On-the-spot fines for careless driving

By politics.co.uk staff

Thousands of motorists look set to lose their licence under new plans which will see the police given the power to issue on-the-spot fines and penalty points for careless driving.

More than a million drivers have six or more points on their licence and face the possibility of having points added arbitrarily by police without being heard in a courtroom.

Punishment for offences such as failing to signal, passing too close to a cyclist or not displaying lights at night – which all currently require police to file a prosecution – will be left to the discretion of officers, a move which has concerned motoring groups.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said that while it agreed in principle to fixed-penalty notices, several members were “concerned about the subjectivity in deciding what constitutes careless driving”.

Robert Gifford, director of the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety, said: “There is a concern this would lead to bad feelings between police and drivers.

“A careless driving fixed penalty will be a matter of judgment by the officer and drivers may feel they are being picked on.

“To move careless driving into the fixed-penalty offence regime suggests a significant change in legal process that should be the subject of parliamentary debate.

“However, on balance we agree in principle with the proposal because it will reduce police paperwork.”

Drivers who manage to collect 12 points within three years are subject to a six-month driving ban. In 2006 there were 26,400 such bans.

At present, police are often reluctant to bring prosecutions for careless driving as it requires a great deal of paperwork. They are more likely to simply issue a warning.

The government believes that by allowing police to issue fixed-penalty notices they will improve road safety because too many drivers at present are getting away with careless driving and not being prosecuted.

In a role reversal, it will become far less likely for drivers to bring careless driving cases to court because drivers who choose to challenge the decision could be subject to a fine of £5,000 with nine points added to their licence.