Drink Driving limit to be reduced?

Proposed amendments to The Road Traffic Act 1988 are awaiting further consideration by the House of Lords. Should the suggestions within the Bill become law, the drink driving alcohol breath limit will be reduced from 35 microgrammes of alcohol in breath to only 14 microgrammes of alcohol in breath.

This represents the present alcohol breath limit being reduced by more than half. There is a zero tolerance policy operated by police forces across England and Wales to drink driving offences. A positive road side breath test above the legal limit will almost certainly result in an arrest.

There is no safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed to guarantee that you are under the drink drive limit. Each of us will metabolise alcohol at different rates depending upon a variety of personal factors.

Should the drink drive limits be reduced in the near future, the safest way to drive and avoid being arrested or prosecuted for drink driving is not to consume any alcohol before driving.

We will wait and see whether the law on drink driving is changed and the legal limit of alcohol in breath reduced.

Coronavirus and Driving

DRIVING fines and penalty points could be issued to motorists who drive whilst displaying symptoms of COVID 19 or fail to adhere to Government guidelines issued on when to travel for essential journeys. 

Suffering from symptoms of the Coronavirus could cause motorists to lose the same level of concentration as using a mobile phone whilst driving. This in turn could cause drivers to commit a motoring offence of Careless or Dangerous Driving. Research undertaken by Cardiff University’s Common Cold Unit, found motorists suffered a decrease in driving ability and concentration levels when driving whilst unwell. For example, drivers can travel over 15 metres whilst their eyes are closed during a sneeze causing temporary loss of control of their car.

In certain circumstances, Police could consider a prosecution for either Careless or Dangerous Driving provided it is established that your actions could put yourself or other road users at risk. Both these motoring offences carry penalty points and disqualification from driving as a sentencing option in the event of a successful prosecution.

The AA warns medication taken while feeling unwell could also cause motorists to become drowsy thereby impacting concentration levels when driving. Drivers should always read the guidance issued with medicine or seek specific medical advice before taking medicine to establish if there are any restrictions upon driving.

Under new Coronavirus lockdown measures, you should only leave your house for essential reasons such as visiting the shops for food and medicine or to help the vulnerable. Driving, even without symtoms of COVID 19, should therfeore only be undertaken when absolutely necessary.

Moreover, driving in contravention of Government guidelines for non-essential trips or whilst suffering from Coronavirus symptoms could invalidate your car insurance. The wording of car insurance policy documnetation will prove decisive on this point. Dring without a valid policy of insurance carries a fine, penalty points and a discretionary disqualifiction from driving upon conviction.

Police Officers across the UK have temporary powers to issue fines for those motorists caught travelling for non-essential reasons such as driving to the beach or local beauty spots. Bear in mind the potential that your policy of car insurance might also be invalidated in such circumstances.

The best advice is to drive only when absolutely necessary and in accordance with Government guidelines. Motorists should not drive a motor vehicle when displaying even mild or low level Coronavirus symptoms. Doing so could result in prosecution for a motoring offence and ultimately peanlty points or a driving ban.

Stay safe.


Driving the morning after the night of the Christmas Party

At this festive time of year, more drivers are willing to risk driving the morning after a boozy Christmas party – one in five drivers admit to driving the morning after they drank a significant amount of Alcohol the night before, according to research by the charity Brake.

Insurers LV report that arrests for drink driving between 06:00 and 08:00 rose from 350 in 2011 to 363 in 2012 – an increase of 4%. The research suggests drivers fail to understand that just because its the morning after, that you are no longer affected by alcohol and over the drink drive limit.

“Many drivers who would not consider driving after a night in the pub fail to recognise the influence of alcohol on their body the next day, or simply choose to ignore its effects,” says Alice Granville, policy and research analyst from the Institute of Advanced Motoring.

Whether you are under the drink drive limit the following morning depends on how much alcohol you have consumed and if you’ve left enough time for your system to rid the alcohol form your system.

“The amount of alcohol in your bloodstream depends on three things,” says Dr Paul Wallace, Drinkaware’s Chief Medical Adviser. “The amount you take in, over what period of time and the speed at which your body gets rid of it.”

In general, alcohol is removed from the blood at the rate of about one unit an hour. But this varies from person to person. It can depend on your size and gender, as men tend to process alcohol quicker than women; how much food you’ve eaten; the state of your liver, and your metabolism (how quickly or slowly your body turns food into energy).

The best advice, if you don’t want to risk being over the legal drink drive limit is to avoid alcohol altogether the night before you have to drive. You can’t speed up the process – There is nothing you can do to speed up the rate alcohol leaves your system. Black coffee and high energy drink s have no impact upon the alcohol level in your body.

“Having a cup of coffee or a cold shower won’t do anything at all to get rid of the alcohol,” says Dr Wallace. “They may make you feel slightly different, but they haven’t eliminated the alcohol in any way.”

The law is clear on driving with alcohol in your system the morning after the night before – it is not a defence to drink driving. The fact the sentence imposed by the Court for any drink driving offence is not reduced because of when a driver has consumed alcohol. Driving a motor vehicle whilst over the legal limit, irrespective of when the alcohol is consumed relative to the time of the offence, is a criminal offence. If you are convicted of drink driving you will be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months.

If you have any doubt that you may be over the drink drive limit the morning after the night before, do not drive and make alternative transport arrangements.

Single Justice Procedure Notice

What is a Single Justice Procedure Notice?

The Single Justice Procedure applies only to cases involving adults charged with summary-only non-imprisonable offences, at present it is primarily used to prosecute motoring offences. The single justice procedure started in April 2015 having been introduced under The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.

It will enable relatively minor motoring cases to be dealt with by a single magistrate sitting with a legal adviser considering the police and court papers without the attendance of either a prosecutor or the motorist at Court. Instead the motorist is ‘encouraged’ to engage with the Court and the single justice procedure by making written representations.

Prosecutors and police will identify motoring cases which might be suitable for the single justice procedure. These will be commenced by a written charge and a document called a ‘single justice procedure notice.’ The primary purpose of the single justice procedure is to ensure that straight forward motoring offences are taken from the traditional Court setting and dealt with in a closed court to be determined by a Single Magistrate with no prosecutor or defendant present.

What will be the first notification that the motorist will receive advising them that they face prosecution under the Single Justice Procedure?

A single justice procedure notice will be sent to the motorist by post explaining the offence which has has allegedly occurred – there will be supporting documentation with the single justice procedure notice which will explain the options available to the motorist. The Notice will be accompanied by the evidence upon which the prosecutor will be relying to prove the case, more often than not the police statements which are said to prove the motoring offence.

The notice will give the motorist a date by which to respond in writing to the allegation – rather than giving a date to physically attend court. However, the motorist has the right to request a traditional hearing in open court. For example, if he/she wishes to plead not guilty, or otherwise wants to have a hearing in open court to dispute all or part of the motoring offence.

In cases where a motorist pleads guilty and indicates that he/she would like to have the matter dealt with in his absence (or fails to respond to the notice) a single magistrate will consider the case on the basis of the evidence submitted in writing by the prosecutor, along with any written mitigation from the motorist. The single magistrate can convict and sentence in the absence of the motorist.

The importance therefore in responding to the Single Justice Procedure Notice and making the appropriate written representations can not therefore be over stated. Without written representations from the driver about their case the case will proceed regardless.

If a single magistrate considers at any point that it would be inappropriate to continue with the case under the single justice procedure, the magistrate should then refer the case to a traditional magistrates’ court to be dealt with in the usual way. In this case, the motorist will be advised of the date upon which he/she should attend the Magistrates Court.

In what circumstances should the accused motorist request a hearing in open court?

If you do not accept the allegations or disagree with any of the facts of the motoring offence this should be highlighted within the single justice procedure notice paperwork and the motorist should request a Court hearing.

Moreover, if there is any suggestion that the motorist will be disqualified from driving or is at risk of being banned from driving then an appearance before a traditional court should be requested. This will allow oral representations to be made on the drivers behalf to the Magistrates Court in the usual way.

I have received a Single Justice Procedure Notice in the post for a motoring offence, should I seek legal advice?

Receiving a single justice procedure notice is no different to receiving a summons to attend Court – if there is anything that you are uncertain of, if you dispute any aspect of the motoring offence or if there is any risk that you will be banned from driving you should take legal advice and in any event ensure that you highlight your views within the single justice procedure paperwork.

#1 Motoring Solicitors provide advice to clients facing prosecution for all types of motoring offences that are prosecuted under the Single Justice Procedure. We are able to assist motorists in making written representations to the Court and provide the most appropriate advice in how to respond to the single justice procedure notice. Call us today for an initial telephone consultation to discuss any questions you have about about this relatively new court procedure.

The M4 motorway – variable speed limits around Newport J24 to J28

From today, Monday the 26th September 2016, the variable speed limit surrounding Newport along the M4 will be used to prosecute motorists. It is anticipated that an ‘advisory notice’ will be sent to drivers during the first 14 days and thereafter prosecutions will start for speeding offences. This brief note is designed to help motorists who regularly use this stretch of the M4 through Newport.

The variable speed limits along this part of the M4, are calculated by the amount of traffic between junction 24 for Coldra and junction 28 at Tredegar Park. The speed limit is likely to vary between 40mph and 70 mph. Drivers who use the stretch of road have concerns regarding the new enforcement action. As a result, Go Safe – the partnership that decides who should be prosecuted for exceeding the speed limit – have published answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. Below are some of the answers:

How does the variable speed limit scheme work?

Through this section of motorway, the mandatory speed limit is adjusted according to traffic conditions to keep vehicles moving at a steady rate. Normally during periods of no congestion on an incident-free carriageway, no variable speed limit signs or signals are set and the national speed limit applies. At busy times or in the event of an incident, sensors will detect congestion beginning to build up. The system calculates the optimum speed limit for the current amount of traffic and this is displayed on the electronic signals above lanes or at the side of the road.

Drivers may not be able to see why the signals are set; however, the system is detecting congestion building up and is using the speed limit signals to slow the traffic and keep it moving. Vehicles travel at more constant and similar speeds, making the journey smoother and safer for all. Congestion and queueing is reduced which in turn reduces a key risk of collisions from vehicles approaching the backs of queues. When the traffic flow has subsided and the signs and signals are no longer required, these will return to blank and the carriageway will return to normal motorway operation.

How is speed enforcement carried out in the variable speed limit?

Speed enforcement cameras are fitted onto overhead gantries. The cameras are activated when they detect a vehicle travelling in excess of the speed limit in force at the time.
The system has the necessary Home Office Type Approval (HOTA) which allows its use for enforcement purposes.

Who owns and operates the speed cameras?

Speed enforcement through the use of roadside cameras across Wales is managed and coordinated by GoSafe, a multi-agency partnership comprising all highway authorities within Wales and the four Welsh police forces. Within that partnership structure the Welsh Government owns and installs the cameras located on the M4 Motorway and the police, as the enforcement authority, are responsible for operating them and carrying out enforcement on a day-to-day basis.

What happens if there is a technical fault with the system?

There are built-in safeguards which prevent the camera from activating if there is a technical fault. The system is designed to ensure that it will only capture an offence when the equipment is working correctly. This is a requirement of HOTA.

I do not believe I was travelling in the M4 variable speed limit section at the time stated on my speeding notice sent by the police.

The speed enforcement system includes a calibrated, fully synchronised clock which meets required specific Home Office standards. Enforcement of the speed limit is carried out by the police and the processing of those offences is undertaken by the Central Ticket Office within South Wales Police. Any enquiries about specific speeding offences should be referred to the Central Ticket Office.

The speed limit changed just as I passed under the electronic sign, so I had no time to reduce my speed?

When a mandatory speed limit changes on the overhead signal, there is an automatic delay before enforcement can begin against the newly displayed limit.

Why does the speed limit sometimes change several times over a short stretch of road?

When an incident occurs, control centre operators may set signs and signals to protect the areas affected but the resulting slower-moving traffic can in some cases trigger an automatic setting to prevent queuing. The combination of these two setting modes can cause a combination of speed limits to be set in relation to the incident and the live traffic conditions.

This is normal operation, which ensures that the system protects road users from the effects of both the incident and the traffic congestion. On the westbound carriageway, due to damage sustained during the Brynglas tunnel fire in 2011, reduced lighting is in operation which requires the permanent display of a 50MPH speed limit on the approach and travel through the tunnel.
Works are currently underway at Brynglas tunnels to replace the lighting. These works are mainly taking place overnight to avoid congestion.

As with any prosecution for a speeding or motoring offence, there are various procedures that the police and the prosecution must follow before a fine or penalty points can be imposed.

If you have any legal questions concerning a speeding offence arising from the new variable speed limit imposed along the M4 around Newport or if you at risk of losing your driving licence, call 1 Motoring Solicitors for free initial telephone advice.

Using a mobile whilst driving has reached ‘epidemic proportions’ – is the law about to get tougher?

New research suggests that the number of people who use mobile phones behind the wheel in the UK has quadrupled over the last two years. The survey suggests that drivers have no fear that they will be caught by Police. Read More

Duty of Confidentiality – Doctors and Health Care professionals to the DVLA

It is commonly thought that a Doctor and other healthcare professionals have an unimpeachable and overriding duty of patient confidentiality in every circumstance. However when it comes to a patient’s fitness to drive and reporting to the DVLA this is not the case. Read More

Exceptional Hardship – Are penalty points pointless?

Penalty points are dished out to drivers when they are caught committing motoring offences – anything from speeding or using their phone behind the wheel to driving uninsured. Points usually come with a fine, and there are usually knock-on implications for the price of a driver’s annual car insurance policy in the long run. Read More

Motoring offences to be prosecuted ‘on line’ or in public buildings

Court hearing for motoring offences are to be held  in universities as well as town halls and community centres after ministers announced plans to shut almost one in five Magistartes Courts across the country. Read More