Driving safely and legally at Christmas?

Careless driving puts innocent people’s lives at risk. In 2011 excess speed contributed to 213 deaths and using a mobile phone while driving contributed to 374 road casualties.

After consultation, in August 2013 the Government introduced some new offences and made some changes to existing penalties, most of which had not been reviewed since 2000.

New offences which are now subject to on the spot penalties of £100 fine plus 3 points on the driver’s licence are:

  • Tailgating  (driving too close to the car in front)
  • Poor lane discipline (this is aimed at drivers who hog the middle or outside lane, making it difficult and frustrating for other drivers who want to overtake. The Highway code says that you should drive in lane 1 of a motorway unless overtaking)

Other careless driving offences have been brought into line with these new fixed penalty offences (£100 fine and 3 point endorsement) and include:

  • Using a mobile phone at the wheel and
  • Not wearing a seatbelt

Other changes to motoring penalties include:

  • A non-endorsable (no points on licence) £30 fixed penalty notice rises to £50
  • £60 fixed penalty notices have risen to £100
  • Endorsable £120 fixed penalty notices have risen to £200
  • The fixed penalty notice for driving with no insurance has risen from £200 to £300

The penalty points for these offences will not change.

The police will be able to offer educational training as an alternative to endorsement, and drivers will be able to appeal any decision in court.

The more serious examples of careless driving will continue to go through court, where offenders may face higher penalties.

If you receive a fixed penalty notice, you will normally have 28 days in which to accept and pay. If you ignore it or fail to comply in time, the case will be referred to court. If you plead guilty, or are found guilty, it is likely that the penalty will be more severe than the fixed penalty. However, if you plead not guilty and the case is dismissed, you will not face any punishment and should recover your costs.

The AA offer the following motorway driving advice:

  • Keep left unless overtaking. Return to left hand lane after overtaking
  • Follow the two seconds rule – give yourself time to react (see Which? research quoted below)
  • Adjust for the conditions – slow down and follow the four second rule if the road is slippery or visibility is poor
  • Control your speed
  • Indicate in good time before changing lanes
  • Check your mirrors often- your situation will change quickly on a motorway
  • Take extra care around trucks – they have bigger blind spots and slower reaction times
  • Anticipate what’s coming next by sweeping the road ahead visually and check your mirrors
  • Only use the hard shoulder in an emergency
  • Take regular breaks – about every two hours – to stop yourself becoming tired behind the wheel

Which? sent some researchers to a research centre where simulators guaged their driving ability and reaction times in various states of distraction – they found that:

  • Their researchers took 1 second to react to a hazard when they were sober and undistracted
  • It took them more than 0.2 of a second more to react when sober and speaking on a hands-free phone (though using a hands-free phone is legal it can still distract you from driving)
  • When attempting to write a text message the average reaction time jumped to 2 seconds
  • When texting the researchers got closer to the car infront by around 12 metres, suggesting that those who text are also more likely to tailgate. Their tendency to drift between lanes also increased and one researcher would have crashed.

We hope that you enjoy safe driving over Christmas and through the New Year.

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