After an increasing number of close calls from bad driving in recent times I decided to look at driving statistics and the Highways Act. What I learned next was horrifying.
It has become increasingly clear that the Highways Act, the Highway Code and other adjoining legislation that govern the way we use the roads are in much worse state than anyone could have predicted. Below I am going to list a few publications and my takes on the issues they represent.
Whilst your legal stance to drive automatically remains until the age of 70 (penalty points, disqualifications and medical surrender excluded) your photocard licence needs to be updated at least every 10 years as the photograph used must remain as a distinct likeness to the proprietor. This does not take into account any other necessary changes such as change of name, address, or licence grade changes such as addition of HGV classes etc. Yet, reports claim that nearly 1 MILLION photocard licences have expired and not been updated with the DVLA. Whilst it may seem small, it is a legal requirement for all information, including photos, to be up to date. Failure to do so can lead to a large fine. Simple clerical issues are not necessarily linked to poor driving standards, however it does bode the question, how many people are careless enough not to keep things up to date?
The use of “Extreme Hardship” to avoid driving bans is a major loophole that needs to be closed. Figures show that more than 83,000 people escaped an automatic driving ban due to these ‘mitigating circumstances’ between 2011 and 2020. It has allowed some people to ammass an obscene number of points, and has kept people on the road who went on to cause death whilst driving following their court case. Whilst there are a handful of cases where circumstances are genuine, the majority of them should not be considered as they are of an inconvenience more than an extreme circumstance, and in some cases repeated accumulation. The points ban is never going to be effective if people can repeatedly cheat the system.
There has been a rise in the number of MOT testers being disqualified from issuing certificates over the last two years, either due to improper practices or issuing fraudulent certificates. The UK’s MOT safety standard is one of the most comprehensive car safety checks in the world, and helps prevent potentially dangerous vehicles from causing accidents on our roads. However, the fact that people are actively cheating the system is one that should ring alarm bells. Whilst it is good that more dodgy mechanics are being stopped from such practices, the fact that there are more out there shows that the system needs much stronger reinforcement.
Nearly Two Thirds of AA members had not read the Highway Code changes that came into force earlier this year. The real number could well be even higher as you would think that motorists belonging to a motoring organisation would be more likely to look these things up. It is vital for every motorist to keep up to date with Highway Code changes as they do change regularly. However the 2022 changes were significantly larger than many changes made in a long time. This means that somebody who took their test in the 70s and 80s could have some 40 years of changes that they are unaware of, which is bonkers, and worse yet, dangerous.
The AA are also Pro-Cycling, as the shortest journeys we make by car are the worst for our vehicles, traffic levels and the environment. Their own research shows that better cycling infrastructure would be to the benefit of most of its members, as 20% already cycle and many more would like to replace short car journeys with cycling but are put off by current safety concerns. Additionally, the AA research concludes that traffic levels in our cities only needs to be reduced by between 5 and 10% in order to become free flowing. Active and Public Travel are the future. I will be discussing this in the future in detail.
Whilst I cannot find an article on the subject, it is often rumoured that professional drivers (couriers, construction vehicle drivers, HGV drivers etc) are given strict time constraints that can sometimes contravene traffic laws. Meaning that some drivers are forced to break laws in order to complete there job(s) within an alloted time schedule. This dangerous precedent, if true, must be addressed as these vehicles are the largest and most dangerous in an incident.
My YouTube feed seems to be full of UK based dash cam close calls and crash compilations as well, certainly more than there used to be. And a lot of the videos are published within the last 12 months. Even though I have recently changed my viewing habits to get them off my feed, they are still omnipresent. And the clips I have seen are rarely repeated.
When you factor all the above in, my own observations are as follows:
– Impatience seems more common than ever; I am seeing more people than ever speed up to avoid a red light, and ignore changing temporary lights, pulling out at junctions without properly looking
-I am overtaken at speed more regularly whilst driving at the speed limit
-Drivers aggressively forcing through or blocking merge in turn at every opportunity
– An increase in phone using drivers
– More close passes and dangerous overtakes whilst cycling
-Ignoring direction signs at junctions (going straight or right at left turn only etc)
– An arrogance amongst a certain demographic of drivers who act like they own the road.
Now, we all make mistakes. We are human, after all. But that is no excuse to repeatedly push boundaries and take increasingly careless risks, just because the last time you did it you got away with it. The UK has one of the strictest driving tests in the world, and yet once a licence is obtained, complacency slips in with experience as time goes by. The roads are busier than ever and something needs to be done as many road incidents, injuries and fatalaties are avoidable.