The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) has said there is an urgent need to close a legal loophole which allows over 8,500 people to continue driving despite having 12 or more points on their licences – the point at which an obligatory six month driving ban should kick in.
The recommendation came as part of the group’s Cycling and the Justice System report, which raises a number of concerns about how the roads are policed and how the justice system responds to cases of injury and death to cyclists and other road users.
Sentences of disqualification from driving have dropped by 62 per cent in ten years, exceeding the drop in serious motoring offences recorded over the same period, and increasing numbers of people are being allowed to continue driving when they reach 12 points.
Ruth Cadbury, Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth and co-chair of the APPCG commented:
“This idea there is a ‘right to drive’, when it is clearly a privilege, is taking precedence over the right to safety on our roads for everyone. Lives have been lost because people who should have been taken off the road are granted the leniency not given to those whose lives they then go on to ruin.
“This isn’t a political issue, but a public safety one, which is why this cross party group calls on the next Government in June to address the collapse in the number of disqualifications imposed on irresponsible drivers.”
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns officer, who gave evidence to the inquiry, pointed to the case of Christopher Gard as being an example of this. Gard already had eight previous convictions for using his phone at the wheel when he hit cyclist Lee Martin while reading a text message in August 2015.
Alex Chalk MP for Cheltenham (Con) and co-chair of the APPCG added: “The decline in the number of disqualifications for irresponsible driving is striking, and requires examination by the next government. If we are serious as a country about getting more people on bikes, safety for all road users has got to be a priority. We simply won’t achieve the take up we want to see, particularly among women cyclists, unless the roads become safer.”
Cadbury described the evidence heard during the inquiry as “truly shocking.”
Expanding on that, she said: “Threatening behaviour by vehicle drivers towards more vulnerable road users who are on bikes and on foot is routinely tolerated and rarely punished; our roads police are under resourced; and people who have flagrantly and habitually flouted the law are allowed to continue being a menace on our roads.”
The APPCG’s Justice Inquiry made 14 recommendations.
- The Highway Code should be revised
- The driving test must be changed to help improve driver behaviour towards cyclists
- Professional drivers should be retested more frequently
- Roads policing should be given a higher priority
- The Government and other local authorities should adopt similar partnerships to the ones in London in other parts of the country, to counter the risk posed by illegal freight operations
- The Department for Transport and Ministry of Justice should research the growing discrepancy between road casualty figures
- More police forces should adopt close passing enforcement practice on a wider scale
- The police must ensure that a higher standard of investigation is maintained in all cases where serious injury has resulted
- All police forces should ensure that evidence of common offences submitted by cyclists, or other witnesses, using bike or person mounted cameras or smart phones is put to use, and not ignored
- The length of time required by the Police to serve a Notice of Intended Prosecution for a road traffic offence is currently just 14 days and must be extended
- Confusion and overlap between ‘careless’ and ‘dangerous’ driving means that often bad driving does not receive the level of punishment that the public feel it should, the MoJ should investigate how these offences are being used
- The police and CPS should ensure that victims and bereaved families are always kept adequately informed throughout the process of deciding charges
- The Ministry of Justice should examine the reasons behind the decline in the use of the penalty of disqualification
- The Soft Tissue Injury Reforms - the ‘whiplash reforms’ - should not include injuries to cyclists or pedestrians
Dollimore said that Cycling UK agreed with the report’s findings and the reminder that ‘driving is a privilege, not a right’.
“Rightly this cross-party group of MPs and Peers has identified the problems that affect us all – whether we’re driving, cycling or walking – and made sensible recommendations to make our roads safer.
“Cycling UK welcomes the ambition of the report's recommendations, and believes it should set the road safety agenda for the next Government. We hope politicians of all parties will be able to support them, and work together to prevent avoidable and dangerous incidents on our roads.”