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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS


In this month’s edition we feature more road traffic issues relevant to the trade supplied by Patterson Law. These questions are based on real enquiries that we have received from professional drivers this month. If you need any advice on motoring matters please email e.patter- son@pattersonlaw.co.uk or call 01626 359800 for free legal advice.


CHANGES TO THE LAW


At Patterson Law we keep a lookout for any changes to road traffic law. The present government seems to be having a “crackdown” on crime and as usual the motorist will be the first group of people affected.


DRIVING WHILST USING A MOBILE PHONE


The UK is set change the law to ban any use of a phone behind a wheel. The government is starting a 12-week public consul- tation after which legislation will be drafted and enacted.


Currently the law is confusing and outdated. It has been in need of change since the case of R v Barreto last year, which clarified that the offence only prohibits using the phone for in- teractive communication functions, which includes making or receiving a call, sending messages or accessing the Internet. Any other use of a phone does not fall under this of- fence.


But this gets even more confusing as even if a driver wasn’t ‘communicating’ but instead was, for example, taking a photo or playing a game, they could still be prosecuted for a different offence; “driving whilst not in proper control” (carrying 3 penalty points) if using a phone meant that the driver didn’t have control of their vehicle or didn’t have a full view of the traffic ahead, or “driving without due care and attention” (3-9 points) if using the phone caused a drop in the standard of driving.


But this is all set to be changed with the new legislation.


The initial thought is that any use of a mobile phone will be prohibited, with some exceptions such as using a phone in a holder (so it is not handheld) and paying for goods or services through a drive-through. It is also thought that PDA devices will be included in the legislation as “interactive communica- tion devices” but there may well be exceptions for 2-way ra- dios and again if the device is in a holder.


There is no plan to change the sentence – so it will remain at 6 points and £200 fine if a fixed penalty is offered, and 6 points and up to £1000 fine if the matter proceeds to Court.


The consultation is open to the public on the .gov website, and for the next couple of months anyone can have their say. We urge professional drivers to get involved.


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It should only affect the very serious of offences. CAUSING SERIOUS INJURY BY CARELESS DRIVING


Following on from this another offence likely to be introduced is causing serious injury by careless driving.


Currently there is an offence of driving without due care and attention, which carries between 3-9 penalty points, which is where the standard of driving falls below that of a careful and competent driver.


If the standard of driving falls far below and is obviously dan- gerous then the driver is prosecuted with dangerous driving, carrying a minimum 12 month disqualification, an extended retest and even community orders/custody.


If the driving is dangerous and serious injury is caused, then the offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving is brought, carrying a minimum 12 month ban with an extended retests and a starting point of a couple of years in prison, in- creasing to a maximum of 5 years.


But there is no offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. So at the moment if somebody is driving carelessly yet causes serious injury, the only offence they can be prose- cuted with is driving without due care and attention, which carries no risk of community orders or prison, and little risk of a disqualification.


To rectify that, Parliament are looking at introducing the new offence, which is likely to carry the risk of a lengthy disqualifi- cation and potentially a custodial sentence.


Whether this is fair is a question for Parliament and the Courts. It means that somebody may not drive dangerously, it might be a fairly innocuous accident, yet if a pedestrian is acciden- tally knocked down and, for example, an arm is broken in the process, that driver – even though they may have committed a genuine accident – could be facing a prison sentence.


NOVEMBER 2020 CAUSING DEATH BY DANGEROUS DRIVING


At the moment the maximum sentence that an offender can receive for causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years in prison (as well as lengthy disqualifications and an extended retest).


This will be increased to a maximum of life imprisonment.


Dangerous driving is where the standard of somebody’s driving falls far below that of a careful and competent driver and is obviously dangerous (compare with driving without due care and attention which is simply where the standard of driv- ing only falls below the required standard).


This change is likely to be introduced early next year. The White Paper has already been approved and this change is going to come into effect shortly.


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