Later today (Wednesday 30 November 2016), parliamentarians will gather for the Westminster Hall Debate, sponsored by labour MP for Clwyd South, Susan Elan Jones MP, to discuss road safety and the long awaited Ministry of Justice’s motoring offences and sentencing review.
The leading motoring and cycling charities, the AA and Cycling UK, have joined forces to impress on the Government the need to close an ‘exceptional hardship’ loophole exploited by many of the 8,600 motorists still driving with 12 points on their licence this year.
Both groups stress that drivers should not be able to avoid a ban save in truly extraordinary circumstances, not just because a ban would cause inconvenience or predictable hardship. As well as removing this ‘get out of jail free’ clause through the MoJ’s review, driving disqualifications must also be made the norm for new drivers and repeat offenders to end avoidable deaths and serious injuries on our roads. As it stands both of these opportunities to make roads safer will fall outside of the review.
While applauding media initiatives against mobile phone use in cars, and the Government’s policy plans to increase penalty points for mobile use, the motoring and cycling pairing point out that increased points will do no good if drivers with 12 points still remain on the roads – and it is this flaw in the process which needs to be fixed through the forthcoming MoJ review.
Cycling UK's Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns Officer, Duncan Dollimore, said of the campaign: “Now is the time to make distracted driving, like texting and driving, as taboo as not wearing a seatbelt or drink-driving. We must tackle this problem head-on because it led to 22 deaths and 440 crashes last year.
“Cycling UK wants to see drivers who repeat-offend off the road before they kill or cause serious injury. Something the current review will not address. That is why Cycling UK has joined forces with the AA – to show Government that road users are collectively serious about ending avoidable deaths and serious injuries on our roads.”
AA President Edmund King said: “The devastating consequences of distracted driving are vividly portrayed in our latest campaign film, Cadence, which we released last week. Hopefully, our collective efforts to affect behaviour change, together with the Government’s recent announcement intending to increase penalties for mobile phone use while driving, will help to make this mobile madness socially unacceptable."
Cyclist Lee Martin was killed last year by texting driver Christopher Gard. The tragic incident took place just six weeks after Gard had dodged a ban and kept his licence, because of the ‘exceptional hardship’ loophole, despite having six previous convictions for driving while using a mobile phone.
Duncan Dollimore added: “The Government must act now to prevent grotesque spectacles like this Gard case from happening again. We need no more delays from this Government on what is such an important matter. Cycling UK has been waiting for a full and proper review of motoring offences and penalties since May 2014. Further delay would put many more lives at risk.”