Under new powers police will not be giving verbal warnings and will instead issue fixed-penalty notices for careless driving or minor offences as failing to signal passing, too close to a cyclist or not displaying lights at night. Drivers will pay an automatic £60 fine and have three penalty points added to their licences.
As more than one million motorists have six or more points on their licences. Anyone who receives 12 points within three years is banned for six months. Road safety groups are concerned that with new power and will fuel suspicion among drivers that police are acting unfairly and that fines are being issued to raise revenue.
Unlike existing fixed-penalty offences, such as speeding and using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel, the evidence for careless driving is much less clear-cut and is often a matter of the officer’s opinion.
A Department for Transport consultation paper says that there is evidence that police are not charging drivers with careless driving due to the issue of paperwork involved. “This would suggest that there are careless drivers who are currently ‘getting away with it’, an idea that is supported by the steady downward trend in the prosecution of careless driving.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers welcomed the move.