Speeding crackdown 'too little, too late'

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The family of two boys killed by ex-Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick in a crash on the M6 said today that Government measures to crack down on speeding motorists and drink-and-drug drivers were too little, too late.

Phil and Amanda Peak lost their sons Arron, 10, and Ben, eight, after McCormick's Range Rover hit their people carrier on the motorway near Stoke-on-Trent in June.

McCormick is serving a seven-year sentence after admitting causing death by dangerous driving and drink-driving.

Mrs Peak questioned today why the Government had not brought in a lower drink-drive level earlier, while Mr Peak said motorists who exceed the speed limit by large amounts should be banned straight away.

Mrs Peak said today she feared other families could suffer the same ordeal endured by her own.

She went on: "It's Christmas coming up and you know all those people are going to go going out, get drunk, get in their car the next morning and not think of the consequences they are going to cause."

She urged the UK to come into line with countries such as Sweden and Poland, which have an extremely low legal blood-alcohol limit.

Mrs Peak went on: "Why didn't they do this at the beginning of the year or last year, when they said they were going to do it? The Government are saying we're the same as the rest of the EU, but the alcohol limit in Great Britain is too high."

Mr Peak, who was severely injured in the crash that killed his sons, and is still recovering from spinal injuries, said the Government proposals did not go far enough.

He went on: "If you're going 20mph over the limit the first time, the second time there could be a serious accident. The first time when you go over it, that's when you should be sentenced - there should be a ban from the first time, because they could put people through what we're going through."

The Government proposals were announced today by Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick.

Plans include the possible creation of a new offence to bring drug-driving more into line with drink-driving.

If brought in, the new drug-drive law would make it illegal to drive after taking a drug "which is both illegal and impairing".

The Government is also proposing to introduce a higher tariff of six penalty points on a licence for drivers who exceed the speed limit by a dangerous and very large margin - for example by more than 20mph.

Ministers are also to provide £2m to fund the introduction of digital breath-testing equipment to free up police resources, as well as helping forces to introduce targeted drink-drive checkpoints to strengthen deterrence.

The Government will also consult on the question of reducing the legal alcohol limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Road safety minister Jim Fitzpatrick said the Government had "a completely open mind" about any reduction.

He also said the Government was planning to remove an outdated option for drivers caught moderately above the drink-drive limit to request a second test by a doctor and potentially fall back under the limit while waiting for them to arrive.

He added that today's more accurate breath-testing equipment made this option unnecessary.

Also, there are plans for a major new publicity campaign on drug-driving and proposals to help the police better enforce the current drug-driving law through improved training and equipment.

The Government is proposing to make careless driving a fixed penalty offence, which will enable the police to act against careless drivers who admit fault with a minimum of bureaucracy, freeing up police resources. The fixed penalty would be a £60 fine and three penalty points.

A major review of remedial driver training and driver testing schemes is also being planned to ensure consistency and common standards.

Mr Fitzpatrick said today: "Britain has one of the best road safety records in the world and the number of people killed or hurt has fallen dramatically in the last decade. But too many people are still dying on our roads.

"To tackle this we must crack down on the most dangerous drivers - the selfish minority whose reckless behaviour can have a catastrophic impact on innocent victims and their families. But I am also clear we must ensure balance and not impact unnecessarily on the majority of motorists who drive safely.

"The consultation I am launching today will send a very clear message to the dangerous minority that if they ignore the rules of the road, they will be caught, and they will be punished in a way that fits the crime."

Speaking further about the proposals, Mr Fitzpatrick said: "There is no legislation in place like drink-driving where we could clearly, easily prosecute anybody who does have illegal drugs in the system which is impairing their ability to drive."

He said the Government was also looking to take action against people who get behind the wheel while taking medicines which affect their driving.

He went on: "Even some prescription drugs, if they are not taken with care - and people drive when the medical advice says you shouldn't be driving with these drugs - people need to be aware of the fact that they could be exposing themselves to sanctions under the law."

On the legal alcohol limit, Mr Fitzpatrick said there would be a "very serious discussion" about whether to lower the drink-drive limit during the consultation on the new proposals.

He said: "There will be suggestions to lower (the limit) and we will be looking at that during the course of the consultation. This is the starting point for action."

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: "We welcome attempts to crack down on the dangerously irresponsible people who drive under the influence of drugs or when over the alcohol limit.

"But it is vital that any changes to the drink-driving law must not water down the penalties for violating the rules.

"And the Government must realise that, if they want to get tough on the most anti-social drivers, such as drug or drink-drivers, they won't catch them with speed cameras.

"If there are no traffic police to pull people over and breathalyse them, the Government's proposed crackdown will be nothing more than yet another empty headline."

AA president Edmund King said: "We welcome moves to combat the menace of drug-driving. This is the big killer that is not well reflected in official statistics.

"Many police officers have told us drug-driving could be as big a problem as drink-driving.

"While we welcome the principle of harsher sentences for more extreme speeding, there must be safeguards. Speed limits must be appropriate and well signed. We don't want someone losing their licence because tree branches obscured the signs.

"Three-quarters of AA members would welcome a reduction in the drink-drive limit."