ROAD organisations have welcomed a police crackdown on middle lane hoggers and mobile phone drivers, but have warned police need to enforce the new rules carefully.
Police have been handed fresh powers to target careless drivers with on-the-spot fines for tailgating, hogging lanes or speaking on the phone while driving. Officers can now slap inconsiderate motorists with £100 fines – instead of £60 – and three points on their licence rather than taking them to court.
But driving experts have questioned whether a £40 hike in the level of fines is enough – and whether there are enough officers to enforce the new laws. Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “The real acid test for these changes will be if enough police officers are out on the roads to enforce them.
“We know with mobile phone use, drivers are only going to be caught if the police are right there at the time. Increasing the fine won’t change that.”
Police chiefs have pledged to use the instant fines – which came into force yesterday – to help crack down on drivers flouting the law.
Stiffer fines and penalties will still be available through the court system to deal with more serious driving offences.
But it is hoped the new penalties will cut the number of motorists driving too close to the vehicle in front, failing to give way at junctions, overtaking and pushing into queues of traffic.
Needlessly hogging the middle or outside lanes, inappropriate speed, and performing wheel-spins, handbrake turns and other careless manoeuvres will also be targeted. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has also welcomed the move – but called for more police training when it comes to applying the powers.
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, said: “We believe increasing the police’s ability to enforce careless driving laws, and so increase the deterrent to careless driving, justifies the introduction of fixed penalties, but there must be as much consistency as possible in their application.”
Motorists caught offending will be able to choose between an on-the-spot fine or the chance to go on a driving course. Motorists can still appeal any decision through the courts.
The AA said responsible drivers would welcome the shift, but added that a survey of 20,000 motorists suggested one in three could be caught out hogging middle lanes.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We will utilise all legislative powers at our disposal whenever we identify road traffic offences being committed.”