Fixed penalty proposed for careless driving

  • Three points and £60 fixed penalty
  • Bid to reduce red-tape for offences
  • Final decision by the end of 2009

Careless driving may become a fixed penalty offence, carrying three points and a penalty of £60, as speeding does.

The proposal, which would allow the police to issue a roadside ticket for careless driving, has been criticised by magistrates.

The idea was put forward by the Government in the Department for Transport's Road Safety Compliance Consultation, which ended earlier this year.

It said a careless driving charge must currently be heard in a magistrates' court, which involves a 'heavy burden of paperwork and is resource-intensive'.

The DfT argues that the cost implications may be leading to the police not charging drivers.

The driver would still retain the option to challenge the offence in court rather than accept the points and fine, the proposal states. 'We expect this proposal to be widely welcomed.'

However, the Magistrates' Association said it strongly opposes the idea. 'Matters that require a judgement to be made, are matters that should be brought to court for the purpose,' said Chris Hunt-Cooke, chairman of the MA's road traffic committee.

'Police officers may have seen the incident themselves, in which case they will be acting as witness, prosecutor, judge and jury, deciding on guilt and then sentencing the offence.

'Drivers who choose to appeal against the fixed penalty by going to court would risk a higher number of penalty points or a disqualification, and a very much higher fine, so there would be quite disproportionate pressure not to dispute the penalty notice, regardless of whether they really accept their guilt.

'Drivers who may have a reasonable defence should not be coerced in this way; it is simply unjust."

A DfT spokesman said the association's views will be taken into account before a final decision is made before the end of the year.

'There are lots of views to take into account,' she said. 'But this is what we want to do otherwise we wouldn't have suggested it.'