Dangerous drivers are being singled out for tougher penalties under new government plans to improve road safety announced on Wednesday.
Careless driving will be made a fixed penalty offence to allow the police more effectively to tackle reckless driving that puts other road users in danger, while disqualified drivers face having to take a new test before regaining their licence.
There will also be more educational courses offered in place of a fixed penalty and points where appropriate as well as a new post-test qualification for novice drivers, under plans set out in the new Strategic Framework for Road Safety.
Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond said: "This report marks a sea change in how we tackle road safety in this country. We are determined to differentiate between wilfully reckless drivers and the law abiding majority who sometimes make honest mistakes, or who have allowed their skills to deteriorate.
"We will focus relentlessly on cracking down on the really reckless few who are responsible for a disproportionately large number of accidents and deaths on our roads. By allowing the police to focus resources on dealing with these drivers, we can make our roads even safer.
"Our vision is to ensure Britain remains a world leader on road safety. We will only do this is if we bring people with us. This means cracking down on the most dangerous drivers without waging war on the law abiding majority."
The new Strategic Framework for Road Safety sets out the Government’s plans to:
- Make careless driving a fixed penalty offence to allow the police more effectively to tackle the wilfully reckless driving that puts other road users in danger. Guidance will ensure that that the circumstances in which a fixed penalty notice is appropriate are clearly defined.
- Require offenders to pass a test before they regain their licence after a serious disqualification.
- Make greater use of powers to seize vehicles to keep the most dangerous drivers off the roads.
- Increase the level of fixed penalty notices for traffic offences from £60 to between £80 and £100 and penalty points. Levels have fallen behind those for other fixed penalty offences, which risks trivialising the offences.
- Improve enforcement against drink and drug driving, as announced in the response to the North Report in March.
- Increase the use of police-approved educational courses that can be offered in place of fixed penalty notices to encourage safer driving behaviour.
- Launch a new post-test qualification for new drivers, including an assessment process to give insurers confidence that it will create safer drivers who can expect to pay lower insurance costs. This will replace the current Pass Plus scheme.
- Continue to improve the driving and motorcycling training processes, including introducing film clips into theory test.
- Create a new website to allow local people to easily compare the road safety performance of their local area against similar areas, as well as a new portal to help road safety professionals share information. The framework published today also includes maps which show the recent road safety records and improvements of local authorities.
- Launch an annual road safety day.
Safety groups have welcomed the move. Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety, said: "Strong government leadership on road safety is crucial. RoSPA believes that the Department for Transport has taken the right decision by publishing the Strategic Framework for Road Safety.
"This demonstrates the government’s determination to reduce road deaths and injury, and helps the main agencies involved in road safety to work together more effectively so that the significant reductions in road casualties that have been achieved over the last two decades will continue, and be improved even further, throughout this one."
Driving instructors also support the new framework. Steve Garrod, general manager of the Driving Instructors Association, said: "We fully support the government looking beyond the enforcement of speed limits as a way of improving road safety. The life-long learning approach to road safety, starting with children as young as five, and continuing through the process of learning to drive and beyond, is entirely sensible."
However, others were cautious on the impact of on-the-spot fines. IAM chief executive Simon Best said: "A strategy that punishes deliberate bad driving while allowing those who make simple human errors to improve, has our full support. But we are concerned that issuing spot fines for careless driving could downgrade the offence and we will be monitoring the impact carefully."