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Consultation document seeks views on measures aimed at improving compliance levels with key Road Safety Laws

December 8, 2008

The Department for Transport has recently published a consultation document covering proposals for improving compliance with key road safety laws in a bid to reduce road casualties. The 5 key issues covered are speeding, drink driving, seatbelt wearing, drug driving and careless driving.

Speeding

Despite concerted enforcement, engineering and publicity efforts, around 50 % of vehicles are still driven at speeds exceeding the 30mph speed limit. The Department of Transport will refresh its THINK! Speed campaign in 2009 with a continuing focus on 30mph roads, where a small change in speed can make the difference between life and death for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

Proposals for improving compliance with speed limits include a graduated fixed penalty of 6 points for drivers who exceed the speed limit by a very large margin – 20mph in most speed limits.

Drink driving

There has been a dramatic decrease in drink driving casualties over the last 40 years and there was a welcome reduction in drink driving fatalities in 2007. Never the less drink driving remains a major road safety concern and a significant factor in fatal and serious injury accidents. Further tightening up on enforcement will be a major part of the Department’s strategy for reducing the effects of drink driving alongside research and technology to give a better understanding of  the issue.

In response to calls for a lower drink drive limit of 50mg/100ml, the Department recognises that this would be a significant change of strategy and is seeking solid evidence on how many deaths and injuries could be avoided with such a limit. The Consultation document, therefore, seeks views on the priority which should be given to a change in the prescribed alcohol limit and asks respondents what evidence they are able to offer and what evidence do they believe should be obtained to support such a move.

Seat Belts

The level of compliance with the law requiring the wearing of seat belts by the front seat occupants of vehicles is very high – as high as 95%in cars, but there are a lot of irregular wearers in cars and other vehicles and rear seat belt are much less used than those in the front.

The Home Office is currently consulting on a proposed increase in the penaly for failing to wear a seat belt from £30 to £60 in 2009.

Drug driving

There is very little information on the scale of the drug driving problem but evidence suggests that it is serious and increasing.

The current  law requires proof that a driver is impaired by drugs. The procedure is complex and as a result there are relatively few prosecutions. The Department of Transport will work with the Police to find practical ways of enforcing the existing law and to explore whether a new offence needs to be created to enable the police to deal more effectively with drug drivers. The consultation document seeks views on this difficult but important issue.

Careless Driving.

Careless driving is a catch-all offence that covers general bad driving. Data collected by the police on the contributory factors to accidents suggest a substantial number of casualties result from this behaviour – at the extreme end, 408 deaths had ‘careless, reckless or in a hurry’ recorded as a contributory factor in 2007.

Levels of enforcement do not appear to match the scale of the problem. In 2006 there were fewer than 30,000 successful prosecutions for careless or dangerous driving, less than a third of the number for drink driving, and the number of prosecutions has dropped by nearly 75 per cent in the last two decades. With 79 per cent of careless driving prosecutions happening only after a collision, there is a clear need to tackle careless driving before it causes an accident.

The Department for Transport is considering making careless driving a fixed penalty offence, which will enable the police to enforce with a minimum of bureaucracy against careless drivers who admit their fault. This would reduce the costs of enforcement, as well as being simpler for drivers, and could free up police resources, allowing more police time to be spent on the road. The fixed penalty would be £60 and 3 penalty points.

The Consultation period ends on 27th February 2009

For further information go to: http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/compliance

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