It often takes a tragedy to bring about a change in the law.
In February 2016 Kim Briggs was killed by a speeding cyclist as she stepped off the pavement onto a road in central London. Charlie Alliston was convicted of wanton and furious driving, contrary to Section 35 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861. It’s worth knowing what it actually says:
"Whosoever, having the charge of any carriage or vehicle, shall by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, do or cause to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years ..."
It will have surprised many that in 2017 Charlie Allston was prosecuted using legislation that is over 150 years old. He was of course also charged with manslaughter, but apart from that there was nothing else available to prosecutors. The jury acquitted him of manslaughter, and the case revealed how inadequate the law now is when dealing with circumstances such as these.
The huge number of cyclists on the road not only in central London but also in other major cities has created issues that need addressing, and the law is out of date. Charlie Allston’s bike was not legal to be used on a public road because it had no front brake. Had a motor vehicle been defective or altered in the same respect, the driver would almost certainly have been prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving. There is no comparable legislation that deals with cyclists, and whist such events are thankfully rare, the law is in serious need of review.
Let me make plain that I also believe cyclists need increased protection. I enjoy cycling and encounter far too many rude and aggressive motorists who could easily put my life in danger. I am sure lots of cyclists have experienced it, and far more cyclists are killed by bad drivers than are pedestrians by bad cyclists.
That said, Charlie Allston’s behavior exposed a huge gap in the law. If a cyclist travels too fast to safely stop and causes death or injury, there needs to be modern legislation in place to address it. There are thousands of modern bikes on the road with fit young riders able to achieve speeds that are not always appropriate when surrounded by so many pedestrians.
Of course pedestrians have a responsibility too. How often do we see people wandering along the pavements with eyes glued to a telephone, plainly not looking where they are going. For other pedestrians it’s a serious nuisance and for cyclists it can be even worse when they step into the road.
I read that cycling groups want a review of the law for motorists as well, but generally speaking the existing road traffic legislation in place for dealing with motor vehicles and drivers works pretty well. Specific offences have been created dealing with fatalities, the use of mobile devices, and driving at speed and sentences are tough for serious offenders.
I don’t think any can now seriously argue that the law relating to cyclists does not need updating on its own to reflect the huge social changes that have taken place simply within the last five years or so.
Whilst what Charlie Allston did was rare, there is every chance it will happen again and legislation needs to be in place to deal with it, and to act as a deterrent to others. For that young man to be cycling at speed in busy central London using a bike that had no front brake and which he could not stop in time was inexcusable. It had tragic consequences for Kim Briggs’ family, and creating specific offences to deal with a minority of cyclists who ride dangerously is now overdue.
Motorists are being reminded that if they are planning to hire a car abroad this summer they'll need to plan ahread.
From the 8 June the paper part of their driving licences is no longer be needed. Motorists will now have to log onto the DVLA web site to check their driving record as paper licences are to be abolished. The paper part will have no validity after that date and motorists at free to destroy them .
The only exception are older style paper driving licences issued before 1998, but most drivers will be affected by the change as they possess a plastic card licence as well as the paper counterpart.
Motorists hiring vehicles or travelling abroad need to be aware of the changes and plan for them . Hire companies will no longer deal with the paper counterpart licence but will access a driver’s record online and will need to be provided with advance permission to do this. Motorists will need to obtain a code from DVLA valid for a few days which will allow hirers to make checks. Drivers stopped by police abroad or caught speeding may face difficulties until the system is properly up and running. Motorists do need to plan for such eventualities.
The paper counterpart was introduced to display driving licence details that could not be included on the photocard. These details include some vehicle categories you are entitled to drive and any endorsement/penalty points.
It means that DVLA will no longer issue paper counterparts and when motorists apply to renew or to notify address or name changes they will be issued with a card only.
Motorists convicted of road traffic offences leading to penalty points will have them recorded electronically. The paper counterpart was used to record all endorsements, but that will now come to an end. The courts will electronically notify DVLA and the record updated. Drivers retain the photocard.
It will make it much easier for insurers to check accurate records and to avoid fraud. Details can be checked by anyone online, by telephone or by post. Drivers can do this themselves using a View Driving Licence service, whereas others will need permission to check. This can be done by using a Share Driving Licence service. It will need to be set up before hiring
The paper tax disc has now gone, and January 2015 will see the demise of the paper counterpart driving licence. From January 2015, DVLA will no longer issue the paper counterpart to the photocard driving licence.
What does it mean?
In purely practical terms very little because no one needs to actually do anything apart from keeping hold of the photocard part. There will be a number of drivers who do not possess a photocard licence and so they will simply retain the old style paper one.
Whatever driving entitlements you have to drive will remain recorded at DVLA, along with details of penalty points and endorsements. Those have until now been recorded on the paper part but from January 2015 you will be able to check your record online, or by post and telephone.
Anyone who does not think they will need the paper licence after the change can dispose of it, but you shouldn’t do that before 1 January 2015.
Organisations and businesses that check the driving licence counterpart
As well as being able to check your own record, DVLA is developing a new digital enquiry service for launch later this year that will allow organisations and businesses to view information they can currently see on the driving licence counterpart.
This will likely apply to employers, car hire companies and insurers. The insurance industry sees it as an important part of the drive to reduce fraud making it more difficult for those buying insurance to hide their records. DVLA will release such information to those that show a right to see it and with the consent of the licence holder.
Frank Sinatra reputedly joked "I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day."
The reality unfortunately is that people who drink the night before could find their day going rapidly downhill.
According to research from LV= car insurance ‘morning after’ drink driving is on the increase with more motorists putting themselves and other road users at risk. There appears to be a widespread lack of understanding of just how long it can take for the body to get rid of alcohol with many drivers seriously underestimating the time it takes. It is perhaps no coincidence that last year France introduced the legal requirement to carry a breathalyser to self-test. The lack of knowledge is widespread, leaving drivers here to use judgment. The problem is that in many cases judgment is either flawed or distorted by drink.
It takes about an hour for the body to get rid of one unit of alcohol although this varies depending on body mass and gender. Nearly half of drivers spoken to did not know how long they had to wait to be clear to drive, or underestimated it.
The research suggests that since 2012 one in 30 (3% or 1.2 million) motorists have driven while still over the legal alcohol limit the ‘morning after’ and in many cases these drivers did not realise.
Although the number of drink drive arrests is falling, police arrested 4 per cent more drink drivers between the hours of 6am and 8am in 2012 than in 2011.
Among all those drivers who knew they were over the drink drive limit in the morning, one in five (19 per cent) said they believed they were okay to drive at the time, that driving was unavoidable (37 per cent) or it was just a short distance (26 per cent).
Close to one in 10 (7 per cent) thought it was acceptable as they weren’t driving on a motorway and one in eight (13 per cent) said they were only a little over the limit so it did not matter.
The research suggest that ‘morning after’ drink drivers are on average five hours away from being sober enough to drive when they get behind the wheel.
These are in many ways quite surprising statistics. I think that there is a real lack of awareness about how the body deals with alcohol. I frequently hear people saying they thought a night’s sleep or even a few hours is sufficient to get rid of alcohol consumed the night before.
The LV= research shows that men are more likely than women to be over the limit when they drive the morning after a night drinking (78% and 22% respectively). This is because men will consume a greater number of alcohol units on a night out and are more likely to use their car the morning after. LV= says that on average, morning after drivers consume 19 units of alcohol (e.g. seven pints of strong lager or six 250ml glasses of wine) and then drive their car just 10 hours after having their first drink – meaning that they are five hours away from being sober enough to drive legally.
The legal limits allow a driver to have a maximum of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, 35mg per 100ml of breath or 107mg per 100ml of urine. Figures suggest this equates to approximately four units for an average man and two to three units for an average woman but the amount varies between people and needs treating with real caution. It takes about an hour for the body to break down one unit of alcohol, but that this can vary according to on a number of factors including the person’s age, weight, gender and metabolism. Estimating or guessing is a very risky business.
Police in Greater Manchester have taken the decision to abandon hundreds of cases against drivers because summonses were not issued in time and this may have implications for many similar cases.
It is worth being clear what a Section 172 notice is. It derives its name from Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, and gives the police authority to require a registered keeper of a vehicle to state who was driving the vehicle on a particular date and time. They very commonly arrive after a vehicle has been photographed speeding.
The law requires the registered keeper to comply within 28 days, and if he does not an offence is committed. It carries 6 points on conviction, so can quickly get someone half way to 12 and disqualification, or worse all the way there.
If a registered keeper is to be prosecuted for failing to provide details of the driver, a summons must be issued within 6 months of the date of the offence. The person who fails to comply with the notice commits the offence on the expiration of the period of 28 days.
To take an example, the registered keeper of a vehicle photographed speeding by a speed camera on the 30 October 2011 at 10.30 in the morning might receive a notice under Section 172 on the 10 November 2011. It ought to arrive in 14 days of the offence, and it will give 28 days to provide the identity of the driver on that date and time. An offence is committed if by the 9 November the information has not been provided.
It is quite common for reminders or second requests to be sent out, and if this fails to produce the required information a summons will usually follow. So in my example a reminder might be sent out on the 10 November giving another 28 days to comply, expiring on the 8 December 2011. A reminder is not a requirement and one might not be sent.
If a summons is to be issued the law requires that to be done within 6 months of the offence, and in my example that would be the 9 May 2012, 6 months from the expiry of the first notice and not the reminder which would be 8 June 2012.
Summonses issued late are invalid, simple as that.. What sometimes happens is that the time for calculating the 6 months period is taken from the end of the reminder, and if it’s issued late in the 6 month period it risks being issued before the 8 June but after the 9 May.
Greater Manchester Police have apparently realised this and decided that summonses issued late because of the reminder process should be withdrawn as being invalid. It potentially opens up the possibility of wrongful convictions being looked at and may affect hundreds of drivers and registered keepers.
It emphasises the importance of carefully checking dates on court and other paperwork.