Changes to motoring offences

The Government recently released its Strategic Framework for Road Safety, which looks at the causes of serious road accidents, identifies areas that need to be developed and introduces some sensible and not so sensible plans for driving offences.

Fixed penalty notices

The most talked about plan is the continuation of Tony Blair's policy of excluding the courts from the Criminal Justice System through the use of fixed penalty notices and effectively turning police officers into road-side prosecutors, judges and juries.

The latest batch of fixed penalty notices will allow police officers to punish careless drivers with an on the spot fine.  The Framework gives two reasons for this change.  First:
"... to make it more efficient and less time consuming for police to enforce."
Sorry to any officers reading this, but if we render that sentence into plain English, it would appear that the Government are suggesting you are all too lazy to take cases to court.  The second reason is:

"... [to] enable more people to be offered rehabilitative education... "
With the greatest of respect to the Government, this reason doesn't make sense.  Why must further education go hand in hand with a fixed penalty notice?  Why, for example, can't the courts offer this training after prosecution?  Oh hang on a minute they do already do that.

More importantly than that from a drivers point of view is that the Framework also makes clear that the Government plan to increase the fixed penalty fine from £60 to £100 for virtually all fixed penalty offences, including speeding etc.




Drink and drug offences

The Framework also contains plans, albeit not very advanced plans, to level the playing field as between drink and drug driving offences.  This is partly a technical issue about developing and using tests to identify people suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.  There are however changes that also show more Blairesqe thinking in their approach to prosecuting offences.

Currently, if you are breath tested and blow within 40% of the prescribed alcohol limit then you are offered the option of a blood test to confirm the level.  There is a very good reason for this, which is that blood tests are far more accurate than the breath test.  However, under the proposals in the Framework, drivers will no longer have the right to take a blood test if they blow below 40% of the limit.  The explanation given is that it will "... increase the effectiveness of police enforcement activity... ", although you may also read this as "it's one less hurdle for us to get over on the road to improving conviction rates."  They do also make the good point that it is unfair to let some people get off because there is a delay in getting a properly qualified medic to take the blood sample; so, no more star jumps in the cell while you wait for the FME then.

Interestingly, the Framework goes on to explain that there will not be a decrease in the drink drive limit as 40% of offenders are more than 2.5 times over the limit.  If that is the case, then I don't fully understand why they need to remove the blood option as they themselves seem to think it will hardly affect anybody.

Increased level of forfeited vehicles

The Framework moves on to express a desire that the police will make more use of their powers to seize vehicles used by people who commit road traffic offences, but it does not provide any particular suggestions as to how this could be achieved.

Uninsured and unlicensed drivers

I imagine that it is fairly obvious why unlicensed drivers are involved in a disproportionate number of serious crashes, but it may not be so obvious why uninsured drivers are similarly involved in high numbers of serious crashes.

Personally, I put the reason down to being that people willing to take the risk of not buying insurance are more likely to take the risk of driving more dangerously than others... I heard a policeman put it in terms once that people who commit one type of crime tend to ignore other areas of law as well.

This part of the Framework contains some interesting proposals... one so interesting that I'm surprised Liberty aren't complaining about it.  The Framework suggests allowing insurance companies access to persona information about drivers from the DVLA database so that they can make a more informed decision when offering insurance to us.  This means they'd be no hiding place for people who 'forget' to declare convictions.  I don't personally mind this, so long as the insurance companies cannot make changes to the DVLA database - I say that after having to contact my biker insurer to tell them that since I took the policy out two years ago they have managed to change all of my details for no obvious reason, so according to them I now had only lived in the UK a couple of years, am married with no children and have no convictions for speeding, one of those at least is nice.

This is one area where they have clear plans about seizing vehicles and the Framework states that from June 2011 the Continuous Insurance Enforcement will fine people and seize the vehicles of those who fail to insure their vehicles without first notifying the DVLA that their vehicle is off the road (a SORN declaration).

Conclusions

The Framework is quite a lengthy document that combines details of problems, with half-thought out ideas and a sprinkling of actual solutions that will become law.

The important thing to take away is to remember:
  • If you are offered a fixed penalty notice then take legal advice before sending the form back to the court.  You may find you have a defence or could save yourself the expense of fighting a doomed case;
  • Remember to buy that insurance before your old policy expires or you could find yourself with a fine and court bailiffs trying to seize your car.

Comments

  1. A simple precise and accurate commentary; a damn good post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for a very concise informative article.

    You wrote:
    I imagine that it is fairly obvious why unlicensed drivers are involved in a disproportionate number of serious crashes, but it may not be so obvious why uninsured drivers are similarly involved in high numbers of serious crashes.

    Please cite the statistical data, if you are able to.

    You also go on to say:
    The Framework suggests allowing insurance companies access to persona information about drivers from the DVLA database so that they can make a more informed decision when offering insurance to us.

    Insurance might not be purchased because it may be too expensive. This policy will cause insurance to be even more expensive for larger portions of society?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wonderful images. Thanks for the share.

    ReplyDelete

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