Expanding police power to award on-the-spot fines for careless driving is the headline initiative of the government's latest road safety plan for England, Scotland and Wales. The initiative is part of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety, released today by the Department for Transport.
I'm sorry officer, what exactly am I being fined for?
Police will gain the ability to award careless driving penalties of between £80 to £100 (up from the current fixed penalty fine rate of £60) and three demerit points for cases of undertaking, tailgating and careless merging ('cutting-up'). Currently these offences must be referred to the court system for prosecution. The new approach aims to allow police greater discretion in targeting genuinely reckless drivers, and reduce demand on the court system for relatively minor offences.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport (DfT) said, 'The strategy will focus on cracking down on the really reckless drivers through more efficient enforcement. By giving the police the tools to deal with those who present the greatest danger to others we can make our roads even safer.' The legal definitions of careless driving, and the boundary between careless driving and dangerous driving will not change.
What else is in the Strategic Framerowkr for Road Safety?
On the enforcement side, drink-driving and driving under the influence of drugs will be removed through revised legislation. Courts will be encouraged to make more use of their power to confiscate vehicles in serious motoring offence cases.
In terms of education and rehabilitation, the Strategic Framework proposes more resources for driver training, and development of a post-test vocational qualification for driver training. The DfT would also like to make further use of educational courses instead of fixed penalty fines as an option for driving offences, and reforming the regime for disqualified drivers to regain their licence to build on current arrangements for drink-drivers.
When does the Strategic Framework go into effect?
It's a proposal for 2012 at this stage, which will have to go through the parliamentary process before entering into law. Concerned citizens or road safety researchers interested in the full Road Safety Strategic Framework document can download a copy from the DfT website.