Distracted texting drivers must be targeted say the AA and Cycling UK

Repeat offenders need to be disqualified Picture: LordJim Flickr CC
Driving disqualifications must be made the norm for new drivers and repeat offenders to end the mobile madness, say The AA and Cycling UK ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on road safety.

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.”

Notes to editors

1. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone.

2. The AA is the UK’s favourite breakdown service with more dedicated roadside patrols than anyone else. It also provides driver training through the AA Driving School; British School of Motoring (BSM) and AA DriveTech for commercial drivers.

3. Autoexpress reported earlier this summer on the shocking statistics that some 8,600 motorists in Great Britain who have 12 or more penalty points on their licence still remain behind the wheel. That’s up from 2015 figures of 6,887. The law currently stipulates that if a driver gets 12 points over a three-year period they must attend court and face a minimum six-month driving ban. However, magistrates are allowed to be lenient with motorists if the ban is found to cause ‘exceptional hardship’, like the loss of a job.

4. The Wesminster Hall Debate will take place at 4.00 pm - 4.30 pm on Wednesday 30 November 2016. “Road safety and the Government's proposed sentencing review”: To be moved by Susan Elan Jones, MP for Clwyd South.

5.According to officials, currently the MoJ do not propose to review the use of disqualification for non-imprisonable offences, or the exceptional hardship legislation, which enables drivers who have acquired 12 or more penalty points on their licence within three years to avoid losing their licence under the totting up provisions.

6. According to Populus’ latest research for the AA Charitable Trust, over two million car passengers would not do anything if their driver used a hand-held phone while driving. The research also unearthed the shocking statistic that one-fifth (20%) claim to see other drivers on hand-held mobiles on every journey they make, with a further fifth (22%) saying that they see this on most journeys and over half (56%) on some journeys. 

7. The AA Charitable Trust’s latest campaign video, Cadence, can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL3SrAOOFHs

​8. Motorist Christopher Gard, 30, of Linnet Way, Alton, Hampshire, pleaded guilty to causing the death of Lee Martin in a collision in August 2015 on the A31 near Bentley. Sentenced at Winchester Crown Court on 5 September 2016, Gard was jailed for nine years after admitting causing Lee Martin’s death.

9. Cycling UK published a blog including a timeline of the consultation on the Ministry of Justice’s motoring offences review.

Press contact information

Cycling UK Press Office
Email: publicity@cyclinguk.org
Telephone: 0844-736-8453