2017 changes to penalties for road traffic offences

A four part review of Road Traffic law news in 2017 - Part 1

2017 has been a busy year for road traffic law reforms with no shortage of opportunities to fall foul of road traffic rules (Sky News reported in October that a road traffic penalty is issued every 2.5 seconds with 30% of drivers receiving one penalty annually).

The following sentencing guidelines have been amended this year:


Careless Driving

The approach to sentencing has changed with a more sophisticated analysis of culpability and harm to determine the starting point of a sentence. The new approach addresses a potential anomaly in the previous guidance where low culpability but serious consequences would be sentenced at the lowest end of the range and at the other end where there was high culpability but low harm previously the starting point would be the highest point on the scale. Both these scenarios would now be sentenced in the middle of the range.


Excess Alcohol

The new guidelines subtly alter the potential outcomes on sentencing:

  • In the lowest reading range the fine range has been widened to allow the possibility of slightly lower fines on the lowest readings.
  • The second reading range has a potential increased penalty as an offender may now face a community order rather than just a fine.
  • The fourth category which is the highest range also carries a potentially longer disqualification where the court determines that immediate custody is warranted.


Using a mobile phone

The penalty for driving using a hand held mobile phone whilst driving was first introduced in 2003 with a £60 fine and 3 penalty points. The fines have increased over time but the points have remained the same. Since 1 March 2017 the fine has increased to £200 and crucially for the haulage industry the penalty points have increased from 3 to 6.

The fact that mobile phone use can lead to driver distraction and increase the risk of accidents is unlikely to come as a surprise. However a study by the Government’s Transport Research Laboratory found that the use of mobile devices impairs driving by a greater degree than if the driver were above the drink driving limit and yet any regular road user will see numerous breaches every day.

It is increasingly important for employers to take steps to address the use of mobile phones by introducing in cab cameras, sampling footage from the cameras and taking action if handheld devices are shown to be used whilst driving. Other good practice includes providing work phones, hands free kits, drafting and implementing a policy on use of phones to include, where possible, personal phones to be left at the depot and personal calls in work hours to be limited to emergencies and routed through the transport office.

Crucially the increased penalty points will also increase the frequency with which drivers face totting up disqualifications. This change in the law is a good opportunity for your organisation to review its processes in terms of driver licence checks and it may be worth considering increasing the frequency of checks.

Learn more on our all new motoring law website: https://www.sillslegal.co.uk/motoring-offences/

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