Careless driving fixed penalty welcomed
The idea of a 'careless driving' fixed penalty notice (FPN) isn't new - the previous Government mentioned it in a consultation in 2008 and last year the Government's Strategic Framework for Road Safety introduced the idea formally into policy. Now they are consulting on how best to introduce the FPN, with the intention to divert many of the drivers who receive the penalty onto 'better driving courses', a practice already common with speeding.
Evidence suggests a new means of punishing bad driving is desperately needed. According to the Department for Transport's 2008 consultation on the matter, from 1985-2006 the number of convictions for bad driving fell by 77%, from 125,200 to just 64,200, yet overall casualties fell by just 36% over the same time. The reduction in police officers and a lack of time to pursue court cases has meant fewer and fewer bad drivers are being apprehended and punished, with even the Department for Transport acknowledging that "there are drivers who are 'currently getting away with it'".
This new fixed penalty notice, which CTC has cautiously welcomed each time it has been proposed, will help ensure police officers have an immediate response for occasions when the have evidence of bad driving. However, CTC wants to make sure that acts of dangerous driving or where an injury results, are still dealt with properly by the courts, and not relegated to a mere fine or 'better driving course'.
The new fixed penalty notice for careless driving will certainly help, but CTC is concerned it may lead to further downgrades of cases of dangerous driving to careless driving. We'd also like this offence to be used in cases where bad driving has been captured on head or dashboard cameras - presently we understand it can only be used where an officer on patrol witnesses an act of bad driving."
Meanwhile, police forces have been cutting staff numbers drastically - officer numbers are down 295 in 10 years - to make savings, and these FPNs can only be used by police officers out on the street, catching bad drivers in the act. Presently the consultation assumes that only 4,513 drivers will be issued with FPNs, of whom most will opt for remedial training, with only 903 actually paying £100 and accepting 3 penalty points.
Finally, the Government will increase all other fixed penalty notices for motorists, meaning speeding fines will now be £100, as will the new 'careless driving' FPN. They've been the same cost since 2000, so much of this increase is simply catching up with inflation. £100 still seems a modest penalty and it would be preferable to link fines to income, as courts are also attempting to do.