Safe Drivers and Vehicles

Cherry Allan's picture

Common driving offences

Tackling common, bad driving offences effectively would help create a safer and more attractive environment for cycling and walking....
Driver at wheel of car
Headline Messages: 

Tackling common bad driving offences effectively would help create a safer and more attractive environment for cycling and walking. In particular, the drink/drive limit should be lowered in England and Wales, and hands-free mobile phones banned.

'Common Driving Offences' is one of a series of CTC briefings covering various aspects of traffic law and enforcement. Others consider bad driving in the context of the legal framework in general and specific aspects of it including sentencing, prosecution, the courts, the vital role of the traffic police, and driver training, testing and licencing (forthcoming).

Key facts: 
  • Speeding: In Britain each year, 'exceeding the speed limit' or 'travelling too fast for conditions' contributes to around a quarter of road fatalities. In 2013, 46% of cars broke the 30 mph speed limit in built up areas, although 90% of people believe that drivers should obey speed limit law.
  • Drink/Drug driving: In 2012 (GB), 13% of all road fatalities (230 people) happened in incidents where a driver was over the limit. In December 2014, Scotland cut its drink/drive limit to 50mg alcohol per 100ml blood, bringing it in line with most EU countries except for England, Wales and Malta where the limit is still 80mg/100ml. In 2013 (GB), 36 people were killed in incidents where a driver/rider was impaired by drugs (illicit or medicinal).
  • Mobiles/other distractions: In 2013 (GB), there were 26 fatalities and 95 serious injuries in crashes where the police thought that using a mobile phone was a contributory factor. 67% of people feel that the law on mobiles is not properly enforced, but 1 in five drivers admit that they’ve committed the offence in the past 12 months. Over half a million UK drivers have points on their licence for the offence, or being otherwise distracted. Drivers are four times more likely to crash when using a mobile phone.
  • Entitlement: Uninsured and untraced drivers kill around 130 people and injure 26,500 every year. The risk of crash involvement for un-licenced drivers could range between 2.7 to 8.9 times greater than that for all drivers.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 

Exceeding the speed limit

  • Speeding fines are currently too low to have any significant impact on driver behaviour.
  • Extreme speed (e.g. 20 mph+ over the limit) should be treated as dangerous driving in the first instance.
  • There should be no margin over the speed limit at which a driver avoids penalty.

Drink/drug driving

  • The drink-drive blood alcohol limit should be lowered in England and Wales from 80mg/100ml to not more than 50mg/100ml, in line with most European countries and Scotland. Novice drivers should not be allowed to drink at all before driving.
  • We support the use of targeted checkpoints, but also believe that the police should be given more freedom to carry out random breath testing.
  • Alcohol interlocks should be fitted in offenders’ vehicles. If successful, the measure should be extended. 
  • The definitions and standards for drug-related driving offences should relate solely to whether a drug impairs the ability to drive; it should not relate to whether it is legal to use it - i.e. over-the-counter and prescription drugs should be included.

Mobile phones and other in-car distractions

  • Use of hands-free mobile phones whilst driving should be banned.
  • More research needs to be done on the impact of other in-car distractions (e.g. SatNavs, radios, in-car computers etc.). Drivers who put others in danger because they have been distracted by such devices need to be appropriately penalised.

Driving without entitlement

  • Any driver convicted of a bad driving offence whilst unlicensed or disqualified should receive a custodial sentence for the crime. 
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
February 2015
RhiaWeston's picture

Baroness Jones raises concern over Mason case

London Assembly member, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, has written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe to express her concern over the police’s handling of the Michael Mason case.
Michael Mason

Michael Mason was hit from behind by a car on Regent Street on 25 February 2014, dying 19 days later. Despite the driver admitting at inquest that she could not explain her failure to see him when he was right in front of her, the police did not refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

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Cherry Allan's picture

Road safety and cycling: Overview

'More' as well as 'safer' cycling can and should go hand-in-hand...
Cyclist wait at junction
Headline Messages: 
  • Cycling is essentially a safe activity, causing little risk either to cyclists themselves or to other road users. Moreover, there is good evidence that cyclists gain from ‘safety in numbers’, with cycling becoming safer as cycle use increases.
  • However, fear of road traffic is a major deterrent, despite the health, environmental and other benefits of cycling.
  • Actual cycle safety in the UK lags behind many of our continental neighbours, because of poorly designed roads and junctions, traffic volumes and speeds, irresponsible driving, and a legal system that fails to respond adequately to road danger.
  • National and local government should therefore aim for more as well as safer cycling. These two aims can and should go hand-in-hand.
Key facts: 
  • The life years gained due to the health and fitness benefits of cycling in Britain outweigh the life-years lost through injuries by a factor of around 20:1; and one cyclist is killed on Britain’s roads for every 27 million miles travelled by cycle.
  • According to academic research, doubling cycle use would result in only a 25-30% increase in cycle fatalities - a 35-40% reduction in risk per cyclist. 
  • 67% of non-cyclists in Britain, however, feel that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads; and very nearly half (48%) of those who do cycle share this view.
  • Overall, the UK has a good road safety record - but for cycle safety in particular, it is one of the poorer performing countries in Europe.
  • In 2012, serious casualties amongst cyclists in Great Britain increased by 5% against the previous year, the 8th consecutive year of increase; 2013, however, showed a 2% reduction over 2012.  
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Road safety strategies, nationally and locally, should recognise that:
    • Cycling is a safe activity, posing little risk either to cyclists themselves or to other road users
    • The health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks involved 
    • Cycling gets safer the more cyclists there are: the ‘safety in numbers’ effect 
    • The aim of cycle safety policies and initiatives should be to encourage more as well as safer cycling, in order to maximise its health, environmental and other benefits, and to improve overall safety for all road users
  • Encouraging more as well as safer cycling involves tackling factors that deter cycle use. These include high traffic volumes and speeds; irresponsible driver behaviour; the unfriendly design of many roads and junctions; and lorries. 
  • The provision of cycle training to the national standard can also help people to cycle more, to ride more safely, and to feel safer and more confident while doing so. It can also help parents feel more confident about allowing their children to cycle. 
  • Increases in cyclist casualties may still mean cycle safety is improving if cycle use is increasing more steeply than cyclist casualties. Therefore targets and indicators for the effectiveness of road safety strategies should adopt ‘rate-based’ measures for improvements in cycle safety, e.g. cycle casualties (or fatal and serious injuries) per million km cycled, or per million trips. Simple casualty reduction targets should be avoided. 
  • ‘Perception-based’ indicators, which show whether public perceptions of cycle safety in a given area are getting better, can be used alongside ‘rate-based’ indicators, or as an interim substitute for the latter if necessary. 
  • Care should be taken to avoid cycle safety awareness campaigns that ‘dangerise’ cycling. These deter people from cycling or allowing their children to cycle and are counter-productive because they erode the ‘safety in numbers’ effect, as well as undermining the activity’s wider health and other benefits.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
December 2014
Cherry Allan's picture

Prosecutors and courts

To reinforce the message that driving that endangers other road users is socially unacceptable, prosecutors and courts should not dismiss 'dangerous' driving as merely 'careless'.
Royal Courts of Justice
Headline Messages: 
  • Injuries to cyclists rarely lead to prosecution of the driver involved and, when they do, the accused often appears to escape lightly. This reinforces fears that the roads are lawless, dangerous places for cycling and walking.
  • One of the reasons behind this is a failure by prosecutors and courts to interpret the existing law on bad driving offences correctly, together with their propensity to dismiss dangerous driving as nothing more than ‘careless’.
Key facts: 
  • In law, dangerous driving falls not just “below”, but “far below” the standard that would be expected of a “competent and careful driver”; it should also “… be obvious to a competent and careful driver” that the driving would give rise to “danger either of injury to any person or of serious damage to property”. Hence the distinction between “dangerous” and “careless” driving is not about the state of mind of the driver, but whether their driving objectively caused obviously foreseeable danger.
  • The number of people who are killed in road crashes far exceeds the number of drivers who are convicted of this offence: in England and Wales, there were 1,541 road deaths in 2013, but only 129 people were found guilty in the Crown Court of ‘causing death by dangerous driving’.
  • Fatal and serious injuries are increasingly unlikely to result in ‘dangerous’ driving prosecutions or convictions.
  • Between 1985 and 2013, the numbers of people taken to court in England and Wales for the offences of ‘dangerous’ and ‘careless’ driving, and their ‘causing death by…’ equivalents, fell by 82%, with an 84% drop in convictions, whereas fatal and serious injuries in Britain (KSI) fell by only around 69% over this period.  
  • Similarly, there has been a sharp drop of around 50% in the number of drivers prosecuted for ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ in England and Wales since the introduction of the charge of ‘causing death by careless driving’ in 2008. By contrast, road fatalities only dropped by about 30% over the same period.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • The prosecution of bad drivers should reinforce the message that it is unacceptable to endanger and intimidate other road users, not least cyclists and pedestrians who are disproportionately affected by road crashes. Offending drivers should not be treated more leniently than those who kill or injure through non-traffic crime.
  • The law states that driving is ‘dangerous’ when “…it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.” All too often, however, prosecutors and courts dismiss such driving as ‘careless’ and the result is lenient sentencing.
  • Prosecutors and courts should understand and apply the current legal definitions of ‘dangerous’ and ‘careless’ correctly. Prosecution policy and guidelines should provide accurate advice on these charges and be drafted accordingly. Equally, juries should not be misdirected on the definitions of ‘careless’ and ‘dangerous’ driving.
  • Prosecutors and courts should not take the driver’s intentions into account when deciding between a charge of ‘dangerous’ or ‘careless’ driving. If the driving in question caused obviously foreseeable danger, it is irrelevant whether or not the driver meant to do harm and a ‘dangerous’ charge should be brought.
  • Manslaughter or assault charges should be more widely used where there is evidence that danger was caused recklessly or intentionally.
  • Specifically, looking but failing to see a cyclist at a junction is inherently dangerous, and should be prosecuted as such.
  • Both the police and prosecutors should be more open and transparent about how they decide whether to charge a driver or not and, if they do charge, what charges to bring.
  • Cases of bad driving should not be prosecuted in the lower courts when death or very serious injury has occurred.
  • Juries should not be misdirected on the definitions of ‘careless’ and ‘dangerous’ driving.
  • Courts should not let drivers off driving bans on the basis of pleas of ‘hardship’.
  • Courts should not pass sentences that demean the victim who may have been killed or seriously injured. Whilst CTC does not advocate long prison sentences for dangerous driving offences arising purely from lapses of attention by generally responsible drivers, the courts should nonetheless signal disapproval by considering substantial driving bans.
  • Courts should not indulge in ‘victim-blaming’ when directing juries in criminal cases or making judgements over civil compensation to the extent that it plays a part in downgrading, sentencing, acquittal and lower insurance payouts.
  • Coroners should ask witnesses relevant questions and/or permit relevant questions to be asked during inquest hearings.
  • Coroners should take their duty to write ‘Preventing Further Deaths’ reports seriously to highlight actions needed to prevent future road fatalities.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
December 2014
Cherry Allan's picture

Pedestrians

Even in crowded conditions, cyclists are perfectly able to mix harmoniously with pedestrians and, contrary to popular belief, they are not a major danger to them.
Cyclist and pedestrian sharing space
Headline Messages: 
  • Research shows that cyclists are perfectly able to mix harmoniously with pedestrians and, contrary to popular belief, are not a major danger to them.
  • Pedestrians are more likely to be injured or killed in collision with a motor vehicle than in collision with a cycle, even if they are walking on the verge or footway (pavement). This is all the more surprising because, unlike driving, most cycling takes place where there are high levels of pedestrian activity.
Key facts: 
  • Around 98% of serious or fatal pedestrian injuries in urban areas (i.e. where pedestrians are most likely to be) - are due to collisions with motor vehicles. 
  • Per mile travelled, pedal cycles are less likely than cars to injure a pedestrian, and far less likely to kill them. In Great Britain, from 2009 to 2013:
    • Cycles accounted for about 2% of all urban, non-motorway vehicular traffic and were involved in 0.82% of pedestrian fatalities and 1.6% of serious injuries to pedestrians;
    • Mile-for-mile in urban areas, motor vehicles were about 1.2 times more likely than a cycle to seriously injure a pedestrian, and almost 2.5 times more likely to kill them;
    • There was one pedestrian death involving a cycle on the pavement or verge, whereas altogether, 34 pedestrians on average each year were killed by vehicles on pavements/verges.
  • An official study of pedestrian priority sites in the 1990s found only one pedestrian/cyclist incident in 15 site years.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Cyclists should behave responsibly and within the law.
  • Cyclists do very little harm to other road users, including pedestrians.
  • Unlike driving, most cycling takes place in areas of high pedestrian activity, but it poses far less risk to pedestrians than motor vehicles. This is the case even for pavement cycling and red light jumping, neither of which CTC condones.
  • Cyclists and pedestrians are able to interact far more harmoniously, even in crowded conditions, than is often thought.
  • People who are frail or who suffer sensory or mobility impairments are often understandably reluctant to share space with cyclists. Trials, however, usually prove that cyclists very rarely put any pedestrian in a hazardous situation. Codes of practice - backed up as required by policing - are preferable solutions, rather than undermining the promotion of safe cycling for fear of the actions of a minority.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
February 2015
Cherry Allan's picture

Motorcycles

Motorcyclists and cyclists have much in common, but motorcycling poses more risk to others and does not offer the same environmental benefits...
Cyclist and motorcyclist
Headline Messages: 
  • As vulnerable road users, cyclists and motorcyclists share much common ground.
  • However, CTC is concerned that cyclists and pedestrians are more at risk from motorcycles than they are from cars, so we object to moves to allow motorcycles to share cycle facilities such as Advanced Stop Lines (ASLs) at junctions
  • We are also concerned about the impact that more motorcycling could have on the environment.
  • We therefore support policies to improve motorcyclists’ safety but, given the need to restrain motor traffic in general, we do not support actions intended to increase the use of motorcycles, or actions that might have this effect.
Key facts: 
  • In 2013 (GB), motorcyclists were 60 times more likely to be killed per billion miles than car occupants, and 3.5 times more likely than cyclists.
  • For every mile they travel, PTWs are more likely than a car to kill a cyclist. From 2009-13, cars accounted for 78% of GB traffic on average per year, and were involved in 58% of cyclist deaths, whereas PTWs accounted for 1% of traffic, but were involved in 2% of cyclist deaths.
  • In 2013, on 30 mph roads in built up areas, nearly half of all motorcycles exceeded the speed limit, 21% by 5 mph or more.
  • Many pollutants from Britain’s PTW fleet are worse (some considerably worse) than they are for cars.
  • In 2013, larger licenced PTWs (over 600cc) made up 41.6% of Great Britain’s PTW fleet, up from 35.7% in 2004.
  • In urban areas, less than 10% of motorcyclist casualties (killed and serious) in urban areas happen at  signalised junctions – in fact, motorcyclists are more likely to killed on rural than on urban roads.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • CTC recognises that motorcyclists and cyclists share a number of road safety problems, but is concerned that cyclists and pedestrians are more at risk from PTWs than they are from cars. 
  • National and local motorcycling policies should be informed by a comprehensive, Government-led assessment of the effects that a greater take-up of motorcycling might have. This should look at its impact on:
    • the safety (both actual and perceived) of (would-be) pedestrians and cyclists
    • the promotion and attractiveness of the cleaner, healthier, quieter and more sustainable alternatives of walking and cycling
    • the environment (pollutants and noise)
    • congestion 
  • PTWs should not be allowed in bus lanes, advanced stop lines (ASLs), vehicle-restricted areas or locations where pedal cycles enjoy exemptions from vehicle restrictions. This must necessarily apply to all PTWs, as larger, faster and more polluting machines make up the majority of the PTW fleet and it is not practical to provide traffic regulation benefits for the safest and cleanest machines alone.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
January 2015
Roger Geffen's picture

CTC urges action on cycle safety as casualty rates rise

New figures show that cyclist casualty numbers, particularly serious cyclist casualties, are still rising more steeply than cycle use.
Cyclist outside the Royal Courts of Justice

Today's Government figures show a worsening of road safety in Britain for all road users, but with cyclists faring particularly badly.

They compare road casualties during the third quarter of 2014 with the same period the previous year, as well as providing whole-year comparisons of the year to September 2014 with the previous one-year period.

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Roger Geffen's picture

"Pointless" prosecution of helmet-cam cyclist dropped, but 'Justice for Michael' quest continues

The Cyclists’ Defence Fund has welcomed a last-minute decision not to prosecute cyclist Kristian Gregory for allegedly straying slightly over a white line on a poorly designed and unclearly signed pavement cycle track.
The unclearly signed, poorly designed cycle track where Gregory was fined

Gregory was stopped and fined on 3 July 2014, by a PCSO taking part in the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Safeway. This operation was after a horrific spate of 6 London cyclists’ deaths in 13 days during November 2013. Between then and last July, the Met issued £50 fines to nearly 10,000 cyclists.

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Roger Geffen's picture

Critical report is not tough enough on police and prosecutors

Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have been criticised in a watchdog’s report published today, but CTC says some of the criticisms should have been even sharper.
Handing CTC's 'Road Justice' policing report to ACPOs head of roads policing

The report, written jointly by the HM Inspectorates of Constabulary (HMIC) and of the Crown Prosecution Service (HMCPSI), looked at how road deaths were handled in a sample of six police force areas.

Cherry Allan's picture

The legal framework and sentencing policy

The legal framework and sentencing for driving offences need to reinforce the message that endangering other road users is unacceptable.
Driver at wheel
Headline Messages: 
  • All road users should share the roads responsibly, with respect for the law and the safety and comfort of others. Irresponsible driving, however, poses a disproportionate threat to pedestrians and cyclists and puts people off travelling by foot or cycle, despite its health, environmental and economic benefits.
  • Society expects high safety standards of other potentially lethal activities – e.g. rail and air travel, in workplaces or on construction sites – and the law creates strong obligations to avoid or minimise the risks. It is not the same for the roads. There, lapses are regularly dismissed merely as ‘accidents’ or ‘carelessness’ and the penalties are often derisory.
  • Driving a car, however, is the one situation in which normally law-abiding citizens put other people routinely at risk. Such people do not deliberately set out to cause harm, but a moment’s inattention may cause serious injury and sometimes death. This is a dilemma for the justice system – one that has yet to be solved effectively.
  • An overhaul of the framework of bad driving offences and sentencing is one of the solutions. In particular, the system should ensure that dangerous driving is never dismissed as being merely ‘careless’; and there should be far greater use of lengthy driving bans both as a penalty and to protect the public. This would make it clearer that it is unacceptable to endanger other road users – and it would help encourage more and safer cycling.

 

Key facts: 
  • In 2013, only about 1% of all trip stages were made by cycle, but cyclists represented around 6% of fatalities and 15% of serious injuries.
  • Around 88% of cyclists’ road fatalities reported by the police happen in crashes involving a motor vehicle.
  • Between 2009 and 2013, the number of drivers being disqualified dropped by 37.6%, even though there was only a 17% fall in road casualties.
  • For dangerous driving with a fatal outcome, the maximum sentence is 14 years; for both dangerous driving that causes a serious injury, and causing death by ‘careless’ driving, the maximum prison sentence is 5 years.
  • In 2013, only 80% of motorists convicted of killing another road user had their licence taken away, compared to 94% ten years beforehand. In May 2013, 7,842 of the 12,470 (63%) drivers who had more than 12 points on their licence were not disqualified.
  • Around three quarters of motoring offences are penalised by fines. Bans are given for just over 1 in 12 offences, most (65%) for less than 6 months.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 

Legal framework

  • The legal framework should reflect the fact that it is unacceptable to endanger and intimidate other road users, not least cyclists and pedestrians who are disproportionately affected by road crashes.
  • The law states that driving is ‘dangerous’ when “…it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.” All too often, however, prosecutors and courts dismiss such driving merely as ‘careless’ offences.
  • In the first instance, prosecutors and courts should understand and apply the current definitions of ‘dangerous’ and ‘careless’ correctly. Prosecution policy and guidelines should provide accurate advice on these charges and be drafted accordingly. If this does not improve the situation, changes to primary legislation may be needed to end the use of the word ‘careless’ altogether for driving offences that can maim or kill.

Sentencing policy

  • The underlying principle of sentencing must be that offending drivers should not be treated more leniently than those who kill or injure through non-traffic crime.
  • Whether a seriously injured victim happens to survive or die makes too much difference to the sentences available, even though the driving in question may have been equally bad. Sentencing should be consistent and reflect the standard of driving and not its outcome.
  • Sentencing should reflect whether the driver has created danger through wilful aggression or obvious risk-taking, or whether it happened as a result of a simple lapse of attention.
  • For the protection of the public, long driving bans should be more widely used to penalise drivers who have caused serious dangers, but not recklessly or intentionally. Pleas of ‘hardship’ should not be accepted.
  • When drivers have caused danger intentionally or recklessly, or if they have a history of breaching driving bans, long custodial sentences are more appropriate.
  • Professional drivers whose licence has been revoked and other disqualified drivers should be required to undergo remedial training and re-testing, as a mandatory step to recovering a licence.
  • The courts should avoid relying solely on fines where a victim has been seriously or fatally injured as this can trivialise the seriousness of the offence, particularly when the fine is small.
  • The courts should be given the power to impose driver re-training as a sanction for convicted offenders.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
December 2014
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