The Police are to be given new powers to issue fixed penalty notices for careless driving offences such as tailgating and middle lane hogging. However, drivers cannot be forced to accept fixed penalties and will still be able to challenge them in court. The fixed penalty will be £100 and three penalty points and is expected to be introduced in July. Some drivers may be offered training courses. The new powers will apply to both motorways and ordinary roads.
In addition, existing fixed penalty levels for most motoring offences, including using a mobile phone whilst driving, will rise to £100.
It remains to be seen whether the new powers will be exercised fairly or simply treated as another way of squeezing money out of beleaguered motorists. It also remains to be seen how many will actually stand up in Court if challenged, especially if individual police officers are pressured to hit targets. The fear is that innocent drivers may be forced to go to Court to fight unfair fixed penalties.
Although the new powers seem popular with some, I have serious reservations. I have successfully challenged in Court many fixed penalties which Police officers should never have issued.
For example, in several mobile phone cases I have been able to obtain phone records to prove that the driver was not on the phone or texting as alleged. These records are not easy to obtain and require a Court order. In another case, my client was given a fixed penalty for using a mobile phone whilst driving, even though his van was a different colour to the one described by the Police officer. In all these cases my clients were acquitted, but were forced to go to Court to avoid a fixed penalty. I wonder how many drivers just accept an unjustified fixed penalty either because they don’t realize that it can be challenged or because they want to avoid going to Court.
Tailgating and middle lane hogging have of course always been offences, but it is only now that the government has decided to target them.
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