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Roads police chief urges stricter sentences for driving offences, warns "basic standard of driving has reduced" and puts cyclists and pedestrians at risk

"If you actually compare some of the sentences the drivers who do kill people because of the way they drive versus other crimes in society, predominantly those sentences are lower and families don't feel they get the justice they deserve"...

In a week when there has been much political and media focus on road safety — namely with the government agreeing to introduce tougher laws for "dangerous cyclists" who kill or injure — the UK's head of roads policing has spoken at-length about the need for stricter sentences to deter dangerous and anti-social driving.

Speaking on the Highways News podcast on Wednesday — an interview that has not received anywhere near as much news coverage as stories related to dangerous cycling laws — the National Police Chiefs' Lead for Roads Policing Jo Shiner warned that deaths on the UK's roads have become "unseen" due to their frequency and stated that "the basic standard of driving on our roads has reduced".

Explaining how her father was killed on the roads when she was a teenager, Shiner spoke of her passion for reducing the number of people who die in road traffic incidents. 

The head of roads policing in the UK went on to make the case for stricter punishments for anti-social driving, arguing that drivers who kill or cause serious injury through their actions often receive lenient punishments when compared to other non-traffic crimes.

"We have over 1,700 deaths a year on our roads, we have got to look at it differently," she said. "Sometimes the reporting of those people who are killed or seriously injured barely features in the local papers anymore.

"Anti-social driving is really prevalent on our roads at the moment and we know that it is causing a lot of collisions and I think that's where in terms of the punishment fitting the crime we do need greater deterrence. 

"So one of our focuses within our portfolio is on greater sentencing, so the ability for us to be able to actually increase the sentences which both magistrates and other courts can give, but also greater sentences.

surrey police car - via surrey police.PNG

"What I mean by that is that if you actually compare some of the sentences the drivers who do kill people because of the way in which they've drive on the roads versus maybe some other crimes in society, predominantly you see that those sentences are lower and that's just one example where I think families are not feeling that they do get the justice that sometimes they deserve.

> Hit-and-run driver without licence who left cyclist with multiple injuries jailed for a year and disqualified from driving for four years

"Alongside that, if you take offences such as mobile phone use, we know that using a mobile phone at the wheel significantly increases the chances of you having a collision and therefore even though the penalties for that have increased I do think that they should be increased even more. If we can increase the deterrence we can reduce the deaths and serious injuries on our road."

Shiner was optimistic about the impact "fascinating technology" can have in reducing road deaths and pointed to speed cameras, cameras to detect mobile phone use, and steering wheel technology that could sense if a driver has alcohol or prohibited drugs in their system as ways to "design out some of those causes of road deaths".

In the short-term she acknowledged that it is "really difficult" to change attitudes but spoke of the need to, as a starting point, "just calm down on our roads".

"I think the basic standard of driving on our roads has reduced," she continued. "Using an indicator, being in the correct lane, actually knowing what the Highway Code says, knowing which lane to go in when you're going around a roundabout and also just calming down on our roads.

"You know, sometimes I see behaviours where people are just utterly impatient to get where they want to go, really not recognising the risks that are around them, that they're both creating for others but also that others are then potentially creating for them.

"So I think changing behaviours and changing minds is really, really important in terms of just calming people down and also trying to reinforce just how much damage a vehicle can do, particularly to other vulnerable road users, whether that's a pedestrian, a pedal cyclist, a horse rider, it's really important that people take responsibility for the risk that they could pose to others when they're behind the wheel."

Cyclist in London sropped in traffic with cars in background - copyright Simon MacMichael

Shiner called speeding "the one offence that normally law-abiding people probably commit quite a lot of the time, if they're really honest with themselves".

"And yet they won't see that as a crime," she said. "They may well look down and think, oh, I didn't realise I was doing that, and slow down and correct themselves.
But they would see a difference in that versus shoplifting or versus assault or something like that.

"So I think the whole culture and ideology of road crime and what is a crime, what's not a crime, what is just unhelpful behaviour is something which society really needs to work out."

Earlier this week the government confirmed that it would be introducing tougher laws for cyclists who kill or injure pedestrians while cycling dangerously, Transport Secretary Mark Harper saying the proposed legislation would ensure the "tiny minority" of reckless cyclists would face the "full weight of the law", while protecting "law-abiding cyclists".

Active Travel Commissioner Chris Boardman reacted to the news by pointing out that 30,000 people are killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads every year, but "less than three [were] involving a cyclist".

He said: "More people are killed by lightning, or cows. And that same thing [cycling] is joyous. It's good for society. And we put the focus on this minuscule, negative thing. Absolutely, everybody should obey the laws of the road. But is this really the best use of our time to be talking about this now?"

The full episode of Highways Voices – Head of Roads Policing Jo Shiner can be listened to here.

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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lonpfrb | 4 weeks ago
1 like

In the absence of joined up government on Active Travel (DoT), Health (DoH) and Media (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), the obvious next step is to make identifying as a Cyclist a Protected Characteristic so that the mainstream media is Regulated and long term change to public attitudes are delivered.

That is a massive cost saving for tax payers compared to unaffordable infrastructure that costs Billions nationally.

Clear case for Change: if attitudes and behaviour not changed, it will cost you personally.

peted76 | 1 month ago

I have this image of the National Police Chiefs' Lead for Roads Policing walking into a room and everyone giving her the cold shoulder.. 

How dare you suggest drivists might not be treated like other convicted criminals! That is tantamount to a war against good honest working class drivers all of whom are just trying to get to work, or drop little Johnny off at school in their massive SUV, just leave them park wherever they like and stop oppressing them! 

hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
1 like

Stricter sentencing is only half of the battle though - what we want is more enforcement of the everyday poor driving that's consistently on display. I'd be quite happy if police were to regularly stop and either educate or fine all the handheld phone using drivers as it's not so much the maximum penalty that deters most drivers, but the chance of getting caught.

There should also be far more random traffic stops to catch out drivers without MOT, tax, license and insurance. If the figures are as high as reported (1 in 5?), then just a couple of hours at a busy road should net multiple drivers that need to be taken off the road.

I was thinking about how the police could easily detect cloned number plates, but I don't think there's a simple answer if the cloner chooses the same car type and colour - there would need to be some simple method to identify the specific vehicle( AFAIK, that would be the VIN, but that would mean that the number plate needs to also have the VIN number in some form (maybe a barcode that is cryptographically signed by the DVLA that links the VIN to the number plate to prevent people from just making their own number plate that appears valid).

wtjs replied to hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
1 like

I'd be quite happy if police were to regularly stop and either educate or fine all the handheld phone using drivers

Well I wouldn't -Points, Points, Points! Forget the 'education'- they won't listen without a penalty. Traffic policing in Lancashire can't change until the present lot is handed back like a whole Scrabble hand and replaced with a completely new set which isn't irredeemably pro-motorist and anti-cyclist...and as for the 'catch vehicles/ drivers without MOT??!!!

qwerty360 replied to hawkinspeter | 4 weeks ago


Far more spot checks.

Easier issuing of small points penalties - IMHO (specially trained traffic) police should pretty much be able to issue 1-3 points on there own expertise, especially for video submissions; Dispute process similar to A levels etc (can dispute to a senior officer, but pay a fee that is refundable if you succeed).

If you want to dispute it you go to court but risk bigger penalties. Should be a typical part of collision investigation for insurance claims.

Longer time period for written/mailed NIP, but allow email address to be registered to get emailed NIP with shorter time limit. (Also rename NIP as Notice of Investigation).

wtjs | 1 month ago

 the UK's head of roads policing has spoken at-length about the need for stricter sentences to deter dangerous and anti-social driving

Meanwhile, in Lancashire, the recently appointed 'No Change Here!!' (she was the previous Assistant or Deputy CC) Chief Constable says 'Get Stuffed' to the Head of Roads Policing and ensures that there will be no response whatsoever to this hand held mobile phone offence by the driver of Amazon Prime van LD71 UOM. When there were responses (in the distant past) from Lancashire Constabulary to video submissions they were on the lines of 'everybody does it'.

PS There are other clues on the image concerning the standard of Amazon Prime driving

wtjs replied to wtjs | 1 month ago

Just for the record: I tried to complain to Amazon UK- it's impossible as they make sure there's no email or phone number or Facebook or Twitter page. All the Amazon pages, with or without a chatbot, display no option for complaining about Amazon drivers or uploading video , (it's only 5 MB, and awaiting upRide approval) or photos. They have locked it down tightly to exclude such complaints

chrisonabike replied to wtjs | 4 weeks ago

Given your experience with the police and the PCC I'm amazed you've even looked!

Mr Hoopdriver replied to wtjs | 4 weeks ago
1 like
wtjs wrote:

 PS There are other clues on the image concerning the standard of Amazon Prime driving

I see some wag's painted an arrow to it as well.

Kronsteen | 1 month ago

Charlie State there: "Well, I suppose the arguement is though, that... oh yeah, there isn't really an arguement is there".

ymm | 1 month ago

Just wait until Mark Harper reads this, and then dismiss it because it comes from someone with expert thinking! Having read this, I am sure he and the Tories will explore further ways to blame cyclists as being the root cause of motorist incompetence. After all cyclists are way more deadly than motorists? Or, is it the other way around?

brooksby replied to ymm | 1 month ago

Someone definitely needs to tell those "journalists " at the Torygraph about it...

TwoHeadsTalking replied to brooksby | 1 month ago

Especially since they want Cyclists held to the same legal standard as Drivers.
My view is that would result in more lenient sentencing for Cyclists.

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