As the transport and logistics industry takes its first steps towards returning to normal following the coronavirus pandemic, in our July motor crime update we look at the key developments over the last month and the current challenges faced, including:
- Life sentences for dangerous drivers;
- Reintroduction of mandatory MOT testing;
- Ban on 10 year old tyres;
- Review of heavy vehicles testing;
- E-scooter trials;
- Theory tests and motorcycle training and tests restarting; and
- Review of roads policing
Getting away with murder? Dangerous drivers face life sentences
We are not talking about a moment's inattention that has disastrous consequences. We are talking about deliberate recklessness without any thought for anyone else's life."1
Theresa May is seeking to ensure those who drive dangerously face life imprisonment through the introduction of the Death by Dangerous Driving (Sentencing) Bill.2
The Bill would amend the existing Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 to increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life imprisonment. Offenders who caused death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs would also face a life sentence. Judges would still retain discretion as to what length of sentence is appropriate, but the measure in the Bill would give them greater scope and enable them to issue more severe sentences than currently possible.
The issue was previously reviewed and consulted upon by Mrs May's government. It led to a commitment in 2017 that drivers who caused death by speeding, racing, or using a mobile phone would face the prospect of a life sentence. However, the commitment was not acted upon.
Commenting on the delay in implementation, Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, previously said:
It is completely unacceptable that these new tougher sentences have not yet been implemented. The Government needs to focus its attention on the issues which matter most to road safety - delivering justice for road crash victims and keeping dangerous drivers off our roads."3
Mrs May recently pushed for a resolution, telling the Commons in January:
"One of the areas of sentencing policy that has alreaemdy been reviewed and consulted on is the whole question of death by dangerous driving, particularly when drugs are involved, such as in the tragic case of my constituent Bryony Hollands. The previous government committed to legislate on this issue to lengthen sentences in certain circumstances. This is not in the Queen's Speech. Is this Government committed to legislate and, if so, when?"
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland responded that the commitment remained "absolutely crystal clear".
Mrs May has now introduced her Bill using the 10-minute rule motion procedure, saying:
"The Bill responds to a genuine concern that the severity of the offence is not always reflected in current sentencing, because of the limitations on the sentence that currently exist. It does not try to introduce an eye-for-an-eye type of justice system. What it does is ensure justice for victims and their families."4
The Bill will have a second reading on 16 October and a further update will follow.
Feeling rusty? Mandatory MOT testing to be reintroduced
"As people return to our roads, it is vital that motorists are able to keep their vehicles safe."5
Mandatory MOT testing is to be reintroduced from 1 August 2020 as COVID-19 restrictions are slowly lifted.6
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, drivers were granted a 6-month exemption from MOT testing in March to help slow the spread of the virus. However, as restrictions are eased, all drivers whose car, motorcycle or van is due for an MOT test from 1 August will be required to get a test certificate to continue driving their vehicle.
- MOTs due before 1st August are still exempt
Under current Government guidance, the sixmonth exemption will still apply to MOTs due between 30th March and 31st July 2020. However, drivers are legally obliged to make sure their vehicles are roadworthy and encouraged to book their MOT in as soon as possible.
- MOT exemptions expire after six months
MOTs due to expire on any date between 30th March and 31st July 2020 have been extended by six months. For example, if the MOT was due to expire on 1st June 2020, it will be extended until 1st December 2020 at the latest. However, drivers can voluntarily get an MOT even if legally exempt and indeed are being encouraged to do so.7
MOT tests are important for road safety and ensure that vehicle parts, including tyres, seatbelts, brakes, lights and exhausts, are in proper working order.
Roads Minister Baroness Vere added:
"Garages across the country are open and I urge drivers who are due for their MOT to book a test as soon they can."
Only some garages remained open to conduct essential services during the coronavirus outbreak, but now over 90% are open across the country. Testing capacity has already reached 70% of normal levels and is steadily increasing.
Safety campaigners had previously urged drivers to perform basic safety checks ahead of getting behind the wheel, whilst MOTs were on hold.8 Drivers are now being advised to still take their vehicle to be checked if they notice something is wrong in the same way that they usually would.
Commenting, Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said:
"With the coronavirus MOT exemption delaying tests, checking the safety of your vehicle has never been more important. We urge all drivers to perform regular 'walk-round' checks of their vehicle, once a week and before any long journeys – it is a couple of minutes which could be the difference between life and death. If you have any suspicion at all that something is not right with your car, do not drive it and consult a professional."
Treading carefully- Tyres over 10 years old to be banned
"Taking this step will give drivers across the country confidence their lorries, buses and coaches are truly fit for use – a safety boost for road users everywhere."9
Tyres aged 10 years and older will be banned from lorries, buses and coaches on roads in England, Scotland and Wales in a boost to road safety.10
The ban follows an extensive investigation, including research commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT), which indicates ageing tyres suffer corrosion which could cause them to fail. The move will make it illegal to fit tyres aged 10 years or older to the front wheels of lorries, buses and coaches, and all wheels of minibuses.
1 Helen Jones, former MP for St Helens
5 Roads Minister Baroness Vere
9 Roads Minister Baroness Vere
Originally published 31 July, 2020
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