In a bid to clamp down on reckless driving, the British government has given the police power to issue on the spot fines, instead of cases going through the courts. Motorists will be slapped with fines of between £80 and £100 for various traffic offences, including using mobile phones while driving.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond (not Richard) said the strategy aimed to target persistently dangerous drivers. He told MPs: “We need to rebalance road safety enforcement away from a narrow focus on camera-enforced speed policing, to address the wider range of behaviours that create risk on the roads. Where road users commit serious, deliberate and repeated offences we aim to increase the effectiveness of enforcement for this minority.”

The Department of Transport (DoT) says that this is to punish the most reckless drivers, rather than penalising those who make genuine mistakes. Besides fines, disqualified drivers will have to undergo training and possibly retake tests to reclaim their license. The courts will also be encouraged to make the most of their powers to seize vehicles for very serious offences. New drivers or those who commit less serious crimes will be sent for extra training.

“The strategy will focus on cracking down on the really reckless drivers through more efficient enforcement. By giving the police the tools to deal with those who present the greatest danger to others we can make our roads even safer. While seeking to do everything possible to tackle the most dangerous drivers, the strategy will also help the responsible majority to improve their driving,” DoT said.

According to DoT, convictions for offences related to bad driving fell from 125,000 in 1985 to 28,900 in 2006, suggesting that many cases are going unpunished.