Highway safety drive – or just the latest ministerial car crash?

Campaigners tell Jonathan Brown tell why new penalties for road-hogging and tailgating will not work

Driving in Britain is safer than at any time since 1950. But that is of little consolation to the families of the five people killed or the dozens seriously injured every day in collisions on UK roads.

Click image above to enlarge graphic

With 200,000 casualties per year the imposition of £100 fixed penalty fines announced by the Government today was dismissed by some safety campaigners as a woefully inadequate response to the grim toll of death and injury resulting by our love affair with the motor vehicle.

Roads safety minister Stephen Hammond warned that drivers who hogged the middle lane of motorways, drove while using their mobile phones or tailgated other road users faced on the spot fines and three points on their licence.

Those that did not use their seat belt - a safety initiative credited with saving 50,000 lives since it was introduced in Britain in 1983 - also face increased fines if they do not buckle up.

The charity Brake, which cares for families bereaved in road accidents, had sought to persuade the Government that the minimum fine for such offences should be £500 - £1,000 - putting it on a par with financial penalties to prevent littering or smoking in public.

Julie Townsend, the charity's chief executive, said the proposals simply did not go far enough. "It's crucial we encourage greater respect for laws on our roads, which are in place to protect people's lives, and higher fines can help achieve this. £100 is not enough to pose a strong deterrent to potentially life-threatening behaviour, like using a mobile at the wheel," she said.

It is estimated that phoning or texting whilst driving increases the risk of a crash by up to 400 per cent. 

Mr Hammond said the new scale would make it easier for police to tackle problem drivers rather than haul them through the courts. Yet groups immediately questioned whether this would mean more traffic officers on British roads.

Dave Shenton, head of field operations for the Institute of Advanced Motorists and a former West Midlands traffic officer said that without more motorway patrols there could be little hope of enforcement.

He said too many motorists still harboured basic misunderstandings such as that the three lanes on a motorway were for slow, medium and fast drivers.

"From my experience a lot of the problems we see are a result of ignorance of behalf of the driver. All three lanes have the same speed limit of 70mph," he said.

Currently motorway driving does not feature as part of the driving test and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents - which took part in the consultation process with the Department for Transport - said it supported the use of remedial training over the imposition of fines to change driver behaviour.

Traffic psychologist Dr Charles Johnson, technical director of CAS, said previous major cultural shifts in the 1970s and 80s such as the reduction in drink driving and the change in the seat belt laws had been the result of a general public acceptance of the risks posed and hard hitting public information programmes.

But ministers had yet to make the same compelling, straightforward arguments on matters such as using a mobile phone whilst driving.

"All the emphasis has been on hand held phones but the research evidence suggests it doesn't matter whether it is hand-held or hands-free. Any sort of phone call is distracting and has equal consequences," he said. 

Enforcement - or at least the perception of enforcement - remained vital. "If you are going to use penalty fines as the method for improving behaviour it has to be seen to have an impact. You have to believe you are likely to get caught," he added.

Video: AA backs crackdown on middle lane road hogs 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Administrator - Swedish Speaking

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

    Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities Manager is required to join the m...

    Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Mobile - OTE £35,000

    £14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

    Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Unified - OTE £35,000

    £14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum