The maximum fines that magistrates can impose for road traffic offences are set to rise under new proposals from the Ministry of Justice.
The Government has proposed to increase fines for driving offences

For offences that currently carry a maximum fine of £5,000 such as careless driving, dangerous driving, and drink driving, magistrates will be able to impose unlimited fines. The maximum fine for speeding on a motorway will increase four-fold from £2,500 to £10,000.

Fines for other speeding offences and document offences, such as driving without insurance, will also increase.

Increasing fines not ideal 

Although CTC is pleased to see the Government taking steps to strengthen the response of the justice system to bad driving, increasing fines is not the best solution.

Fines are supposed to reflect the seriousness of the offence and be an equal punishment to offenders in different financial conditions, but should not push them below a reasonable subsistence level. For that reason, fines are based on an individual’s ability to pay.

People on lower incomes will, therefore, not be given a fine that they will never realistically be able to pay, so, in practice, it is unlikely that an increase in the maximum fine is going to have much impact on the fines actually being paid.

Low average fines

The following offences all currently carry a maximum fine of £5,000, but the average fines given by magistrates don’t come anywhere near the maximum permitted (data from 2013):

- Careless driving = £160
- Dangerous driving = £539
- Driving after consuming alcohol or taking drugs = £260
- Driving without insurance = £295

More and longer driving bans are a much better means of punishing offenders and protecting other road users. Much greater use of bans would also reinforce the message that driving is a privilege that can be taken away." 

Rhia Weston
 Road Safety Campaigner

Ban the bad driver

A much better way to punish errant drivers - and protect the public while doing so - would be to take away their licences. Much greater use of driving bans would also reinforce the message that driving is a privilege that can be taken away, not a right bestowed on us from the minute we pass our driving test.

To make driving bans work as a punishment and deterrent they need to be much longer (most bans for serious offences are between just one and three years); they also need to be more widely used by judges; and penalties for flouting bans need to be much more severe. 

Driving bans, and other alternatives to fines and prison sentences, will be discussed by legal experts and road safety campaigners at CTC’s sentencing debate this Friday [2] 13 June. Questions for the panellists can be submitted on Twitter using the hashtag #CTCdebate.