Fixed penalty notices for careless drivers are a welcome deterrent to risky driving

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Issuing careless drivers with new on-the-spot penalties will serve as a stark reminder that negligent driving behaviour puts people’s lives at risk, says the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

RoSPA welcomes today’s announcement by Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond that police will be given the power to issue fixed penalty notices for minor careless driving, such as tailgating or middle lane hogging. The Government aims to bring the changes into force in July. It follows extensive public consultation with police forces and road safety groups, including RoSPA.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, said: “We supported the proposals in last year’s consultation because we believe that they will make it easier for the police to enforce careless driving laws, and so discourage such driving.

“However, there is a certain amount of subjectivity in deciding what constitutes ‘careless driving’ and what is sufficiently minor and suitable for a fixed penalty and what is more serious, meriting prosecution in court. There must be as much consistency as possible in the use of this new power.

“Therefore, we hope to see a clear definition of the sorts of ‘careless driving’ that may result in a fixed penalty notice and the reasons why, publicised widely. Training for police officers in the use of this new power, and a robust monitoring system, will be needed to ensure consistency in the application of fixed penalties for careless driving.

“RoSPA strongly supports the use of remedial driver training as an alternative to the fixed penalty notice. It is better to seek to change offenders’ behaviour and help them to improve their driving or riding so they are less likely to re-offend.”

The fixed penalty for careless driving will be £100 with three points on the driver’s licence. The most serious examples will continue to go through court, where offenders may face higher penalties. In addition, existing fixed penalty levels for most motoring offences - including not wearing a seatbelt and using a handheld mobile phone while driving - will rise to £100, bringing them into line with the penalties for similar non-motoring fixed penalties.

Kevin Clinton said: “The increase in fines will boost the deterrent effect of the fixed penalty notices, and make paying to take the alternative option (when offered) of a remedial driver training course a more attractive option than simply paying the fine. This would provide an opportunity to help offending drivers to improve their driving and avoid repeating their offending. This would help to reduce road casualties.”