On-the-spot fines "must not lead to fewer prosecutions"

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On-the-spot fines "must not lead to fewer prosecutions"

11th May 2011

An expert in road safety has welcomed the introduction of new powers allowing police to issue on-the-spot fines for careless driving - but has warned that the measures must not reduce the number of prosecutions for serious driving offences.

Joanna Bailey, a road collisions specialist and partner with Fentons Solicitors LLP, was speaking after a new strategy to make UK roads safer was revealed by the Government. The changes - likely to be introduced next year - will mean that motorists who tailgate, undertake or cut up other drivers could be handed an immediate fine of up to £100 and have points added to their licence, as opposed to facing prosecution.

"When outlining the new rules, the Government says its new strategy aims to shift the focus from penalising motorists who make minor transgressions and honest mistakes to pursuing persistently reckless and dangerous drivers," said Joanna, who has acted for the victims of serious and fatal collisions and their families for more than 15 years. "The strategy promises a crackdown on drug-driving and to close loopholes which allow people to get off drink-driving charges.

"All of this is welcome news of course, but we also need assurances that the powers will not encourage police to issue the on-the-spot fines instead of pursuing a prosecution for more serious driving offences," she said.

"Figures from the Department for Transport show that convictions for offences related to bad driving fell from 125,000 in 1985 to 28,900 in 2006, suggesting either that as a nation we are becoming safer drivers or that many cases are going unpunished. With the latest figures showing that 2,946 people were killed on our roads, I think we need to ensure the new measures do not mean that motorists who commit potentially dangerous acts escape prosecution."

Joanna said that some of the new measures - including disqualified drivers being forced to retrain before they regain their licence - were initiatives that safety campaigners had long been petitioning for.

"But we must also ensure that those drivers who act without regard for the safety of other road-users are still dissuaded from doing so," she said. "The threat of a fine of £100 or less will not deter the persistent offender from driving without the proper care and attention, and the new measures must not lead to a reduction in those reckless individuals facing prosecution."

Read more on this story at: Sky News, BBC News