The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group has published its report ‘Cycling and the Justice System’ which calls for the next Government to look again at the loophole which allows over 8,500 drivers with 12 points or more on their licences to escape a ban.
In a wide-ranging inquiry into the justice system, MPs and peers from the cross-party group expressed concern over roads policing and how the justice system responds to cases of injury and death to cyclists and other road users.
The group was particularly concerned to discover that sentences of disqualification from driving have collapsed by 62 percent in ten years, exceeding the drop in serious motoring offences recorded over the same period. Increasing numbers of people are being allowed to continue driving when they reach 12 points (when drivers are ordinarily required by law to be disqualified for at least six months) or more, by the courts.
Currently over 8,500 drivers around the country are permitted to drive with 12 or more points on their licence with most continuing to drive after submitting that losing their licence would cause them “exceptional hardship”, putting other road users’ lives at risk.
The example of driver Christopher Gard who while texting at the wheel killed cyclist Lee Martin, was cited as a particular example to the group. Gard had six previous convictions for mobile phone use at the wheel, and was allowed to continue driving by the magistrates court after pleading “exceptional hardship”.
The inquiry also heard how tens of thousands of drivers are still driving today despite committing serious driving offences, such as causing injury or death by careless driving, putting road users’ lives at risk.
Evidence was given to the group from individuals, cycling and road safety organisations, lawyers, police officers and prosecutors.
The report identifies a positive development: a police operation piloted in the West Midlands to educate drivers about the need to give cyclists more room when overtaking appears to be gaining ground and has been well received by cyclists.
All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group chair Ruth Cadbury MP said:
“The evidence we heard during our inquiry was truly shocking. Threatening behaviour by vehicle drivers towards more vulnerable road users who are on bikes and on foot is routinely tolerated and rarely punished; our roads police are under resourced; and people who have flagrantly and habitually flouted the law are allowed to continue being a menace on our roads.
“This idea there is a ‘right to drive’, when it is clearly a privilege, is taking precedence over the right to safety on our roads for everyone. Lives have been lost because people who should have been taken off the road, are granted the leniency not given to those whose lives they then go on to ruin.
“This isn’t a political issue, but a public safety one, which is why this cross party group calls on the next Government in June to address the collapse in the number of disqualifications imposed on irresponsible drivers.”
APPCG co-chair Alex Chalk MP said:
“The decline in the number of disqualifications for irresponsible driving is striking, and requires examination by the next government. If we are serious as a country about getting more people on bikes, safety for all road users has got to be a priority. We simply won’t achieve the take up we want to see, particularly among women cyclists, unless the roads become safer.”
Cycling UK has welcomed the report and has urged all political parties as they campaign to lead the next government to take road safety seriously, and incorporate the cross-party inquiry’s recommendations into their manifestos.
Cycling UK's senior road safety and legal campaigns officer Duncan Dollimore, who gave evidence to the inquiry, said:
“Rightly this cross-party group of MPs and Peers has identified the problems that affect us all – whether we’re driving, cycling or walking – and made sensible recommendations to make our roads safer."