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Lane hoggers beware!

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A recent study has revealed that the three things motorists detest whilst out on the road are tailgating, hogging the middle lane and using a mobile phone whilst driving.

I have to confess that number three is my personal pet hate, but I have a husband (who is a fully paid up member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM)) who thinks all ‘middle lane hoggers’ should be banned from driving for life! Harsh, I know.

Wthin the last couple of days, and presumably as a complete coincidence, the Government has announced new measures to help combat motor vehicle accidents, aimed at making it easier for Police to tackle these type of problem drivers.

From July, police will be able to dish out harsher, on-the-spot fines without the need for lengthy court procedures. Current laws require motorists to be stopped by police, a court summons issued and then evidence of their breach presented, all of which takes considerable time and is often a debar to such cases being brought and successfully prosecuted.

People found guilty of careless driving will face increased fixed penalties, or will have the choice (as they do currently) to go on a driving course. It is expected that the more serious examples of careless driving will continue to go through the Courts, where the outcome would be higher fines and more penalty points.

Road Safety Minister, Stephen Hammond said “Careless drivers are a menace and their negligence puts innocent people’s lives at risk. That is why we are making it easier for the police to tackle problem drivers by allowing them to immediately issue a fixed penalty notice rather than needing to take every offender to court.”

News of the Police’s increased powers to deal with what is viewed by many as anti-social driving behaviour was widely welcomed, particularly by insurers, but the IAM expressed some concern as to the message the changes would send out.

Their director of policy, Neil Grieg, said “This is a major change in traffic law enforcement and the IAM is concerned that issuing fixed penalty tickets for careless driving downplays the seriousness of the offences. Careless covers a wide range of poor to reckless driving behaviour that often merits further investigation.

This could free up traffic police time and allow them to maintain a higher profile. But without traffic cops out on the road to enforce this new approach it will have little impact on road safety.”

At a time when our own local Police force is having to deal with swathing cuts (reducing their budget by at least  25%), the point made by the IAM is extremely valid – are there going to be enough traffic police around to make the changes work?

Let’s hope so, so I can at least have a peaceful journey on a motorway when my husband is at the wheel!

By personal injury solicitor and Stephensons Partner, Kate Sweeney