Practically everyone (well, everyone over 40) moans about the standard of driving they see on the roads these days, but few drivers will welcome the proposal contained in a recent Department for Transport consultation paper which would allow the police to levy ‘on the spot’ penalties on drivers for a variety of offences without having to take court proceedings.

Under the proposals, which are designed to reduce the paperwork burden on the law enforcement agencies, all that will be necessary for a driver to be given a three-point penalty would be, in effect, the say so of a police officer. Currently, such penalties can be given for offences such as using a mobile phone whilst driving, but what is different about the scheme as proposed and the current one, is that such penalties could be raised for offences which 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 that might not be sustainable if the alleged offence were 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 usually the case.

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 bans.