Practically everyone moans about the standard of driving seen on the roads, but few drivers will welcome a proposal, contained in a recent Department for Transport consultation paper, which would allow the police to levy ‘on the spot’ penalties on drivers, without court proceedings, for an increased range of motoring infractions.

Under the proposals, which are designed to reduce the paperwork burden on the law enforcement agencies, all that would be necessary for a driver to be given a fixed three-point penalty notice is the say-so of a police officer. What is different about the proposed regime, compared with the current one, is that such penalties will be able to be levied for offences that may not be clear-cut, such as failing to give a signal or careless driving.

This raises the spectre that a driver could be banned from driving without ever appearing in court and on the basis of evidence which might not be sustainable were the case to be brought to trial. A fixed penalty notice can be contested in court but, if this is done, the penalties are more severe if a conviction is obtained, as is likely in most cases.

In practice, drivers with few points on their licence are unlikely to contest even a contentious penalty – a decision they may come to regret under the new scheme. It is thought that the new proposals, if implemented, could lead to thousands more drivers being given driving bans.