The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking (APPGCW) has today released a new report that aims to address the issue of road justice and sentencing in the UK.
The group said it is all too common to hear of an appalling case of road violence in which one or more people have either lost their lives or suffered life changing injuries – only for the perpetrator to receive a “shockingly” low sentence and / or driving license penalty.
It is this imbalance between the action and the consequence that the APPGWC argues needs correcting in order to see true road justice. This is critical given that dangerous driving and road safety is a key barrier to active travel uptake.
One of the key recommendations within the report is that exceptional hardship should be overhauled to be truly reflective of circumstances. Almost a quarter of those who amass 12 penalty points successfully argue against disqualification on grounds of exceptional hardship. This is despite revised guidance, and indicates a clear problem with either the current definition, or its application. The resulting consequence is that many drivers who could be serving a ban are still out on the roads, with increased risk to all other road users.
Commenting on the report, PACTS Executive Director Jamie Hassall told Zag Daily “there should be a review of the current system relating to totting-up.
“If individuals need to drive to prevent hardship, then they should do so in a legal manner where they are not putting themselves or others at risk. Very few drivers get 12 points in one go and so should have had fair warning about their behaviour. Research is needed to see if other intervention could be used to help these drivers improve and prevent them losing their licence.”
APPGWC is also calling for compulsory re-testing for anyone wishing to drive following any period of disqualification. Many offences are committed by people who are clearly not competent to drive. While re-testing is an established intervention in traffic law, the latest sentencing guidelines do not include it for causing serious injury by careless or inconsiderate driving or even attempting to drive with a specified drug above the specified limit.
Other recommendations include the removal of tolerances in speed enforcement, escalating penalties for repeated offences, an increased maximum sentence for dangerous driving and fuller use of Police bail powers.
Responding to the report, a spokesperson from the Department for Transport (DfT) said, “Road safety is a priority for the Government and there are tough penalties and rigorous enforcement to crack down on motorists who break the rules.
“The Government continues to keep the law under review, and we will consider the report’s findings.”
In fact, the laws were updated in 2022. As part of the Police Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, the minimum disqualification periods for the serious offences of Causing Death by Careless Driving When Under the Influence of Drink or Drugs was increased from two to five years. If there is a repeat offence within three years, it is increased from three to six years.
Following the report’s publication, the APPGCW will be meeting with Ministers, lobbying for a Parliamentary debate, and highlighting road justice wherever possible.