Drivers will face instant punishment for a wider range of careless driving offences – including maneuvers that endanger cyclists – under new regulations now in effect. However, the police and the cycling campaign group CTC believe the new rules won’t be enforced because of cutbacks to police numbers.
Motorists can now be handed an instant fixed penalty notice and given points on their licence for ‘careless driving’, including pulling out of a side road without due care – a common cause of accidents involving cyclists. Other regulated maneuvers include close overtaking, tailgating and middle lane hogging.
Police will also be able to punish drivers more easily for so-called ‘distraction offences’, where the motorist is fiddling with a sat nav or radio. A driver was recently found guilty of killing a cyclist while using a GPS unit.
Road safety minister Stephen Hammond, MP, said the changes give police more discretion to deal with less serious driving offences, and will free them from time-sapping court processes.
The cycling charity CTC cautiously welcomed the changes but warned that police manpower shortages will make the rules hard to enforce properly, a sentiment echoed by the Police Federation, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The CTC also said that the new, tougher rules must not become a smokescreen for dangerous driving where a serious injury or death is caused. Those cases must be pursued vigorously through the criminal courts, said the group.
Fines for speeding, an offence that the government said contributed to 213 deaths in 2011, will also increase – a £60 ticket has risen to £100, and a £120 ticket to £200. Fines for driving and speaking on a mobile handset rise from £60 to £100 under the new rules. In 2011, the government said people using mobile phone handsets at the wheel contributed to 317 road casualties.
According to a 2012 Ingenie survey of 1,000 young drivers, one in six male drivers under 25 have crashed while using a phone and 62 percent of all young drivers have read a text while driving.