Tag Archives: prosecution

Drug Driving Law – A Minefield For The Unwary

Drug Driving Law – A Minefield For The Unwary

Drinking and driving is never out of the headlines for long but now another driving topic has captured the media’s attention.  The law regarding driving whilst under the influence of drugs has recently seen a big shake up under the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

Drugdriving3

From March 2015 drug driving became illegal if the police can show you are over the limit.

The Government has – perhaps rather late in the day – shone a spotlight on the effect on driving of taking illegal drugs and various prescription drugs.  Some may have seen the Department for Transport TV ad showing a man evidently affected by recreational drugs driving home from a night out and becoming increasingly sweaty, jumpy and generally paranoid about the slightest thing; a flashing blue sign in a shop window, a shadow or a bright light in someone’s house.  The ad ends with a real blue light appearing behind him.

It has long been enshrined in law that driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs is illegal with penalties in keeping with those for drink driving.

Now anyone who takes illegal substances and drives faces a criminal record, loss of their licence for at least a year and a fine of up to £5,000. It’s now illegal to drive with certain drugs in the body above specified levels, including 8 illegal drugs and 8 prescription drugs. But, if you are taking medicines as directed and your driving is not impaired, then you are not breaking the law.

Police Forces have access to new screening equipment to test suspected drug drivers. Officers can test drivers for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside with a disposable device called Drugwipe which works by analysing a small quantity of saliva. The device is able to detect cannabis and cocaine above certain levels but it’s already attracted some controversy, with one of the largest forces, Greater Manchester Police, deciding not to enforce the new law at the present time.

The police can test for cannabis and cocaine and other drugs including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin at a police station, even if a driver passes the roadside check. New devices that can test for a greater number of drugs at the roadside will, the Government says, be developed in the future.

The law covers the use of 8 drugs often associated with medicinal use that are sometimes abused.  The permitted levels for these drugs have been set at higher limits based on the available evidence of the road safety risk – and to reflect their use as medicines. These drugs are:

  • Morphine used to treat pain – opiate/opioid based medication will      metabolise (i.e. chemically change) into morphine and show in a blood      result
  • Diazepam
  • Clonazepam
  • Flunitrazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Oxazepam
  • Temazepam used to treat anxiety or inability to sleep
  • Methadone commonly used to treat drug addiction

Amphetamine, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Parkinson’s disease, became regulated from 14th April 2015 with a threshold limit in blood of 250 micrograms per litre.

The piecemeal manner in which the legislation has been introduced could quite easily lead to confusion amongst drivers at risk of being affected.

The new law has attracted controversy since, as we all know, everyone’s metabolism is different and it is possible that one person will absorb and be affected by a drug differently from another; one person may excrete a drug from their system at a completely different rate from another.  There are, in short, many variables.

Experts say that law-abiding drivers who take over the counter medicines to try and shake off a cold or the flu could find themselves falling foul of the new legislation – even the morning after taking the medication.

Legal over-the-counter medicines could lead to a ban because they can impair drivers’ judgment and slow their reaction times through making them drowsy.

Given that this is potentially a legal minefield drivers accused of the new offence really owe it to themselves to seek out legal advice, especially since the penalties are so severe and may well have a huge impact on the individual’s life and work prospects.  Your lawyer can, amongst other things, offer advice on the possibility of seeking expert forensic opinion with a view to contesting the charge.

The new TV advert ends with the message “Now there’s more reason to be paranoid”.  With the range of new uncertainties there’s probably every reason to be really concerned.

Newnham & Jordan Solicitors are able to assist and advise you with regard to a variety of Road Traffic, Driving and other regulatory issues.

 Call us now on 01202 877400

This article is intended for general information purposes only and  shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. Newnham &  Jordan Solicitors cannot accept  responsibility for  any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in  respect of this  article or any external articles it may refer or link to.

Motorway Road Hogs

Road Hog

 

Since the government introduced a crackdown on lane hogging in August 2013 motorists may wonder what impact this is having on police policy and, furthermore, they may ask themselves how is this satisfactorily proved anyway?

 

Recently obtained figures suggest that few motorists are being issued with fixed penalties for careless driving which, in the context of lane hogging, is tailgating other drivers or hogging the middle lane of the motorway.

In records obtained under a Freedom of Information request from 17 of the country’s police forces there were only 54 cases of drivers being penalised for driving too close to the car in front.  There were only 21 fines issued for hogging the middle lane.  This figure was split across only 8 police forces since the majority were unable to distinguish the offence from other instances of “poor lane discipline”. The Police Federation had forecast that the measures would be “unenforceable” and to some extent their prediction has been borne out.

Getting caught on a static or mobile camera for speeding is one thing and is generally (if not invariably) conclusive but there is no dedicated technology for detecting and recording instances of tailgating. The police will likely rely upon actual observation of instances of poor driving on motorways and may make use of video equipment in these circumstances.  However this is all dependent on the frequency of motorway patrols and it will often come down to a matter of timing. It is a matter of common sense not to drive too close to the vehicle in front and the Highway Code tells us to only drive in the middle and outside lanes of a motorway sparingly and for good reason.

If a motorist is stopped and accused unreasonably of lane hogging he should consider requesting sight of any visual evidence or other information from the police in order to better assess the quality of the case.  It may well be a police officer’s opinion and one formed from a position on the road where there is at least an element of doubt as to its certainty.

A fixed penalty is all very well as it is dealt with swiftly but it will also carry an unwelcome three points, in addition to the financial cost.

If you are in any doubt you should consider seeking professional advice as soon as possible.

This article is intended for general information purposes only and  shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice.  Newnham &   Jordan Solicitors cannot accept  responsibility for   any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in  respect of this   article or any external articles it may refer or link to.

 

Motorway Road Hogs
Driving Without Reasonable Consideration

Driving Without Reasonable Consideration

Driving offences solicitorWe’ve all been flashed by another driver.  It happens nearly every day you go out in the car and while it’s often clear enough why you’ve been flashed – and it can even be quite friendly of the other driver – there are also many occasions when it’s either downright unclear why it’s being done or else it can verge on the dangerous.  With automotive technology ever advancing the brilliance of the now increasingly commonplace xenon headlights, it means it can be quite uncomfortable to have such lights flashed into one’s eyes even in broad daylight.

It’s recently been reported that in the city of Shenzhen the Chinese police have a somewhat unique means of dealing with drivers who needlessly flash their lights.  Offenders who are caught are being made to look at bright headlights for a full five minutes, something which the police describe as an “appropriate experience” that would make offenders see the harm such use of their headlights could cause others.  Offenders are also obliged to attend an official police explanation on the proper use of headlights and, not content with that, they must also pay a fine.

While we haven’t quite reached the stage of compelling inconsiderate motorists to suffer a dose of their own medicine the consequences of unthinking and confusing use of headlights as a means of (sometimes aggressive) communication rather than necessary illumination for the obvious reasons of road safety can, of course, be addressed through the courts; those who drive without reasonable consideration for other road users are liable to prosecution under section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the same section that applies to driving without due care and attention (or careless driving as it’s often called).  And the same penalties apply to both.

A person can be convicted of driving without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place providing other persons are inconvenienced by his driving.  This will always depend on the facts, of course, but aggressive flashing of lights intended to force someone to move over could constitute the offence.

The courts may revert to the guidance within the Highway Code for what is and is not acceptable conduct and non-observance will tend to establish liability although a mere breach will not be enough.

While we can probably relax about the possibility of the Chinese penalty reaching these shores any time soon the offence of inconsiderate driving is still sufficiently serious to merit legal advice from the earliest stage.

 This article is intended for general information purposes only and  shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice.  Newnham &   Jordan Solicitors cannot accept  responsibility for   any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in  respect of this   article or any external articles it may refer or link to.

Senior Citizens and Still Driving…!

Senior CoupleIt’s often commented how we are all living – and staying healthy – much longer than we used to and this is great news.  However with the welcome improvements in life expectancy which we’re noticing more and more it’s worth spending a few moments considering the significance to driving of advancing age, and the potential consequences of failing to declare to DVLA a medical condition.

The trouble is that we don’t all know ourselves when we might have a relevant medical condition and thus need to inform DVLA; deterioration in driving abilities can be very gradual and thus not always easy to spot.  It may not be a simple judgment call.  However a failure to declare a condition can result in a potential fine of £1,000, loss of licence and independence, and it goes without saying a serious road traffic accident arising from the consequences of impaired ability can have any number of potential ramifications.

There is no maximum age at which you must stop driving and there will always be some very sprightly drivers who will still be capable of driving into their late 80s and 90s.  Indeed there are nearly 200 drivers in the UK who are aged at least 100; it is an extraordinary, in many ways fantastic statistic, the like of which we have never seen until recently.

The only standard condition to comply with as you reach the age of 70 is that the driving licence becomes renewable every three years but with no obligatory test and no compulsory medical the basic obligation is to make a medical declaration as to one’s fitness to drive.   However with age comes greater responsibility and, from the point of view of road traffic law, perhaps the key responsibility is the need to monitor and be aware of your fitness to drive at all stages of your driving career, and as someone now in their late 50s myself I am as conscious of this responsibility as the next person.

A failure to disclose a relevant medical condition may also have consequences for insurance cover at a time when it is needed most (although matters of policy terms and conditions will always be subject to the specific circumstances and the insurance company’s view of a particular case).

It isn’t all bad news though.

It remains a fact that older drivers are, statistically, less risky than younger drivers.  According to the Association of British Insurers drivers over the age of 70 are half as likely to be involved in accidents as 18 to 20 year olds.  Very few drivers over the age of 70 are involved in drink drive or single vehicle accidents.

With new drivers (who are, more often than not, young drivers) the courts are obliged to follow a very strict rule whereby, by virtue of the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995, the accumulation of 6 points within the first two years of motoring post acquisition of a full licence will mean the automatic revocation of a licence and the obligation to re-take the driving test in order to restore the previous entitlements.  However with much older drivers potentially at liberty to drive even where their powers of concentration may be diminishing the possibility may be out there that legislators will be unable to resist the temptation to rebalance this system of checks and balances in the not too distant future.

This article is intended for general information purposes only and  shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice.  Newnham &   Jordan Solicitors cannot accept  responsibility for   any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in  respect of this   article or any external articles it may refer or link to.

Michael McGhie has practised Road Traffic law for many years and regularly follows new developments in this legal area to ensure he can advise clients as effectively as possible.

 

Senior Citizens and Still Driving…!
Road Haulage & Parking Disputes

Road Haulage & Parking Disputes

Parking Not Encouraged

Road Haulage:  The significance of signage in parking disputes.

A recent court victory over a parking fine has raised hopes that it could aid similarly affected hauliers.

A driver called Nicholas Anderson was prosecuted by Ransomes Europark after he refused to pay £237.50 for a parking fine issued by Proserve Enforcement Solutions when he visited the local Plumb Center on the Europark trading estate in Ipswich.

When the case came before Ipswich County Court a judge found in Anderson’s favour and described signage on the estate as “wholly ambiguous.”

Anderson’s comments will strike a chord with many drivers when he said: “It just wasn’t right what Ransomes and Proserve were doing. People may not know the legal ins and outs of why something is wrong, but they know that it is wrong.”

It hasn’t always been so; B&E Hamblion Transport Ltd, a haulier from Colchester, lost a court case against Ransomes’ parent company The Land Group last year after it refused to pay three fines totalling £900, again issued by Proserve Enforcement Solutions.  The court heard argument on behalf of Hamblion that the fines were excessively high but a judge disagreed with the submissions.

Nigel Robson, who is a director at The Land Group, said the company would appeal the decision in the Anderson case, adding “we have done everything we should be doing in accordance with the regulations.”

Clearly each case is distinguishable on its facts and one success by one individual may not signal a shift towards haulage drivers in general.

If your driver finds himself on the wrong end of a parking enforcement decision then, if it appears wholly unfair, at the very least it may be wise to survey the signage there, take good photographs and consider seeking initial legal advice sooner rather than later.

Newnham & Jordan can advise you on all road traffic legal matters including potential parking offences and fines.

 Call us now on 0845 680 7871

This article is intended for general information purposes only and  shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. Newnham &   Jordan Solicitors cannot accept  responsibility for   any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in  respect of this   article or any external articles it may refer or link to.

 

Telematics Motor Insurance and the Black Box recorder

Telematics and Car Insurance

Telematics Telematics Telematics

Originally the preserve of (young and therefore often riskier) drivers before very long we can all look forward to embracing “telematics” when we are shopping for car insurance.

New drivers will be familiar with insurance companies that offer the potential of lower premiums in exchange for having a black box (perhaps a more understandable name than telematics) fitted to their vehicle which monitors their driving and sends back data to the company silently and unobtrusively. With the technology which supports insurers’ black boxes shortly to become a standard fitment in all new cars it will be but a short step to take for insurers to roll out telematics to all of their customers meaning it won’t be long before policy holders who shun the adoption of this 21st century technology will be in a minority – and that will likely mean higher premiums for the privilege of opting out. Of course this isn’t going to happen overnight but the writing is surely on the wall.

Under EU regulations a system known as eCall designed to help the emergency services locate vehicles involved in accidents will have to be fitted in all new vehicles manufactured from October 2015. This particular EU regulation is surely a good thing which one can also foresee being used by the AA and RAC, for example, to locate you swiftly in the event of a breakdown.

Insurance companies are already expanding the adoption of Telematics and from a point in the first few years of this century when it was very novel (and quite expensive to fit) the system is gaining in popularity and adoption by motorists, aided now by a variety of mobile phone apps which, with some inevitability, are being introduced; according to the British Insurance Brokers’ Association the current telematics use of less than 1% of drivers is likely to rise to 10% within three years and to 15% within five years. One management consultancy has predicted that by 2020 something like 50% of vehicles will have some kind of electronic black box circuitry fitted.

As more and more vehicles reach Britain’s roads with the electronic circuitry ready-fitted the impetus will be increasingly on expanding the use of telematics to better assess risk. And assessing risk will be easy for the insurance companies, as it is now, with black boxes already monitoring the how, when and where of your vehicle use to determine how good or bad a driver you are; whether you only take the car for a run on a Sunday afternoon or whether you hit the road in the rush hour and whether you drive fast and brake hard or you drive consistently and brake gently, anticipating hazards in good time. Good young drivers have already seen some benefit from this technology although the savings may not have been that spectacular after allowing for the cost of installation. True value will come with year after year of use as insurance companies can see a pattern of driving behaviour for themselves, even if there are also important privacy considerations attached to this. The point is that telematics has not been pushed very much thus far but with insurance companies seeing that it does work, and with the EU regulations only serving to encourage this tracking technology, we are going to see a lot more of it soon.

While we don’t have to accept the use of telematics for our own insurance the situation will soon arise whereby it will become the norm and declining it will mean higher premiums – all a bit like insisting on paying for your gas and electric by cheque rather than monthly direct debit or paying for your water based on rateable value instead of a meter. Of course these are different commodities but increasingly the public is being directed down particular routes that save the supplying company time and money and car insurance will be no different; telematics will tell the insurance companies all they need to know about your driving habits automatically and if you are a low mileage driver, for instance, who only drives at quiet times of day, and leaves the car on the drive for extended periods, it is very likely you stand to benefit from this technology.

Newnham & Jordan can advise you on all road traffic legal matters including potential insurance offences.

 Call us now on 0845 680 7871

This article is intended for general information purposes only and  shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. Newnham &   Jordan Solicitors cannot accept  responsibility for   any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in  respect of this   article or any external articles it may refer or link to.

Telematics Motor Insurance and the Black Box recorder