RDRF response to DfT consultation on Fixed Penalty Notices for careless driving

This is our response to the DfT’s “A consultation on changes to the treatment of penalties for careless driving and other motoring offences” . It states that the Government recognises that “careless driving is a serious road safety problem”. Do the proposals treat it as such? No, we don’t think so. The measure proposed is pathetic with regard to the scale of suggested FPN ticketing, with inadequate fines and an unjustified reliance on remedial training of offenders. Here is our response:

motoringfpnsconsultation@dft.gsi.gov.uk

Motoring Fixed Penalties Consultation,
Department for Transport,
RULIS Division, Zone 3/21′
Great Minster House,
33 Horseferry Road,
London, SW1P 4DR

Dear Sir,

Please find below:

Changes to the treatment of penalties for careless driving and other motoring offences: Response by the Road Danger Reduction Forum

Executive Summary

RDRF is extremely dissatisfied with the Careless Driving FPN proposal and has four key concerns:

  1. Dangerous driving is being downgraded and classified as careless driving. Until the charging standards are revised (which the CPS will be doing later this year) and the new standards can be included in the guidelines for this FPN, it should not be introduced. RDRF thinks that careless and dangerous charging standards should be made consistent with the standards used by DVLA on driving tests.
    2. The proposal is primarily focused on situations whereby motorists inconvenience other motorists. No real mention is given to the role this FPN could have in  reminding motorists of their duty of care with pedestrians and cyclists. This FPN is needed in urban areas to deter motorists from behaviours such as passing cyclists or pedestrians too closely, opening car doors carelessly, and to help enforce respect for advanced stop lines.

3. Much greater use of this FPN, with the right guidelines, is needed and should be required. This FPN is expected to be rarely used, approximately only once a day by    each   police force. This poses no deterrence value at all. This is probably our biggest criticism. In 1984, in London alone, some 230,000 individuals were found guilty of traffic offences. This policy will allow for only 15,000 FPNs per year throughout the UK. Our suggestion is that the scope of the FPN should be such as to allow for some 300 times more ticketing than is envisaged to have a deterrent effect on careless driving behaviour.

4. The proposal relies heavily on unproven remedial training, as acknowledged by DfT in the consultation.  Remedial training should be offered with suspended penalty  points            as  this would help encourage drivers to practice what they had been taught and would avoid drivers taking the course just to avoid the accrual of penalty points.

 

Increase in motoring FPN fines

Increasing the basic FPN for motoring offences is long overdue. The proposed £90 fine barely covers inflation adjustments. Those motoring FPNs which involve life threatening risks, such as speeding and red light running, should be more costly than other offences which misuse space, e.g. bus lane and parking violations.  A review of motoring penalties is needed with consideration given to the use of unit fines, and increased fines and penalty points for repeat offenders.

If it is found impractical to increase fines in the way we suggest, we would advance the possibility that fines are related to the income of offenders, with far higher penalties for all motoring offences involving fines to be paid by those on higher incomes.

DfT has agreed to allocate £30m from motoring fines to the Ministry of Justice. We agree with our colleagues in the National Road Crash Victim’s charity, RoadPeace, This should come with the requirement that victims of crashes are treated as victims of crime, until the contrary is proven. This is already the situation with all other (potential) crime. It is recorded as a crime and  changed later, if needed.

Constructive terminology is important. Careless driving and accident should be replaced with Driving without Due Care – which reminds that a duty of care is required when driving –  and collision or crash.

CONCLUSION TO EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

If indeed the Government recognises that “careless driving is a serious road safety problem” it should be treated as such. We are happy to consider a way of easing bureaucratic problems and unnecessary court appearances for the less serious offences. However, if FPNs are to replace court appearances they must have widespread use to act as a deterrent and a proper amount of fining. It should be remembered that even then, very few motorists will be likely to risk being banned from driving, let alone a custodial sentence.

We therefore hope that if the FPN option is to be followed, a far more robust approach to the level of use and higher fining will occur.

Introduction

The Road Danger Reduction Forum (www.rdrf.org.uk )was founded in 1994 and supports local authorities that have signed the Road Danger Reduction Charter. We also support road user groups that support the principle of road danger reduction – reducing danger on the road at source, namely the inappropriate use of motor vehicles – such as RoadPeace, CTC, London
Cycling Campaign, CycleNation, Living Streets, Environmental Transport Association.

The proposals are stated as intending to increase the extent of enforcement on our roads, which we regard as essential to a civilised society, quite apart from the need to reduce danger and intimidation towards the more benign forms of transport, cycling and walking. The proposals must be seen to succeed in this objective. We regret that they are quite insufficient to do so.

The proposals are also designed to allocate revenue raised by driving offences to the Ministry of Justice for victim services, which we welcome.

Part A:  Careless Driving

1.  Do you agree with the proposed approach to make careless driving a fixed penalty offence and open to the offer of remedial training? If not, please explain your reasons why.

RDRF cannot support the introduction of FPN for careless driving for the four reasons expressed above in the Executive Summary.

As stated in the consultation, this FPN would only be used where there was no injury involved and where it was witnessed by a police officer.  This  proposal involves a trade-off, with the result that for the sake of increased enforcement, the penalty for careless driving is to be reduced. We are concerned that this will widen the gap between the punishment for similar levels of culpability on the basis of the consequences incurred.

As with speeding and red light running, FPN greatly increased the detection and prosecution of these offences. RoadPeace appreciates that a FPN for careless driving could do much to reduce the risks faced by road users, especially those walking, cycling and motorcycling.  But the current problems outweigh the potential benefits with this FPN at present.

Lack of evidence for remedial training

The DfT acknowledge in this consultation that “There is currently no specific quantitative evidence regarding the effectiveness of remedial training on reducing re-offending. The NDORS plans to evaluate national remedial training courses across all areas of traffic offences to determine their effectiveness in reducing re-offending and the prevalence of poor driving”. (pg 10).

This was also acknowledged in the 2008 DfT Compliance consultation which stated “there is evidence of a modest improvement in attitude towards safe driving for those who attend the course, but no reliable evidence that this translates into improved driving performances on the road”. Four years on, we still lack the evidence. The Cochrane Collaboration has documented the lack of evidence for driver education programmes and the potential for school based programmes to lead to increased risk.

Penalty points should be suspended instead of waived for those opting to take remedial training courses.

2.  Do agree that the FPN offence should carry 3 penalty points and a fine of £90? If not, please explain your reasons why.

RDRF supports increasing the penalties for motoring offences and believes that this is long overdue.

As the consultation acknowledges itself, the proposed increase is just catching up with inflation. There is very little increase in penalty apart from inflation adjustments. The proposed fines should be considered to be the minimum, but those motoring offences which pose risk to life and limb should not be less than those for misusing space, e.g. bus lane and parking offences (£130). We urge that consideration be given to linking fines to inflation levels and also income.   Unit fines should be reconsidered for motoring offences with graduated penalties for repeat
offenders.

We support the proposal for FPNs to attract at least 3 penalty points.

3.  Do you agree with the criteria for the guidance on issuing a FPN or remedial training? If not, please explain your reasons why.

RDRF thinks we need to  see clearer guidance on the distinction between careless and dangerous driving before the introduction of any FPN scheme.

Charging standards and downgrading

RDRF is concerned that instances of dangerous driving will be prosecuted by a FPN.  This risk can be seen when this FPN was discussed in the 2008 DfT Compliance consultation. Dangerous Driving could have applied to six of the seven examples given of careless driving.

Four years on, we believe the evidence shows that there is even a greater problem with downgrading. Since the new charge of Causing Death by Careless Driving was introduced, the number of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving convictions has halved. This was never intended or expected to happen as the CPS predicted there would be less than 100 convictions of Causing Death by Careless Driving each year.

The CPS is reviewing their policy on prosecuting driver offenders later this year and this will include the charging standards for careless and dangerous driving. RDRF continues to call for
the standards used by the DVLA for driving tests (also a two tier system) to be applied to the charging standards used by the police and CPS.

Enforcement levels

This is our biggest area of concern. The DfT has estimated that this new FPN will be used less than 15,000 times a year. This equates to less than once a day by each police force in Britain. This
would have no deterrent effect and is unlikely to result in a change in attitudes

A simple consideration of the insurance premiums required by typical motorists, the numbers of insurance claims made each year (some 4 million) and the ordinary observation of visible rule and law infringement by motorists. Indicate that this level of enforcement is ludicrously low. Indeed, it is several orders of magnitude lower than a level which might be expected to have
any deterrent effect whatsoever.

At this level a typical motorist would expect to be given a FPN for careless driving about 1/1,600 years, or once every 35 lifetimes of driving. A typical motorist is likely to be involved in a collision once every 4 -5 years, with full responsibility every 10 years or so. Involvement in collisions is only the tip of the iceberg of rule and law breaking behaviour which leads to such
collisions.

We suggest that the level of allocation of FPN fines and endorsements would have to be at least 300 times higher to have any chance of deterrent effect. It would also need to be backed up by

  • Increased enforcement of Dangerous Driving offences.
  • Use of safety cameras for speed and traffic signals offences.
  • Enforcement of laws on unregistered/uninsured vehicles.
  • Investigation and enforcement of failing to stop incidents
  • Enforcement of regulations on defective eyesight, and driving while unfit through other forms of ill health.
  • Enforcement of laws on drink driving and drug taking and driving through random or targeted tests.
  • Introduction of testing every five years for motorists over 60 years old, if not motorists of all ages.

The proposals represent a major missed opportunity to reduce the risk of harm to others on our roads and streets.

Enforcement focus

This FPN could, if properly enforced, have a key role in reminding drivers of their duty of care to others, especially the duty owed to cyclists and pedestrians.  This FPN could be used for drivers who overtook too closely to cyclists, entered advanced stop lines or proceeded before letting pedestrians complete their crossings.  It is much needed to help rebalance the use of our roads and encourage more to walk and cycle.

While plainclothes police officers cannot arrest offenders for motoring offences, they can and should travel on roads or junctions where problems are reported.

We also support a pilot whereby camera evidence supplied by road users is sufficient to trigger a prosecution. This may be restricted to those cases that can be corroborated by another witness or where the road user has been trained by the police. Projects such as Roadsafe in London have been dismal failures, with only 2% of incidents reported leading to prosecution.

It should be possible, and indeed is necessary, to train up individuals (as are Special Police officers or Police Community Support Officers) at relatively low cost compared to Police officers  in both use of appropriate technology and recognition of rule and law breaking.

Part B: Levels for motoring fixed penalty notice offences

4.  Do you agree we should increase the penalty levels for most endorsable plus seat belt wearing fixed penalty offences to £90? If not, please explain your reasons why.

RDRF believe that it is appropriate that financial punishments levied on drivers maintain their value and thus would support an increase in fixed penalty offences to £90. We would like this to be seen as a minimum and would prefer an approach which took into account the driver’s income. We would also support linking the level of fine to inflation, to ensure that the monetary value of the FPN does not decrease over time.

5.  Do you agree we should increase the levels for non-endorsable fixed penalties to £45 (excluding parking offences)? If not, please explain your reasons why.

We believe that the minimum fixed penalty should be £45.

6.  Do you agree that we should increase the fixed penalty level for driving without insurance to £300? If not, please explain your reasons why.

While RDRF supports an increase in the fixed penalty level for driving without insurance we believe it should be much higher than £300.

Driving without insurance is different to many other driving offences in that it is intended to save money. Hence the financial payment should be much higher.  Motor vehicle owners should be required to pay back dated costs of insurance and these should be ringfenced in a fund for road traffic victims. It is tragic reflection on our society that motor vehicle owners have been paying into a fund that will repair damage costs to vehicles but not for support for those bereaved or injured by motor vehicles.

7.  Do you have any views on whether to increase the fixed penalty levels for the offence of keeping a vehicle without insurance? If so, or if not, please explain your reasons why.

8.  Do you think graduated fixed penalties should be increased to the levels being proposed for the other motoring FPNs in the consultation document? If not, or if so, please explain your reasons why.

Yes. If a vehicle is deemed to be overweight or a driver of a commercial vehicle has been working beyond the maximum number of hours permitted there is a potential danger to other road users. As such a fine, starting at £90, which is commensurate with the level of offence committed, could be appropriate.

We do however believe that in cases where numerous offences have been committed the driver must go to court.

Additional RDRF views on motoring fines

Motoring fines for MOJ should require road crime to be treated as real crime

The Ministry of Justice has stated that it is to receive £30 million from the expected revenue increase from motoring FPNs.

 

  1. Treat those bereaved and injured in road crashes as victims of crime, until the contrary is proven. ACPO has adopted this approach and the MOJ should follow.
    2. Count the victims. Include victims of law breaking drivers in victim of crime statistics. The number of people killed by law breaking drivers is not even counted at present.

3.  Include crash locations in crime maps. To date, crime maps have focused on property crimes but property can be replaced, unlike loved ones.

    4. Stop referring to “accidents”. Not all but many crashes will involve criminal behaviour. Collision or crash do not imply culpability but accident suggests the lack of it. The police and CPS have already adopted this change in terminology. The Department for Transport, and the media need to do so too.

And also:

    5. Include road danger. Community consultations and anti-social behaviour surveys should include road danger concerns. Speeding vehicles were the leading cause of
    anti-social behaviour until the question was dropped from the British Crime Survey.

It is crucially important to realise that people are often not hurt or killed at certain locations when cycling or walking NOT because such locations are safe them, but precisely because they are hazardous and they are deterred from cycling or walking at them. Objective measures – such as multi-lane junctions with high speed motor traffic for cyclists, crossings with long times to cross and country roads with no footways for pedestrians – should be used as well as surveys to highlight where careless or dangerous driving are problems.

Dr. Robert Davis, Chair, Road Danger Reduction Forum