There are currently 34 million vehicles and 38 million licensed drivers in the U.K. In 2009 62,500 drivers were prosecuted at court for driving without due care and attention. Of these 89% pleaded or were found guilty. This is a high rate of conviction. There are various reasons for this â€œsuccessâ€ rate eg only those where the evidence was overwhelming were pursued to court or perhaps offenders were thankful to be charged with this relatively low level offence as opposed to the more serious offence of dangerous driving. But only two years previously in 2007 23,800 prosecutions were undertaken for the same offence. Others might have knowledge of the reasons behind this difference. But as far as the Ministry of Transport is concerned the costs and reliability of the courts to deal with this offence are questionable. Careless driving is soon to be an offence punishable by a Fixed Penalty Notice issued by police. This poses some interesting points.
Without police patrol cars or actually have a beat officer noting a potential offender on the road such FPNs will be just a projection in the minds of those who have initiated this procedure. And as we all know there has been a reduction in police numbers and motorway patrols. Currently the offence carries a maximum fine of Â£5,000 and 3-9 penalty points although these maxima are rarely applied. My understanding is that the changes are prompted purely by â€œvalue for moneyâ€ insofar as offering remedial driving courses in place of the FPN will prove to be more cost effective in the long run. The thinking behind all this can be found here. It is very detailed. Amongst other things there is an assumption that all fines are actually paid. Presumably payment for courses will be in advance. But the most significant sanction will be just 3 penalty points and here is where IMHO the whole scenario fails. Disqualification as a â€œtotterâ€ is geared to amassing 12 points (6 for a new driver) within three years. This maximum distorts the relative penalties vis a vis each other. When the telephone service was running out of numbers eg in London from prefix 01 to 071 and 081 to 0207 and 0208 millions more numbers were created at a stroke. Similarly mobile numbers originally beginning with 7 had a zero prefix attached with similar effect. If the penalty points scale were enlarged to eg 100 points for disqualification finer distinctions could be imposed and allow much greater accuracy in reflecting the penalty to the offence. With 3 points for careless driving it is now equal to the points for using a mobile phone. Does this reflect the relative seriousness of the offences?
For most drivers the points sanction far outweighs the financial penalty. The government`s new approach seems to consider this irrelevant.