New Fixed Penalties for Careless Driving

On Wednesday 5th June the government announced that it is proposing to increase the scope of the fixed penalty procedure currently administered by the police to include driving without due care and attention or without proper regard to other road users.  This has been popularly reported in the press as for the first time enabling police to deal with those who hog the middle lane of motorways or cutting in at roundabouts etc.  It is proposed that from July the police will be able to administer fixed penalties consisting of £100 penalty (not a fine only a Court can give those) and an endorsement of 3 penalty points.  In one respect this does represent a real change as for the first time it will give the police the power to impose a fixed penalty for an offence which is highly variable in nature and often subject to dispute.  Unlike offences such as excess speed, which are almost invariably black and white, offences of driving without due care and attention are very often anything but.  The police will have the power only to impose the minimum number of penalty points that a Court would and no more and of course a modest penalty of £100 only.

Although this could represent a real change whether it will have very much impact on how the roads are policed is an entirely different matter.  The fact is that the police already have powers to deal with drivers who drive without proper care or consideration for others.  They can stop them and give them an informal warning or, if they consider it appropriate, report them for prosecution.  Even a short drive along the A127 in Essex will reveal drivers who hog the outside lane and refuse to pull over when they should thus causing an obstruction to those stuck behind them.  Will these drivers be targeted by the police?  One would hope so and yet the reality is that they are not targeted now so what will change in July?  The number of police vehicles on the road has decreased by 50% in recent years and unless the police have an effective presence and challenge bad driving when they see it the implementation of new powers will make very little difference to the problem of bad driving on our roads.