Metropolitan Police car

Careless driving penalties jump 600 per cent in ten years

Buck up your ideas, Devon and Cornwall

There has been a shocking 589 per cent rise in the number of drivers penalised for careless driving over the past decade, according to new analysis of official figures.

The analysis of the latest Home Office data by Churchill Motor Insurance shows that 42,700 motorists in England and Wales received a fixed penalty notice (FPN), attended driver retraining or appeared in court for careless driving in 2022. That compares with just 6,300 dealt with via similar means for the same offence in 2012.

The official definition of careless driving under law is when motoring standards fall below the minimum expected of a competent and careful motorist, and without reasonable consideration for other road users.

Examples of behaviour which could trigger a careless driving offence include overtaking in an inside lane (often called “undertaking”), travelling through a red light, tailgating, unnecessarily slow driving or heavy braking, and dazzling other road users with your headlights.

Intriguingly, one of the bugbears of modern motorists — that of the scourge of “middle-lane hoggers” — is itself a careless driving offence on which the police have said they will crack down. Middle-lane hogging almost invariably leads to overtaking in an inside lane.

Millions running foul of the law

It’s not just careless driving which is on the rise in England and Wales, but all motoring offences.

The total number of penalties in both countries rose 37 per cent between 2012 and 2022, with 3.59 million handed out two years ago, as opposed to just 2.3 million incidents in the year London hosted the Olympic Games.

Regions and counties which saw the biggest increases in motoring penalties across the ten-year gap were Warwickshire (374 per cent), Devon and Cornwall (454 per cent), and Gloucestershire (282 per cent).

Kudos to a few areas, however. In England, all of Cambridgeshire, Cleveland, Cumbria, Hampshire, Kent, Northumbria, Nottinghamshire, Suffolk and Wiltshire saw reductions in their driving offence numbers, when comparing 2022 to 2012.

But the biggest praise must go to Wales, where it would seem the road safety message is getting through to drivers.

All of Dyfed-Powys (96 per cent), Gwent (98 per cent), North Wales (4 per cent) and South Wales (31 per cent) saw reductions in the number of drivers penalised for driving offences in 2022 compared with ten years prior.

Speeding still the biggest contributor

Cumulatively, more than 31.5 million driving penalties have been handed out in the last ten years, including ten million FPNs.

The most common driving offence was, unsurprisingly, speeding, with 22.2 million drivers caught in the decade in question.

Other common infractions include the neglect of traffic signs or pedestrian rights (1.1 million penalties), and licence or insurance errors (1 million penalties). Slightly more than half-a-million (540,000) drivers have been penalised for seatbelt offences between 2012 and 2022.

‘Driving standards must get better’

Nicholas Mantel, head of Churchill Motor Insurance, said: “Our research highlights the monumental changes we’ve seen in road safety over the past decade.

“With more and more drivers on the roads than ever before, driving standards must get better if we’re to improve the safety of all road users.

“Millions of motorists are still driving over the speed limit, not wearing a seatbelt or neglecting to read traffic signs.

“These things can be easily avoided with a few simple adjustments to your driving habits, and may also help to avoid being issued with a penalty and or fine.”

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