This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 104.
The Campaign has just responded to a government consultation on ‘Changes to the treatment of penalties for careless driving and other motoring offences’.
Clearly both anti-social cycling and anti-social driving need to be tackled, and we have both worked with and supported the police over the current LIT (Lights Instead of Tickets) campaign (see later in this Newsletter). However, the damage caused to innocent parties, and the fact that many are deterred from cycling and even walking by the speed and volume of traffic, mean that tackling anti-social driving should be a more serious issue warranting more police time.
So is the culture changing and what is proposed?
On a positive note, recent surveys show far more drivers obey speed limits: ‘The percentage exceeding the limit by more than 5 mph … has declined … from 32% in 2001 to 16% in 2010’. (See www.pacts.org.uk/research.php?id=82)
But of more concern is that 57% of people convicted of careless or inconsiderate driving said that was how they normally drove, and that until ‘speeding’ was removed from the National Crime Survey, it always topped the list of ‘anti-social behaviour’.
The key proposal is that the police should have the power to issue fixed-penalty tickets (probably a £90 fine and 3 points) for clear infringements amounting to careless or inconsiderate driving that they observe. It is not considered that this should be used following a crash, as such cases should go to court.
As an alternative to a fine and points, drivers may be able to opt, at their own expense, to attend a course run under the National Driver Offending Retraining Scheme.
It is worth noting the type of offence covered. In general this is when driving
For the Crown Prosecution Service guidelines see: www.cps.gov.uk/publications/prosecution/pbd_policy.html
We strongly support such changes, but to be effective they must be used. As we all know, police time is in short supply and very valuable. The time spent in dealing with road crashes is immense, not to mention the costs to society. Simple observation of issues such as tailgating, and manoeuvres without signalling, could quickly pick up careless and inconsiderate drivers before they have a crash and possibly injure or kill some innocent party.
Of more relevance to those who cycle is the failure of drivers to give adequate space around cycles. One of the listed criteria for ‘without due care’ is ‘driving inappropriately close to another vehicle’. Perhaps if police officers rode bikes within Cambridge they would observe this issue first hand, and be able to issue tickets, before a crash occurred.
Some groups are concerned that those driving ‘dangerously’ will simply get tickets for ‘without due care and attention’. This distinction should be clear to police officers. Driving is considered dangerous if it is clearly deliberate, rather than erroneous, or if there are additional circumstances which lead to an error, such as drink, drugs, excessive tiredness, inappropriate speed, or mobile phone use. When a crash occurs, it is not the seriousness of the consequences, but the seriousness of the actions, that differentiates between ‘without due care’ and ‘dangerous’.
These changes are not perfect, but until ‘proportional liability’ is introduced measures such as this, if rigorously introduced, could improve driving standards, and make life more pleasant for those both on foot and on bicycles.
For an explanation of proportional liability see ‘Should motorists be liable for their cars’ “operating risk”?’ in Newsletter 87.
You can view our formal response to this consultation on our website at www.camcycle.org.uk