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12/26/2008
UK Targets Good Drivers with $90 Fines for Minor Incidents
UK to generate millions in revenue by creating instant fines for vague offense of bad driving.

Road safety poster
The UK Department for Transport (DfT) is preparing to give police the authority to issue instant fines to motorists accused of making simple, careless mistakes while driving. Under the proposal, police would have the authority to set the punishment for the alleged crime at £60 (US $90), bypassing expensive court hearings for a majority of cases. The ease of issuing the new on-the-spot penalty is also designed to increase the number of annual convictions to 30,480, resulting in more than £1.8 million in revenue (US $2.7 million) with a minimum of hassle for authorities.

"Anecdotal evidence suggests that the prosecution rate for careless driving is low, given the heavy burden of paperwork involved, which means that many potential offenders are not prosecuted or even charged, and so there is a potentially significant number of offenses that are going unpunished," the DfT consultation paper explains. "Given the problem of careless driving, which is likely to be higher than available data suggest and the inadequacies of the current system for securing a conviction, there is a strong case for government intervention to improve driver compliance with expected driving standards."

The extra fines are specifically targeted at drivers with a good record who may have been caught making a simple mistake. Under UK law, "careless driving" represents a non-specific, catch-all category of traffic crime as distinct from specific offenses such as driving while talking on a cell phone, neglecting to wear a seatbelt or speeding. The fixed penalty would apply to anyone "driving in a way that falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver." Although this fine could be challenged in court, doing so risks the imposition of court costs of up to £2000 if the magistrate rejects the not guilty defense.

"We have assumed that, in the majority of cases that are dealt with by the issue of a fixed penalty notice, the driver is unlikely to have any other endorsements and that the issue of three penalty points will not result in the driver incurring any significant financial costs (e.g. as a result of disqualification)," the consultation states. "Where a driver accepts the fixed penalty, there would be a reduction in costs for the police, CPS and Court Service. A survey of drivers convicted of careless driving reveals that the majority pleaded guilty to the offense."

The average cost of having a motorist go to court to plead guilty averages £680 (US $1005). Officials are eager to save this money by eliminating court hearings to the extent possible. The public comment period for the proposal expires on February 27, 2009.

View the consultation paper in a 90k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Impact Assessment of Measures to Increase Driver Compliance (UK Department for Transport, 11/20/2008)

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