Police admit cash not safety behind driver retraining

Money drives decisions on drivers. Photo by Alexander Ridel, Flickr Creative Commons

Police admit cash not safety behind driver retraining

According to media reports a Police and Crime Commissioner has suggested the motive for diverting road traffic offenders to re-training courses is down to cash not road safety.

Police plans to raise money

According to reports carried by the Daily Mail Online, Olly Martins, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Bedfordshire, while addressing the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, finally confirmed what many people suspected: there is a financial incentive to send drivers caught speeding or driving carelessly on re-training courses rather than prosecute them.

News headlines today have concentrated on Mr Martin's comments that he was 'looking at increasing what we raise by maxing out the speed cameras on the M1', which he estimated could raise £1million for the police. Of more interest to road safety campaigners is the apparent acceptance that raising cash impacts on roads policing decisions.

Where the money goes     

When somebody is fined for any offence, including motoring offences, the money paid goes to the Lord Chancellor's Department. If offered the opportunity to attend a re-training course, a driver can avoid incurring penalty points and a fine. They instead pay a fee to attend a course, which the Mail reports is typically £100 for a speed awareness course and £150 for a driver awareness course (for careless drivers).

The fees pay for the running costs of the courses but, as reported by the Mail, there is a profit element paid to the police, which they do not receive if the driver is charged and fined.

If this is true, then it would suggest the incentive in catching more speeding motorists on the motorway and sending all of those eligible on re-training courses is to cover budget shortfall, rather than purely for increasing road safety. CTC is not aware of any senior police officers or PCCs previously admitting the cash incentive to offer re-training courses as an alternative to prosecution.

Less careless drivers being disqualified

Fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were introduced for careless driving offences in 2013, despite CTC's expressed concerns. Many of the drivers given a conditional FPN are then offered an opportunity to avoid penalty points by attending a re-training course. CTC's research, set out within our attached submissions to the Transport Select Committee Inquiry into road traffic enforcement, suggests that nearly 73% of drivers given FPNs for careless driving escape points by attending a course.

Campaigners have pointed out that it is not surprising the number of driving disqualifications is falling, as without going to court it is not possible for a driver to be disqualified. 

There is no research which actually establishes that driver re-training changes behaviour. By contrast, there is research which shows what many might think is obvious, namely that drivers approaching 12 points on their licence do amend their behaviour to avoid losing their licence.

More careless and speeding drivers on the road

In 2014, a staggering 1.35 million people attended driver re-training courses in lieu of prosecution and points, when there is no evidence to show that this works as a road safety measure. If people avoid points but do not change their behaviour, and fewer people are disqualified each year, the obvious concern is that more careless drivers will remain on the road.

CTC is giving evidence to the Transport Committee later this month on this very issue, and hopes that these recent media reports will show that there are more motives other than road safety concerns which are influencing police prosecution decisions.  

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