Government announces new penalties to tackle tailgating and middle lane hogging

12.00 | 5 June 2013 | | 18 comments

Drivers who put other road users at risk face on-the-spot penalties under new measures announced today (5 June) by Stephen Hammond, road safety minister .

The changes will give the police powers to issue fixed penalty notices for careless driving, giving them greater flexibility in dealing with less serious careless driving offences – such as tailgating or middle lane hogging – and freeing them from resource-intensive court processes. The fixed penalty will also enable the police to offer educational training as an alternative to endorsement. Drivers will still be able to appeal any decision in court.

In addition, existing fixed penalty levels for most motoring offences – including using a mobile phone at the wheel and not wearing a seatbelt – will rise to £100 to bring them into line with the penalties for similar non-motoring fixed penalties. 

Stephen Hammond said: “Careless drivers are a menace and their negligence puts innocent people’s lives at risk. That is why we are making it easier for the police to tackle problem drivers by allowing them to immediately issue a fixed penalty notice rather than needing to take every offender to court.

“We are also increasing penalties for a range of driving offences to a level which reflects their seriousness and which will ensure that they are consistent with other similar penalty offences." 

Chief Constable Suzette Davenport ACPO lead on roads policing said: “The new penalties are absolutely necessary to deal with drivers who are putting people’s lives at risk and police will not hesitate to enforce them. These measures should also act as a reminder to careless drivers that their behaviour will not be tolerated.

“The vast majority of drivers are law abiding, but some are still not getting the message. We said we would get tougher on those who make our roads dangerous and that is exactly what we have done.”

Edmund King, AA President said: “It is worrying that three quarters of drivers see others using mobile phones behind the wheel on some or most journeys.

"This epidemic of hand held mobile phone use while driving has already cost lives and our members have demanded action. An increase in the standard motoring fixed penalty fine will help deter those who commit motoring offences including mobile phone use.

"AA members broadly support an increase in the level of the fixed penalty.  Our members also fully support educational training as an alternative to penalty points.

“We are also pleased to see that at long last new powers and fines will be given to the police to tackle the top three pet hates of drivers – tailgaters, mobile phone abusers and middle lane hogs.”

The fixed penalty for careless driving will be £100 with three points on the driver’s licence. The most serious examples will continue to go through court, where offenders may face higher penalties. There are no changes to penalty levels for parking offences.  

Fixed penalty levels for most of these motoring offences have not increased since 2000. In addition, raising the penalty levels for these offences is designed to offer an additional incentive for drivers to take up remedial courses which address poor driving behaviour in the longer term.

The changes – which the Government aims to bring into force next month – are being introduced following extensive consultation with road safety groups and police forces.

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    Bob: Your last comment is spot on especially the pulling back in bit, but even if the police witnessed it, would they necessarily see it as careless driving and take action anyway?


    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    I believe that some drivers use their cruise control and upon gaining on another car do not alter that state until close up, thus causing them to take avoiding action. They also do not wish to slow down thus losing cruise control ….for anything. This can be a reason for tailgating.

    The other reason is as stated in the HCode, to pull in when it is safe to do so. Many cars pull in too soon, disregarding the speed they are driving at and not realising the false distance as seen in their rear view mirrors (the nearside mirror, being extremely poor re distance, gives a particularly false view when it comes to correct distance). This causes the overtaking vehicle to believe that they are further away from the vehicle that they have overtaken and that then causes this following vehicle to tailgate. Advice from the HCode suggests it should back off to a safer distance.


    Bob Craven Lancs
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    ‘On the spot prosecutions’ is a better term. Do away with the right to a trial in court and if you dare to plead your innocence in court, massive fines to deter even the most wealthy. Will there be any video evidence to back the alleged offence, or just on the whims of prosecuting and judge evidence of a police officer? How does this fit in on The Human Rights Act which the Police have signed up too, that states that everybody has a right to a “fair” and “public” trial before an “independent and impartial tribunal”? Already alleged speeding drivers are denied a ‘right of silence’.


    Terry Hudson
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    Nick, you are right, in part. But the main problem is lack of space. People can’t pull up in time if it goes pear shaped in front of them. But within all that it’s a lack of observation, planning and general thought. Drivers get right up behind a vehicle before considering lane changing, often without a signal. This causes a domino effect and with a lack of space. It’s like the next crash waiting to happen. By staying back out (where possible) of it you become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.


    Nigel Albright
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    Let me assure all those who disagreed with my previous post that a fair percentage of motorway problems are caused by ill judged lane changes. Anything that causes a significant increase in vehicles changing lane will bring a negative result in terms of accidents or near misses.


    Nick Elmslie, New Milton
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    This also opens up the possibility of the driver being diverted into the driver education process. It could be a “What’s Driving Us” theory workshop or a “Driving for Change” car based course.


    Allan Leicester
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    Quite right, there is an offence under sect 3 of driving without reasonable consideration. What this does is allow the discretion of the police officer to decide if an offence has been committed and then dealt with there and then with a fixed penalty. This should to my mind also include HGV who drive mile after mile attempting an overtake when it is causing tailbacks and is therefore driving without reasonable consideration.
    Why not have civilians with the power to report offenders? They have almost taken over many of the responsibilities from the police anyway.


    bob craven Lancs
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    Hogging the middle lane was and is already covered by ‘driving without reasonable consideration for other drivers’. More laws won’t work as there are no police officers to enforce/advise. Please don’t empower HATOs as a ‘cheap’ alternative! Experienced traffic officers is what is needed to reclaim the m/ways.


    Olly, Lancs
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    Completely agree with Idris Francis’s comments. Of all the news on this I have seen Claire Armstrong of SAFE SPEED, interviewed on R4 Today, was the only one who made the point about safety, particularly in relation to close following. 30% of crashes are front to rear end shunts. The DG of the AA primarily referenced driver irritations, so he completely missed the point. And none made the point that unnecessarily keeping in the middle lane effectively obstructs two lanes of a motorway.


    Nigel Albright
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    Beware of the law of unintended consequences. Expect an increase in lane change related accidents and near misses as less capable drivers try to get back to lane one too soon for fear of being punished. And of course, more drivers in lane one means more cars trying to pull out to overtake, and having to repeat that exercise many more times than they previously would have done on a similar length motorway journey.


    Nick Elmslie, New Milton
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    Just more political posturing unless and until they provide the money to put more police patrols back on the road. Last time I asked I was told that the whole of Hampshire has two patrols on active service at any given moment.

    For the avoidance of doubt – I am entirely in favour of more patrols and more warnings and penalties for all forms of dangerous driving – especially tailgating, much more of a problem where speed limits have been reduced and some observe them and others try to ignore them.


    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    +1

    I don’t think the article is saying that these are going to now become specific offences is it? I think it’s saying that these bad practices will remain under the heading of careless driving, but will be dealt with via fixed penalties, avoiding a Court hearing. Whether the bad practices highlighted will now be dealt with more often remains to be seen, as ‘careless driving’ is still subjective and not necessarily ‘black or white’ and may still be challenged meaning a court hearing anyway. Still, it all helps.


    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    A step in the right direction, perhaps someone in authority was listening after all. Tail-gating is bullying, it is aggressive. FPNs for aggressive driving have been used for some time in Canada by the RCMP. Similarly in the USA, the Washington State Highway Patrol specifically target aggressive driving. Campaigns, posters and TV adverts all help but it is the fear of being caught and punished that makes the major contribution to road safety. Some may recall roads policing was my passionate raison d’etre, still undiminished by retirement.


    Roy Buchanan Epsom
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    Hogging the middle lane forces other drivers to make extended overtaking manoeuvres from Lane 1 to 2 to 3 and all the way back again, increasing potential conflicts and risks and slowing progress as a result or, worse, drivers then undertake in Lane 1, which is unpredictable.

    It causes congestion by denying the use of Lane 2 to HGV and coaches for overtaking. It frustrates and distracts other drivers, which is an avoidable distraction. If we are going to stick with the 1,2,3 system of lane discipline, let’s both encourage and enforce people to use the system correctly, to everyone’s benefit and to use our motorway space more efficiently.

    The alternative is to change to the US system whereby you can pass slower moving vehicles in any lane – of course this would require drivers to be vigilant and use all their mirrors more thoroughly.


    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
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    Close following in particular needs to be addressed but I feel enforcement will be a problem and motorists will feel unfairly punished for what they think is a subjective offence where nothing has happened. I hope that the increase in fines helps reduce mobile phone use – I’m astounded every time I see someone texting and driving!


    Dr James Whalen DSA ADI (car), Wolverhampton
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    At long last! I’m glad that lane hogging and tailgating has (finally) become an offence. Motorists should keep left unless they are overtaking other vehicle(s).


    Phil, Kent
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    Much as middle lane hoggers irritate me, it is unfortunate that they have been targeted at the same time as phone users and tailgaters. Shame they have not stuck to punishing unsafe behaviours.


    Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans
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    Good start! As many motorists tell us, it’s increasing the likelihood of getting “caught” that might have an effect on behaviour. Let’s hope that the enforcers are now given the appropriate level of resources to make this happen.


    Robert S
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