate enforcement there is no strategy."

Robert Gifford, chief executive of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Traffic Safety, noted how the fines were not the last word and could lead to more bureaucracy, "The main argument seems to be that it'll reduce police bureaucracy and therefore more people will be given a fixed penalty. But the police will still have to gather evidence, as the person will have the right to challenge it in court."

What do you think – will on the spot fines make the roads safer for cyclists?

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