Mallon launches a public consultation on new approach to careless driving offences

Date published: 23 November 2021

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Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has launched a public consultation to seek views on her proposal to make careless driving a fixed penalty notice offence.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon launches a public consultation on a new approach to careless driving offences

The consultation paper will also invite views on the introduction of Operation SNAP in Northern Ireland.  Operation SNAP enables members of the public to submit dash cam footage showing careless driving or riding.  It is currently operated by a number of police forces across England and Wales with offences disposed of through either the offer of a driver improvement course or a fixed penalty.

Minister Mallon said: 

“As Minister for Infrastructure part of my responsibility is promoting and improving road safety. This is a responsibility I take very seriously.  I have made it clear that I take a zero tolerance approach to irresponsible behaviour on the roads and I am committed to working with partners to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries across our roads network. 

“Earlier this year I introduced legislation to tackle the damage caused by drink drivers and also those who continue to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving; I am keen to bring forward further legislation that will deter poor driving behaviours and help to support our colleagues in the criminal justice sector.”

Continuing, the Minister added: 

“I was shocked to learn that about 42% of all cases coming to our courts in Northern Ireland were for motoring offences including careless driving. 

“I am committed to working with the Justice Minister and the PSNI to tackle this problem.  The consultation that I am launching today seeks views on proposals to reduce the number of minor motoring offences coming before our courts, deflecting police and prosecution resources away from more serious and contested criminal issues. It is so important that we work together to help our community as we recover from the dreadful damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The consultation proposes that the fixed penalty in Northern Ireland should be £100 and 3 penalty points for minor careless driving offences, with more serious offences still referred for consideration by the Courts."

The consultation paper will also consider the potential for the introduction of Operation SNAP in Northern Ireland.  The submission of dash cam footage, obtained safely and appropriately, will provide an additional means for road traffic law enforcement here. However, legislative change will be required to make careless driving a fixed penalty offence. 

The Minister added:

“I recently discussed this issue with the Chief Constable. The actual timeline for introducing Operation SNAP in Northern Ireland will be for the PSNI to decide.  For my part, I will ensure the legislative process moves forward as quickly as is possible.”

The consultation will remain open until 18 January 2022.

Response can be made online at: https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/dfi-1/a-consultation-to-consider-making-careless-driving. You can also download the consultation from the Department’s website at: https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/consultations/consultation-consider-making-careless-driving-fixed-penalty-notice-offence

Notes to editors: 

  1. Photo caption - Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon joins Inspector Rosie Leech, Road Policing, PSNI to launch a public consultation on a new approach to careless driving offences.
  2. It is an offence under Article 12 of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place ‘without due care and attention’, or ‘without reasonable consideration for other persons’ using the road or place.
  3. There are various situations that might amount to careless driving. In each, the driver will either be regarded as driving without due care and attention or as driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. Some examples of careless or inconsiderate driving are:
  • driving too close to another vehicle;
  • turning into the path of another vehicle or failing to give way at a junction and causing another driver to take evasive action;
  • driving too close to a pedal cyclist or pedestrian causing them to take evasive action or lose balance;
  • unnecessarily staying in an overtaking lane.
  1. At present, drivers detected for this offence may be issued with a warning by police or the police may refer the matter to the PPS where a decision is taken as to prosecution or diversionary disposal (typically a caution, informed warning or educational training) as an alternative to prosecution. A conviction at court for careless driving could result in a fine of up to £5,000, between three and nine penalty points on the driver’s licence and, at the discretion of the court, potential disqualification. 
  2. The fixed penalty option provides a means of dealing with minor road traffic offences. It is important to note that the most serious cases continue to go through court, where offenders may face higher penalties. Drivers are still be able to appeal any decision in court.
  3. Legislation to increase penalty points and fines for those using a hand-held mobile phone while driving came into effect on 3 February 2021.

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