Under proposals outlined by the Department for Transport, drivers who exceed the speed limit by more than 20 miles per hour could face a fixed penalty of six points. The obvious impact is that after two such convictions a driver would be liable for at least a six month disqualification under the totting up provisions.
The current penalty for a speeding offence is a fine and three to six penalty points which allows a level of discretion on the part of the Courts. Fixed penalties are currently restricted to three penalty points.
The proposals are contained in the Department for Transport Road Safety Compliance Consultation which can be found at:
Rebecca Cooke, Specialist Motoring Lawyer at Olliers Solicitors, www.olliersmotorlaw.co.uk. feels that six points for one offence is arguably too much; ‘the current law allows for six points and indeed disqualification for a single offence of speeding. However, guidelines suggest disqualification should be considered when a driver is more than 30mph over the limit and even then the recommendation would start at fifty-six days and it would not automatically follow’.
Ms Cooke goes on to say that ‘the guidelines for imposing between four and six points is a speed of between 20 – 30mph over the limit and, in one sense, the new provisions may not make a great deal of difference’. However should a motorway driver caught driving at 91mph on just two occasions really face disqualification?’
Perhaps of significance is the fact that, under the current provisions, fixed penalties only relate to the lower speed. A summons is more or less automatic for higher speeds. A driver is not, therefore, at risk of more than three points without receiving a summons. This allows the driver to consider the accompanying evidence and then perhaps challenge either the evidence as a whole or the speed alleged. Under the new proposals, a driver may end up accepting a six point fixed fee without challenge, especially if the driver has less than six points on their licence at the time but then find themselves one offence away from a ‘totting up’ disqualification.
This is very worrying for a high mileage driver, who would find themselves with a sword of Damocles over them for the next three years.
The consultation is open until 28th February 2009.
It contains a package covering five main areas. In addition to the proposal in relation to speeding offences, it also covers the following areas.
Respondents are asked to consider whether there should be a change in the prescribed alcohol limit for driving, there have been calls for reducing the lower limit of alcohol allowed in blood from 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml or even less. One concern is that the lack of information about having accidents may have been caused as a direct result of drivers who may have drunk more than 50mgs of alcohol but less than 80mgs of alcohol. One possibility may be to impose a lower period of disqualification for drivers caught driving between the new and old limits.
Another area of concern is the suggestion that there should be legislation to remove the option to the Defendant to have a blood or urine sample taken, on the basis that the evidential value of the breath test has been proved to be sufficiently reliable. This is worrying because there is an abundance of case law to suggest otherwise. It’s often the case that, due to a variety of reasons, the breath test reading can be unreliable, for example mouth alcohol at the time of the breath test.
The document contains the proposal for increasing the fine for not wearing a seatbelt from £30 to £60 in 2009. This may well be something that received little opposition.
Procedures are being mooted to deal more effectively with drug drivers. At present, the ability of the authorities to enforce offences relating to driving whilst impaired by drugs are limited. It is difficult to prove that a driver is under the influence of a controlled substance and also that it has had an effect on their ability to drive. It may well be that improvements could be made in this area.
There is also a proposal for a fixed penalty in relation to careless driving. A conviction for careless driving leads to between three and nine penalty points. This allows for a lot of discretion on the part of a sentencing Court.
At the upper end, in addition to between seven and nine penalty points, disqualification can be imposed. The Court also has the option, at the lower end, to impose a modest amount of penalty points for a momentary lapse of concentration or misjudgement. The introduction of fixed penalties may lead to higher rates of conviction but may also mean that an inappropriate number of points will be imposed for an offence with no opportunity for a Court to exercise discretion.
Rebecca Cooke is a Specialist Motoring Lawyer at Olliers Solicitors. For more information on the services offered by Olliers Solicitors, please visit www.olliersmotorlaw.co.uk.
Olliers Motorlaw is part of Criminal Defence firm Olliers, www.olliers.com.
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