Mail Article on Driver Diversion re Phone Use

Today the Mail on Sunday have published a good article on the issue of mobile phone use while driving, and the diversion of drivers to education courses under the headline “Fury as police say: send drivers using phones on course”.

It highlights the new increased penalties for using a hand-held phone while driving from March – a doubling of the fine and penalty points. The Government has written to Chief Constables asking them to stop offering education courses to such drivers but the reaction of Suzette Davenport, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police, was to rebuff this advice. She said that “chief constables will make the decision on how they enforce it….”. This is what I am quoted as saying in the Mail article: “I am astonished the police are ignoring the Government on this. They seem to think they are a law unto themselves”. Indeed the whole scheme of “waiver of prosecution” in return for payment to attend courses was invented by policemen without any legal structure being put in place and without the approval of the Government in any way. It is exceedingly doubtful whether it is supported by law.

Ms Davenport is of course involved in the gravy train of making money from drivers by the waiver of prosecutions as she chairs the Road Safety Trust through whom the funds are channelled and is also a director of UK ROED Ltd who operate the NDORS scheme.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me make it clear that the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has supported stronger penalties for mobile phone use. Having said that there are circumstances when the police might use their long-established common law right to waive prosecution – for example when the vehicle is stationery in a traffic jam or there is genuine emergency. But the drivers should not be asked to pay a bribe in the form of an education course fee in that case.

The Mail article is present here:

Roger Lawson

No More Waivers for Mobile Phone Use

As part of the measures to toughen up the penalties for mobile phone use by drivers, the Government has announced that the offer of “education courses” to first time offenders will be stopped.

Just as with speeding offences, some police forces are offering waivers to drivers caught using a mobile phone if they attend a training course. In that way the driver avoids a fine and penalty points, and the police collect money from the course fee.

But the Government considers these offences so serious that they wish to increase the deterrent. In addition they are doubling the fines and doubling the penalty points.

Note that the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) strongly supports tough penalties for this offence. The increasing number of distractive devices in cars is surely one of the causes of the “failed to notice” accidents that are one of the top factors in police reports of accidents. But everyone surely knows that using a hand-held mobile device is illegal so there is little excuse for this offence.

But do we not have a dual standard here when waivers for speeding are still a major money making industry? Surely they must be stopped also if speeding is so serious offence to warrant prosecution?

Roger Lawson