Dangerous Driving — [Mrs Madeleine Moon in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:40 pm on 8th July 2019.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:40 pm, 8th July 2019

I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Moon. I am sorry to have missed the first two minutes, but I was otherwise engaged. I thank my hon. Friend Helen Jones, who spoke movingly about the seriousness of this issue, and thank all hon. Friends and hon. Members who have contributed.

I want to look at two issues, starting with numbers, which we have not really talked about. These numbers are a bit dated—I hope the Minister accepts that they will be greater now—but between 2016 and 2017, approximately 90,000 people were banned from driving in this country. That is from a driving population of 33 million, so I estimate that to be 0.002% of the driving population.

To be banned, a driver has to receive 12 points or be convicted of a serious driving offence. My figures state that around 11,000 people are driving with more than 12 points because they have been let off for one reason or another. That is not necessarily part of the Minister’s brief, but it is interesting that people are let off so easily. Anyone who pleads that a conviction will have an injurious effect on their employment can get away with numerous points above 12—that needs to be looked at.

Over the last four years, some 300 people have been caught driving while disqualified in the county of Gloucestershire, while that figure was said to be 38,000 nationally—those figures come from a freedom of information request, so I suppose that they are right. Considerable numbers of people with a ban chance it when they should not be driving. In my view, driving is a privilege, not a right, but those people flagrantly disregard their bans. They go to court again and, presumably, some further action is taken against them.

An awful lot of people drive while disqualified or take huge risks because they are not suitable to be driving for whatever reason. I will not go into the age issue mentioned by my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick, but because of the deficiencies that come with age—that is what happens when we get older—some people should perhaps decide not to drive at all.

We have a huge cultural problem in that very few people are banned, and even when they are, they take risks for whatever reason. We have to change that culture in the same way that we did with drink and drug driving. We have to nail people for those crimes because they are not just risking their own life and limb, but other people’s, too.

My second point is on road safety. I have done a lot of work with my local road safety group, and I am indebted to a gentleman called Charles Pedrick, whom I have mentioned before. He spends hours and hours of his time on local road safety issues, to the extent that he visits parish councils and local road safety groups, a number of which have taken on the opportunity to install automatic number plate recognition cameras or use handheld devices.

Those groups found that most people drive reasonably safely and, although they may speed slightly, they are largely within safety parameters. A minority, however, drive exceedingly dangerously—not just occasionally, but regularly. Those people get caught out by the ANPR staff, but there is little that the volunteers can do, and because the activities are voluntary, not even the police can do much.

In my area, the police now go around, knock on the door and say, “We have got you n times. If you carry on this way, you will cause a serious accident.” Normally, that has the desired effect and people say, “Sorry, I shouldn’t have been doing that. I have learned my lesson.” Sadly, a minority of people flagrantly break the law and do not care at all because they think that they can get away with it. I know that this is not the Minister’s direct responsibility—he will have to talk to the Home Office and elements of law enforcement—but it would be helpful if those voluntary groups were given some traction to stop dangerous drivers.

Unless we stop dangerous drivers at source, they will continue to drive dangerously. It is important that the people who give up their time to monitor those who speed have the satisfaction of something coming of their work. The dangerous drivers will be the ones who kill others, because they do not care. Unless we stop them, the inevitable consequence is that they will kill.

I hear the heartrending stories and I sympathise. We have to stop the dangerous drivers at source. They should lose their licences and go through due process, and until they have learned to drive responsibly, they should not get their licences back. The people who track the dangerous drivers should have the satisfaction that something is being done about the issue. They are frustrated that the police only knock on the door and that is as far as it goes, and that they cannot prosecute because their activities are voluntary.

We know who the dangerous drivers are and we should be doing something about them. I hope that the Minister hears my plea and will get some activity going to make the ANPR information shareable and useable, so that people who drive dangerously cannot get away with it. I hope he has a good response to my plea.