On-the-spot fines for ‘idiot drivers’ – a good or a bad idea?

On the spot fines for idiot drivers a good or a bad idea

Last Wednesday (May 11th 2011), Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond unveiled government plans to launch a crackdown on “idiot” drivers guilty of committing low-level offences.

Motorists who police spot tail-gating, undertaking or cutting others up could soon face a fixed penalty notice of £80 to £100 rather than being taken to court.

No win no fee solicitors such as Claims Direct help many people make personal injury claims after they have been injured as a result of others’ careless driving. 

Improving road safety is one of the reasons why the government want to drive the proposals through at top-speed. 

But bodies such as the Institute of Advanced Motoring and the RAC Foundation have lined up in an attempt to put a road-block on the proposals. Some of the things opponents and supporters of the government plans are likely to say are outlined below.

Arguments against

1.“The new framework is over-simplistic” – many motoring organisations point out that careless driving cases often aren’t clear-cut. For instance, a manoeuvre which can be deemed careless in a busy traffic situation might be seen as perfectly safe in another context.

2.“Administration will be unenforceable” – the RAC points out that police will still have to gather evidence as motorists can contest the offence. 

3.“Fines will hit poor drivers the most” – it seems unfair to many that wealthier drivers will be more able to afford to drive carelessly than poorer drivers are. 

4.“The fines are inadequate deterrents” – a spokeswoman for road safety charity Brake referred to the proposed fine of £100 as “little more than a slap on the wrist”.

5.“The fines just a way of swelling the Treasury coffers” – much cynicism about the proposals has focussed on this idea. 

Arguments in favour

Road safety groups such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) have given the new road safety framework a cautious approval for reasons such as…

1.“It could protect road users” – a Rospa spokesman said: “This demonstrates the government’s determination to reduce road death and injuries.” 

2.“It will be fairer”- an argument exists that if people are given on-the-spot fines offences which don’t endanger lives (such as dropping litter and smoking on a bus) why shouldn’t they face on-the-spot fines for actions which could have cost a life?

3.“Careless drivers have been getting away from it for too long” – Phillip Hammond says of the present enforcement situation: “Somebody driving at 55mph in a 50mph limit might get prosecuted but the idiot who is weaving in and out of traffic and tail-gating gets off scot-free.”

4.“Fines revenue could be used wisely” – could the money raised by on-the-spot fines be reinvested in speed cameras, traffic calming measures and other safety initiatives? 

5.“It will send out a message” – a new crackdown on careless driving could counteract the idea that a coalition government which has made noises about relaxing the motorway speed limit is neglecting the issue of safety on British roads.

All sides involved in the debate about road safety agree that combating careless driving could reduce the number of accidents and deaths on British roads.

But the different opinions on how this can be achieved means that the government proposals will continue to face fierce scrutiny.