The Sacred Driving Licence

The Sacred Driving Licence

Today saw the launch of the “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020“. Never one to miss a photo opportunity, David Cameron had agreed to help launch the UN’s Decade of Action for Road Safety and managed to get Britain’s two Formula One racing drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, to join him. We also had the announcement from Transport Secretary Philip Hammond of the introduction of On-the-spot fines planned for careless driving, as part of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety. All of this sounds like the Government is keen to do something about reducing the damage done. The Framework clearly says that “Road deaths and injuries are a tragedy for all those affected. And as well as the terrible human cost, they impose a heavy economic burden.” This sounds all very well, but let’s just have a closer look:

First, why were two racing drivers at a photo call to promote “road safety”? Button has a number of convictions for speeding and Hamilton has been charged with speeding in the UK and reckless driving in Australia. Not good role models in a country where 40% of young drivers think there is nothing wrong with breaking the 30mph limit by 10mph or more.

Secondly, there is a major problem with the Strategic Framework for Road Safety in that its central theme is absolving the majority of those drivers from their responsibility for most of the danger on the roads. It does this by diverting attention onto the very worst drivers, but has no serious intention of dealing with these people either!

The new strategy says that, instead of drivers being taken to court for driving offences, police can fine careless drivers. Offenders will get a fine of at least £80 and three points on their licence. This is not about making the roads safer, it is about cutting costs, by avoiding taking people through the court system. It isn’t even intended as a deterrent. In a country where you can be fined £1,000 for dropping litter, why is it proposed that an activity which puts lives at risk should only attract a fine of £80? Why is there such a reluctance to deal with the issue of danger on our roads?

We all have the right to use the roads, on foot, riding a bicycle or riding a horse, there is no right to drive. Driving on the public road is a privilege only permitted by licence, this licence is granted under trust after passing a driving test. The driving test is there to ensure that drivers can drive to a safe minimum standard. It is well known that the majority of accidents collisions on our roads are caused by driver error. This is why there needs to be a clear hierarchy of liability, with those capable of causing the greatest harm taking a greater level of responsibility.

However, we have somehow allowed the situation to arise where the holding of a driving licence is increasingly being seen as a sacred right. There are hundreds of drivers on the roads with 12 penalty points. All too often drivers who have broken the law (and the trust placed in them when they received their driving licence) avoid a driving ban, by claiming such a ban would inconvenience them. The courts will not accept such a defence for any other form of criminal activity, car crashes have long been a greater killer of the young than violent crime, so why such a softly, softly approach to driving?

In this country you can legally hold a shotgun under licence, however if you were to accidentally discharge it over the heads of people in a public place, you would expect to lose your licence. No court would accept the defence that it was OK because no one was hurt, or that it was caused by a momentary lapse of concentration, or that you had been distracted by a phone call on your mobile, or that such a ban would cause you inconvenience. Before anyone complains that this is not a fair comparison, being hit by a motor vehicle is just as damaging as being shot, the level of kinetic energy is about the same. It doesn’t make a difference to the person who is killed or seriously injured, whether they were shot or hit with a motor vehicle, they are still dead or maimed either way. Drivers should never forget, cars can kill!

We have a situation where most people think that they are better than average drivers, but at the same time 40% of drivers feel that they would fail a driving test if they had to take it again tomorrow. Until we have a change of attitude, drivers will undoubtedly continue to blame everyone else on the roads but themselves.

Sadly the Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke QC, MP, seems to be incapable of understanding the concept of dangerous driving. Apparently “ordinary dangerous driving” isn’t a serious problem, but then this is a man who doesn’t think all rapes are a crime. All rape is rape and all dangerous driving is dangerous, both destroy lives. I just wish Ken Clarke would stick to playing records on the radio and leave the serious stuff to people who understand the real world. My thanks to Joe Dunckley for the tip off.

More news has come to light, this time from Scotland, where at least 387 drivers have more than 12 points on their licence:

More news has come to light from Scotland where at least 387 drivers have more than 12 points on their licence

17 thoughts on “The Sacred Driving Licence

  1. As we come to the end of the “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020“ the number of drivers with points on their licence has increased and not decreased. With one driver 33 year old driver from Bradford clocking up 78 points in a four year period. It really is time to say enough it enough and bring in compulsory life bans at 12 points.

  2. It’s worse than we thought. Not only are some drivers legally driving with more than enough points to get them banned, others are breaking the law in blaming speeding offences on imaginary or un-contactable third-parties. While that in itself isn’t news, but so many drivers are now doing this, it is becoming a business model that criminals are finding it lucrative to exploit.

    BBC 5Live investigates 18/03/2012

  3. Thanks for the info regards the driving instructors. Regards insurance. I think it is down to an element of trust. A friend recently made redundant told their insurance the change of circumstances their insurance doubled!! It would be good to know how thorough the insurance companies are in checking the ‘declarations’ drivers make when reqesting insurance.

  4. Great article. Agree with it all. Over the years car ownership has evolved from privilage to right. As has the driving licence. When I learnt to drive it was drummed into me by my instructor my responsibilities as a driver which makes me question the ligitimacy of many of the instructors on our roads today (watch the behavior of some driving instruction vehicles when driven by the tutor)

    Personally I would love to see the insurance data base linked to the DVLA base then there will be a scale based on how many points is on the licence. Perhaps even x points = no insurance. Or is this already in existence?

    1. If you have any concerns about driving instructors in your area you should contact the Supervising Examiner at you local test centre and let them know. The Supervising Examiner has the authority to test the driving and teaching abilities of all Approved driving instructor (ADI) on their patch. Or you can e-mail DSA approved driving instructor branch and tell them about you concerns, if the driving instructors setting a bad example then things can only get worse.

      I would be interested to know how much checking the insurance companies do and do they have anyway of checking to see if drivers are being honest when telling their insurance company about points on their licence. Certainly the insurance companies do require drivers to tell them about any points and as the cost goes up as a consequence, so maybe tempted to lie…

  5. Are there any other forms of licensing that, regardless of when you obtained them, last until your 70th birthday? It seems rather strange that you can pass a driving test in a 1.0l Nissan Micra (as I did) then the next day, providing you obtain the relevant insurance, be driving a supercar?

  6. I agree, it’s almost sickening how the legal system just wants to make money but doesn’t really care about actually deterring people from being dangerous. And you hit the nail on the head with your comment about how something trivial like littering can merit a huge fine when actually dangerous crimes only merit a small slap on the wrist.

  7. My own modest proposal: the driving licence is made a professional qualification, as hard (and expensive) to get as a flying licence. This should have the effect of removing most of the private cars from our city streets.

  8. good roll models — role

    why is proposed — is it

    to loose your — lose

    they are a better than — are better

    I agree with you, but do some proof-reading — perhaps try editing in a decent word processor & then pasting into the blog?

    1. Thank you!

      I do actually write the post using a word processor and try to proof-reading them before pasting into the blog, but as I am dyslexic, errors often get through. I really need a good editor to check over my writing.

  9. Oops!

    My question:
    “How many drivers are currently on the roads in the UK, legally driving with 12 points
    or more on their licence? Please break down the numbers of drivers by the numbers of
    points acquired.”

    The answer, minus the figures provided previously:
    “Information about the number of drivers on DVLA records with current driving entitlement
    is provided in the table below. These figures reflect the position as at 24 May 2011, and
    are for Great Britain and not for the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland maintains a
    separate drivers record.”

  10. My own FOI request June 2011
    Drivers driving legally with 12 points or more.

    Begs the question, of what’s the fracking point?

    Current No. of
    Points     Drivers
    12          6,983
    13          809
    14          870
    15          1,075
    16          297
    17          144
    18          233
    19          37
    20          46
    21          39
    22          10
    23          15
    24          24
    25          3
    27          3
    28          1
    30          4
    33          1
    36          2

    A total of 10,596!!

    1. Thank you Amoeba, I think that shows very clearly that there is a serious problem here, the system is not working and is seriously in need of reform. We need to press for a zero tolerance of bad driving.

  11. “so why such a softly, softly approach to driving?”

    I’m sure the question was rhetorical but I’ll state the obvious anyway… Unfortunately our politicians are more interested about doing what keeps them in power, not what is in the best interest of the public (even if much of the public is not able to see it is in their best interests). As a result we get these wishy-washy half-measures that are designed to make it look like they are doing something, while avoiding alienating a large number of voters.

    If politicians were serious about reducng congestion (and, as a consequence, danger) on our roads they could do worse than start by removing the huge number of drivers who are demonstrably not safe to be on them.

  12. For the record the author of this post has held a clean driving licence for over twenty years, has held an number of advance driving qualification and was for a period of four years was a fully qualified Department of Transport Approved Driving Instructor.

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