UK & World News
Tailgating And Lane Hogging Fines In Force
Tailgaters and middle-lane hoggers could be hit with on-the-spot fines of £100 and three points on their driving licence from today.
The idea is to make it easier for the police to tackle problem drivers without being tied up with the bureaucracy of taking offenders to court.
Policing the new laws will require officers to make a subjective judgement on whether a particular manoeuvre is illegal or not, according to solicitor Neil Davies, who specialises in motoring offences.
He said: "One of the ways in which a court would assess that question is has the person driving departed from the Highway Code - how well is that person driving?
"Now in issuing the fixed penalty notices of course one would hope that police officers do exercise a degree of discretion, a degree of common sense and that they only issue these notices in appropriate circumstances."
Few motorists would admit to flaunting the Highway Code themselves but for most tailgating and lane hogging are pet hates, so the new laws have been welcomed.
Under the new legislation, fines for other offences, from using hand-held mobile phones or not wearing a seatbelt, to driving without insurance, have also been increased - from £60 to £100 and from £200 to £300 respectively.
Although fines have gone up, penalty points will remain unchanged, as will fixed penalty notices for parking, waiting and obstruction offences.
The Department of Transport said: "The changes will give the police the power to issue fixed penalty notices for careless driving and allow them greater flexibility when dealing with less serious careless driving offences - such as tailgating or middle-lane hogging - as well as freeing them from resource intensive court processes.
"The police will also be able to offer educational training as an alternative to licence endorsement, and drivers will still be able to appeal any decision in court."
Most motoring groups support the changes, although some road safety campaigners think the punishments should be more severe.
One concern is who will police the new laws, with only half as many traffic officers on Britain's roads as there were in the 1990s.
But senior officers insist they will be enforced and that more serious cases will still be taken to court where the offenders may face higher penalties.