Opinion: New Penalty Notices for Careless Driving Not a Soft Option

By Sarah AcresCriminal law specialist Sarah Acres

The government has this week announced plans for new fixed penalty tickets for careless driving offences.

Presently, police have the power to issue fixed penalties for a variety of road traffic violations.  Those tickets carry three penalty points and a £60 fine and mean that those who admit their behaviour can avoid the time, cost and stress involved in a court hearing.

From July 2013, the penalty will rise to £100 and the scope of fixed penalty tickets will expand to include some cases of careless driving such as tailgating, lane hogging, wheel spins or using the wrong lane at a roundabout.

Those who face more serious offences or who deny their wrongdoing will still be processed through the courts where a range of fines, penalty points or disqualification from driving will be available.

Most will welcome this announcement.  Aside from the benefits to those who fall foul of the rules, responsible drivers will benefit from sanctions placed on offending motorists who are a menace on the roads, the police will be spared the bureaucracy of preparing a case for court and court resources will be freed up for more serious matters.

While some fear that increasing the scope of fixed penalty tickets may send out a message that the offence of careless driving is being “downplayed”, motorists should not consider these tickets to be a soft option.  Collecting twelve or more penalty points in a three year period will lead to a minimum driving ban of six months under the totting up procedure unless exceptional hardship can be established and the increased use of fixed penalty tickets will only serve to increase the number of motorists who fall foul of the totting up procedure.

If you are at risk of disqualification under the totting up procedure or if you are in any doubt as to whether to accept a fixed penalty ticket, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer experienced in road traffic cases.

Sarah Acres is a specialist criminal lawyer at Hegarty Solicitors with extensive experience of representing motorists who face disqualification for speeding or other road traffic offences. She can be contacted at: sarah.acres@hegarty.co.uk; 01733 295630.