How’s Your Driving? Observing Britain’s Road Regulations.


Motorists in Britain have traditionally been considered to be among the most polite and law-abiding in the world. But not , so it seems ,any more. According to a DoT (Department Of Transport) report published in November, 1.2% (516,000) of the 43 million drivers using the nation’s roads are uninsured and 0.8% (344,000) do not have a valid licence. Furthermore , the registration (number) plates on 748,000 vehicles are either illegal or incorrect, the road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) has not been paid for 1% (340,000) and more than half a million do not have an MOT Certificate ( the annual roadworthiness check compulsory after 3 years). The same drivers tend to contravene several laws simultaneously – including evading parking tickets , speeding fines and the London congestion charge. In another survey, 18% admit to having gone through a red light ,66% to using a hand-held mobile phone while driving and 75% to breaking the 70 mph (102km/h) motorway speed restriction . Many British motorists visiting continental Europe become accustomed to the higher limits ( 120 km/h in Spain, Portugal ,the ‘Benelux’ countries & Switzerland; 130km/h in Austria, France & Italy ;none on German ‘autobahns’) and forget to adapt on their return to the UK.

Incidents of ‘road rage’ have also increased – often provoked by a ‘road-hog’ or ‘Sunday driver’: 31% of motorists concede that they sometimes ‘tailgate’ (drive too close to) a car travelling ‘too slowly’ in front of them and 57% that they might ‘undertake’ (pass on the inside lane) in such a situation. Another 42% don’t signal when turning left or right and 40% have parked on a double-yellow line to collect something from a shop. They are also less inclined (59%) than ten years ago to stop to help someone whose car has broken down , on the basis that it’s is now too dangerous to talk to a stranger. This is reciprocated by 56% of women drivers who say that – if stranded by the side the road – they would prefer to wait for the official rescue services. The majority of drivers (68%) slam on their brakes when approaching a speed camera and then (72%) accelerate as soon as they’ve gone past. This won’t work, though ,with the new digital system being introduced which will automatically read the number-plate and transmit the data back to a penalty processing centre. The present cameras rely on film which frequently runs out.

British drivers are not the only offenders. DoT statistics indicate that 19.5% of foreigners fail to comply with UK motoring regulations. During a ‘week of action’ in October, 1,233 were found to be unlicensed and issued with warning notices. The Driver Vehicle & Licensing Agency (DVLA) is setting up ‘Automatic Number Plate Recognition’ (ANPR) cameras at all British ports to record all foreign cars and lorries entering and leaving the country. If they remain longer than six months, they have to be licensed and taxed here.. A European Union (EU) driving licence is valid for 3 years in the UK, but a non-EU one for just twelve months. When this period expires,
any overseas resident wishing to continue driving here has to pass the DVLA Test. This consists of a ‘theoretical section’ ( 50 multiple choice questions & a hazard perception assessment) followed by the practical , beginning with an eyesight check -reading a standard number plate at a distance of no less than 20.5 metres.

Meanwhile, the British Government is proposing to reduce permitted ‘blood alcohol levels’ for drivers to the equivalent of half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine .For
Londoners anticipating a few long pub evenings this Christmas: It might be advisable
to use public transport to get home afterwards. Last year , the police towed away eight minicabs ‘in unfit condition’ and withdrew ‘Public Carriage Office ‘ licences for another four. The worst case was a cab driver who had no licence, MOT, tax or insurance. Only one tyre was legal. The other three were completely bald.


Filed under: Society | Posted on December 22nd, 2008 by Colin D Gordon

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