Saturday, 17 August 2013

Driving ~ Fixed Penalties

On 16th August, careless driving (Road Traffic Act 1988 s.3) became an offence for which a fixed penalty notice can be issued - Government announcement.   The fixed penalty for careless driving is now £100 with 3 points on the driver’s licence. The most serious examples will continue to go through court, where offenders may face higher penalties.  The police will also be able to offer educational training as an alternative to endorsement.

Section 3 states:

Careless, and inconsiderate, driving:  If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence.

Section 3ZA amplifies the meaning of careless driving.  A person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if (and only if) the way he drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.

Careless and Inconsiderate driving cover a multitude of possibilities and it remains to be seen whether the power to issue fixed penalty notices will be used sensibly or whether numerous notices will be issued for quite minor alleged infractions.

What the competent and careful driver (an objective test) would be expected to do at a particular time depends on all the circumstances and the Highway Code may be relied upon (in court if necessary) by way of assistance - see Road Traffic Act 1988 s.38(7).

'Tailgating' (not defined anywhere in the law) is often an example of careless driving.  Where vehicles are moving at speed (as opposed to a slow moving traffic queue) it is clearly incumbent on each driver not to drive closely to the vehicle in front.  To do so might be seen by the courts as driving 'bordering on the dangerous.'  Sentencing Guidelines for careless driving are at page 117 of the Magistrates' Courts guidance.  If driving is viewed as 'bordering on the dangerous' then the court would consider disqualifying the driver in addition to any fine (plus surcharge and costs).  

The changes follow a consultation held in the summer of 2012.  The consultation noted: The current process of charging motorists for a careless driving offence is overly bureaucratic.  It involves a heavy burden of paperwork, which is resource intensive for the police and court services, particularly for lower level offending.  The Association of Police Chief Officers (ACPO) have indicated that the high resource costs deter the Police from charging motorists with lower level instances of careless driving in the first place.

A Table of Fixed Penalties is also available.  Fixed Penalties have been increased for a considerable range of offences including use of mobile phones when driving (now £100) and speeding (now £100).

Traffic Sign Quiz

Practice your driving theory test - a useful exercise even for qualified drivers!!

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