Police will get the power to fine careless drivers on the spot rather than go through the current festival of paperwork required to punish errant motorists.
This news has generated a mixed reaction in the press. Some welcome the change of emphasis away from automated enforcement targeted at speeding, others are concerned that without new police resources the new powers will be little-used.
It seems that the Government are trying to divide the motoring community into the "responsible majority" who make the occasional "inadvertant mistake", and a minority of "genuinely reckless" motorists. They are also introducing more training and education for new drivers and those guilty of less serious offences, while disqualified drivers would face retraining before getting their licence back.
Will this approach work? I think it is a step forward, because it makes it easier for the police to issue penalties. However, there are a couple of fundamental problems that remain unsolved. First is that enforcement by real live officers is terribly expensive. Without a realistic prospect of getting caught there is still no incentive for behaviour change. What could make a difference is if incidents reported to police websites like Roadsafe London actually resulted in punishments, if supported by video evidence. The fact is that although the current government criticises camera enforcement, it does actually work - that's been proved in Oxfordshire, where a temporary camera switch-off resulted in significantly more collisions.
A second issue is the problem that a large number of collisions are caused by ordinary motorists doing relatively ordinary things such as using a handheld mobile, or just not looking properly. Most people I think would not consider that kind of thing reckless - but it does kill people. I believe that giving the signal that if you're an "ordinary motorist" then you're OK and just carry on as you are is wrong. There needs to be a much stronger expectation that driving a car puts you in charge of a potentially lethal machine, and you have therefore an exceptional duty of care to the public.