Tailgating and other careless driving

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Tailgating and other careless driving

The new penalties for road traffic offences such as tailgating and hogging the middle lane have now been with us two years. The fixed penalty fine levels were increased from £60 to £100 for using a mobile phone whilst driving and not wearing a seatbelt. These powers allow police to give on the spot fixed penalties of £100 fine and 3 penalty points to drivers for careless driving offences, similar to the penalties that can be given for speeding offences.

These changes were implemented to free up Court time and costs as they will now no longer have to deal with the more minor due care offences. Previously if someone was prosecuted for driving carelessly they not only had to be stopped at the roadside by the police, but then a summons had to be issued, the case referred to the Crown Prosecution Service and then evidence presented at Court.

However there is one significant difference between previous offences and those now eligible for fixed penalties, and that is the nature of the offences themselves. Put simply if someone is speeding there is a clear defining line between guilt and innocence, either they were over the speed limit or they weren’t.

There is no such clear definition of guilt with an allegation of driving without due care and attention, as it is at the officer’s discretion whether your standard of driving has been poor enough to have broken the law. If for example, a motorist is driving in the left hand lane, moves into the middle lane to overtake a lorry and notices another lorry in the left hand lane, another 200 feet ahead. Are they now expected to swerve back into the left hand lane for a few feet before moving back into the middle lane to overtake the second lorry?

Previously the matter was reviewed by the CPS and had to go to Court and whilst this was certainly a more bureaucratic system, it was also a safeguard against wrongful prosecution. How many officers would have referred such a matter to the Court system?

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Over 10,000 new drivers had their licence revoked last year

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Over 10,000 new drivers had their licence revoked last year

In a recent Freedom of Information request made to the DVLA, it was disclosed that 10,797 new drivers had their driving licence revoked in 2014. New drivers are classified as those who have held their full UK licence for less than two years. If they accumulate six penalty points or more on their licence within these first two years then their licence is automatically revoked. No disqualification is imposed, however they must re-take both their theory and practical tests.

The figures show that more than half of the drivers who had their licence revoked were convicted of driving without insurance; the second most common offence was speeding. It has often been said that new drivers are forgoing insurance due to the prohibitive costs involved and these figures would seem to corroborate that claim. It should however be pointed out that this offence is by no means restricted to younger drivers and there are currently no figures showing exactly how many drivers are convicted of driving without insurance.

These figures may also be skewed as it only requires one conviction of no insurance to cause a new driver’s licence to be revoked as the minimum penalty for this offence is six points. On the other hand speeding can carry anything between three and six points, therefore a number of drivers who get caught speeding on only one occasion will not have their licence revoked unless it is a particularly high speed.

The Association of British Insurers has also pointed to the advances of technology as a reason for the large number of people being caught and convicted of the offence. Scott Pendry of the ABI said: “Due to advances in technology, people driving uninsured are being identified in a much better way. So if they are not on the central database showing they are insured, they will face severe ramifications.” Many police cars now have on board cameras which will automatically inform them if a car does not have a valid insurance policy in place.

Not all of these offences are being committed intentionally. Many young drivers are insured on their parents policy and an oversight when taking out a renewal can sometimes mean that they are missed off the policy. There is also a common misconception that if you hold a comprehensive insurance policy, that it enables you to drive other vehicles. This is not always the case and in many instances the policyholder is restricted as to what vehicles they are able to drive.

In some instances, new drivers can avoid having their licence revoked by accepting a short period of disqualification instead. Any offence that carries penalty points also gives the Magistrates the discretion of imposing a disqualification as an alternative. If the offence carries three points this can be as short as a few days, but this does range up to more length disqualification periods depending upon the severity of the offence. Sometimes the Courts can also be reluctant to impose a discretionary disqualification as an alternative to penalty points if they see it as getting away with a less serious punishment.

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Full Speed Ahead

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Full Speed Ahead

The well known Freedom of Information Act has now been able to show the true speeds reached by the drivers of this country in new data released recently.

The public are often only aware of those cases that appear in the news and the higher speeds recorded have often escaped the public glare.

The highest speed confirmed within the last year stands at 149 miles per hour with the driver being caught on the M25 by the all too common speed camera. This person was not the only serious offender and in fact the figures go on to evidence that others were caught speeding at nearly 90 mph on urban 30 mile speed limit roads and in one case directly outside a primary school.

The current sentencing guidelines which are issued to Magistrates for speeding include a fine plus six penalty points or disqualification for between 7 and 56 days for motorists who drive at 101mph and 110mph on a 70mph road; at between 76mph and 85 mph on a 50mph road; or at between 51mph and 60mph in a 30mph zone.

However, the more serious offences of speed can in fact be charged as Dangerous Driving which can be heard in the Crown Court. The penalties for these speeding offences are grave and we all take our licences for granted on a daily basis, perhaps these new speeding figures will make a good number of us think twice.

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