John Halewood-Dodd column: Motorists stall over new careless driving offences

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Prime Minister Harold Macmillan opened the first stretch of motorway in England, the M6 Preston bypass, in December 1958.

It closed after a month due to surface deterioration.

Since those early days of motoring, queues, roadworks and accidents have shaped our daily lives.

The minutiae of the majority of road legislation passes the average motorist by, but even we backseat drivers get frustrated when someone cuts us up.

We tire of the inevitable calm when police cars appear and bullish road users temporarily transform into driving-test standard model chauffeurs.

Friday August 16 saw new powers gifted to the police enabling them to issue on-the-spot Fixed Penalty Notices for ‘careless driving’.

These new powers are concerning both in that they ring cash registers for forces too easily and in the ambiguity of their application.

The FPNs cost motorists who fall foul of them £100 with a three- point endorsement.

What sort of driving are they hoping to tackle?

The Department of Transport has cited examples but they appear to be worryingly subjective with room for confusion; driving too close to another vehicle, poor lane discipline, queue cutting and using ‘inappropriate speed’ to name but a few.

Combating bad driving should begin with clear definitions for drivers on where the line is drawn between legal and illegal driving.

If drivers wish to challenge their FPN they are able to do so by electing a court hearing instead, but drivers who are not actually guilty of any offence might pay up to avoid hassle in preference to contesting the notice.

With tax and fuel costs rising and the accompanying increase to the recipient’s car insurance premium, these FPNs are an unneeded extra cost at a time when most families are already feeling the squeeze.