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Soft penalties ‘cost lives’

01 November 2004

Slack enforcement of traffic laws and light penalties for motorists are costing lives, according to an influential cross-party committee of MPs.

Report says rules should be relaxed to allow more cameras to be used

Slack enforcement of traffic laws and light penalties for motorists are costing lives, according to an influential cross-party committee of MPs.

The Transport Select Committee rounded on the police, the courts and the Government in its report on enforcement. Published yesterday, the report says a radical and urgent overhaul is needed at every level to curb the number of people killed or seriously injured each year.

The committee is fundamentally opposed to the Department for Transport’s proposals to impose fewer points on some speeding motorists and says the Government should not be ‘bullied’ into softening unpopular penalties.

It also says rules on where the police are allowed to site cameras should be relaxed so that more can be used. It believes motorists would be appalled if they realised that four people have to be killed or seriously injured within three years on a stretch of road before a camera can be used.

Proposals to introduce new ‘alco-locks’, which would prevent convicted drink-drivers from taking to the road after drinking alcohol are welcomed, but the committee says it is ‘extremely disturbed’ that dwindling numbers of drivers are being breathalysed as more and more drunken motorists are convicted or cause an accident.

The lax attitude of police and the courts towards motorists who cause death or serious injury is also out of kilter with public opinion, according to the committee. It is calling for more drivers to be tried by jury at Crown Court rather than dealt with by local magistrates.

Far tougher sentences for motorists who kill or injure are needed, the committee says, complaining that the Home Office’s report into stiffer penalties is now nearly a year late.

The Home Office has welcomed the report and, like the Department for Transport, said it will prepare a detailed response in the next few weeks.

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