Posted on 30/07/2014
Operators of driverless cars on the UK’s streets will still be required to be safe and sober while being transported, says a motor law expert.
The government is to outline measures to permit driverless cars to use public roads by 2015.
Solicitor Nama Zarroug of Just Motor Law, a specialist division of North West law firm Kirwans, said: “Drink drivers should not assume they are in for an easy ride by slumping into their vehicle after a boozy night out and ordering it to take them home.
“If there is any possibility of the ‘driver’ or operator being able to take control of the vehicle at any stage, which is almost certainly going to be a safety requirement, drink driving laws similar to today’s are likely to prevail, just as they currently do for drivers purporting to be ‘sleeping it off’ in their vehicles.
“Any driver who shows an intention to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle needs to be sober enough to do so. Technology is also likely to require operators to provide a breath or other specimen every time they wish to start a driverless car. Ignition interlock devices will continually monitor alcohol or drug levels.
“Operators of autonomous cars may therefore find they are stranded along with their driverless car if they are over the drink drive limit.
“In reality, manually driven vehicles are not likely to be become defunct for a long time so sadly drink-driving and its tragic consequences are here to stay for our lifetime at least.”
Posted on 23/07/2014
Posted on 13/06/2014
Just Motor Law’s Matt Reynolds was asked by BBC Radio to give his views on Government proposals to raise maximum speeding fines on the UK’s motorways from £2,500 to £10,000.
Matt, a Higher Court Advocate, discussed the proposal with Tim Shawcross of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and BBC Radio Merseyside’s Drivetime presenter Simon Hoban.
Matt said: “The maximum fine for speeding on a motorway is currently £2,500. In reality the courts determine the exact amount an offender will pay in relation to his or her income. Similarly, the vast majority of offenders will not be paying £10,000 or anything like it if the new laws come in.
“What the government should consider is promoting a cultural shift towards speeding, as has been achieved with drink-driving over the last few decades, so that motorists feel it is wrong and shameful to speed because they are putting the lives of fellow citizens at risk.”
Click here to listen to Matt’s - courtesy of BBC Radio Merseyside.
Posted on 02/05/2014
Posted on 01/04/2014
This autumn, new legislation will introduce a drug driving offence that requires only proof of a certain drug over a prescribed limit in a driver’s blood.
It will work on a similar principle as drink driving offences i.e. if a driver is over a specified level of a certain drug in their blood then they will be charged and taken to court. The offence will carry a mandatory ban on conviction and a maximum of six months imprisonment.
Just Motor Law has previously reported concerns that the roadside equipment issued to the police to detect drug driving is inadequate, in that it will only be able to detect cannabis.
The new law raises many more complexities than the detection of drink drivers. Different drugs break down in the blood at different speeds and some prescription drugs can remain in the body for a lengthy period. Consequently, on 27 March 2014, the government announced that following public consultation, permissible limits for the specific drugs in a driver’s blood have been approved and new regulations will have to be made by parliament so that the offence can be implemented in August. The limit for amphetamine has not yet been approved as medical professionals have raised concerns that ADHD sufferers could be prejudiced by the new law.
The fact that different drugs are broken down at different speeds is said to be reflected in the disparities between the limits:
Generally Prescription Drugs
An independent forensic expert commented: “There certainly needs to be safety margins in the limits set, given that there is a far greater analytical variation of drugs in blood than there is with alcohol.
“Further to this, the limits will hopefully also not affect those at low levels, where drugs detected in the blood wouldn’t have any effect on the driver.”
The experts at Just Motor Law believe that given the analytical variations, there are likely to be more challenges by drivers against drug driving prosecutions than in drink driving cases, particularly in cases where the level alleged is close to the limit.
Clearly, these cases will have to be looked at carefully when they start being taken to court after the new law comes into force in August 2014.
Posted on 14/02/2014
Posted on 11/12/2013
Employers are nowadays mindful of staff being tempted to drive home from the office Christmas night out after a few drinks.
Some responsibly lay on transport or at least encourage staff to either share taxis or pre-arrange lifts from non-drinkers.
But are employers or fleet managers taking a step back in terms of responsibility of the ‘morning after’ risks?
Road safety campaigns have turned the spotlight on the risks of drink driving the ‘morning after’ - especially during the countdown to Christmas when our social diaries are crammed with boozy celebrations.
We are urged to calculate our alcohol levels - a very unscientific business as people recuperate at different rates.
A driving ban can be catastrophic in terms of a person’s career and reputation. In the worse cases, tragically, lives can also be ruined or lost. After nearly four decades of decline, the number of drink driving fatalities on the UK’s roads rose 23% to to 290 in 2012, according to the latest Government figures.
Businesses may not be legally responsible for the ‘morning after’ actions of employees in many scenarios, such as the morning school run, but an employee taking to the wheel of a company vehicle or driving as part of their job while over the limit can cost a business dear.
Depending on the circumstances, a business could be held accountable. Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure all staff are safe at work. Proper advice to any staff member due to work the next day and possibly monitoring is essential. Even changing a person’s work schedule to avoid driving tasks is advisable - if the employer believes the person may be over the limit from a work-related night out.
Good businesses need good employees - yet every Christmas (or more often New Year when the case goes to court), valued staff members are stripped of their driving licences by the courts and possibly sacked due to festive drink driving.
Some would argue that morally an employer is responsible for any direct consequences of an alcohol-related offence by an employee at a ‘works party’ - especially if free drinks are offered. Hence some businesses take no official part in Christmas events.
If nothing else, it is good business sense to protect staff by steering them away from the temptation of driving while under the influence with good advice and practical support.
Posted on 27/09/2013
A new model of cameras could criminalise employees who drive for work purposes, according to a leading motor lawyer.
Natali Farrell, from Just Motor Law, believes that the £17,000 ZenGrab LaneWatch Mk2 cameras will lead to thousands of people being convicted for minor offences such as momentarily parking on double yellow lines while dropping off deliveries.
Her concerns come after it was revealed that the new super-camera, which can catch up to 50 times as many drivers as conventional speed cameras,snapped more than 1,000 offences in just two weeks, compared to 271 over a whole year with the conventional Gatso camera.
The ZenGrab features two lenses and night visions, and councils across the country have already started investing in them.
According to the Daily Mail, Manchester installed 15 ZenGrab cameras last month, and Glasgow and Medway in Kent also use the system. Nottingham is also said to be upgrading to ZenGrab.
Ms Farrell said: “The sheer fact that those who drive for work spend the vast majority of their week on the road means that they are already vulnerable when it comes to being caught for minor contraventions. These super-cameras, which are capable of documenting so many more offences, put drivers at even greater risk of being prosecuted, unaware that they are falling foul of the law.
“For most drivers these cameras will increase stress and driving pressure, but for those who drive for work purposes, the effect will be tenfold, as they will be painstakingly aware that a few wrong moves could lead to their licence being lost, putting their job in jeopardy as a result.”
Common Driving Offences You May Not Realise You’re Committing:
Entering a yellow box junction: Yellow box junctions have criss-cross yellow lines painted on the road. You cannot enter a yellow box junction until your exit road is clear, and you can’t stop in a yellow box junction if you are turning left. You can only enter a yellow box junction if you want to turn right and are stopped from doing so by oncoming traffic, or by other vehicles waiting to turn right.
Making banned turns: Signs with a thick red outer line tell you what you cannot do – but many drivers regularly ignore the signs to make banned turns.
Driving in a bus lane: This can result in a fine
Momentarily stopping in a loading bay to read a map or pop to a cash machine: This can also result in a fine.
Failing to comply with a no entry sign: Passing a no entry sign could leave you facing three penalty points or a discretionary disqualification and a fine.
Posted on 26/09/2013
A motor law specialist believes thousands of drivers should have speeding fines refunded and penalty points wiped from their licences after he successfully challenged convictions because variable speed motorway signs did not comply with the law.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has confirmed that it is no longer contesting two test cases brought by solicitor Matt Reynolds of Just Motor Law because it is not in the public interest.
Mr Reynolds believes that following this decision the CPS and police should now adopt this policy with other affected drivers who come forward.
“This latest development changes everything,” said Matt Reynolds. “It gives hope to motorists who have arguably wrongly paid fixed penalties, been banned, paid for speed awareness courses or suffered hiked up car insurance premiums because of the Highways Agency mistake.
“In the circumstances it is only fair and consistent that all speeding convictions associated with these speed limit signs during this period are overturned and indeed all fixed penalties reversed and drivers refunded.
“Had motorists known at the time that the signs were unlawful they may have reasonably contested the allegation.”
Initially, Mr Reynolds used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that electronic speed limit signs alongside enforcement cameras on the M42 near its junction with the M6 toll road near Birmingham featured an unauthorised font, making the signs technically unlawful.
Police and the CPS suspended prosecutions indicating that the mistake came to light in November 2012, several years after the rogue signs went live. Until now the CPS was objecting to applications to reopen the cases of potentially thousands of motorists racked up during the intervening period, and they were vehemently prosecuting the two test cases that had been listed for trial later this year.
However, Mr Reynolds made further requests under the Freedom of Information Act and obtained minutes of Highways Agency meetings in late 2011 and early 2012 which confirmed that they knew the signs were unlawful and had concluded that enforcement should stop.
The senior Road Traffic Prosecutor for the CPS was present at these meetings. Concerns were expressed in the minutes about what convicted drivers could do if or when they became aware of the issues. The Highways Agency was advised by the CPS that it was too late for drivers to do anything about it.
Electronic numbers on overhead signs were not in the correct font and were therefore not compliant with regulations. Signs on the M1, M4, M5, M6, M20, M25 and M40 were similarly affected.
Mr Reynolds added: “For most of those motorists who accepted the police evidence at face value it would have meant a £60 fixed penalty fine and between 3 and 6 points on their licence, but for some - including the two drivers whose cases I have successfully had set aside - it could have led to a driving ban with potentially life-changing implications such as losing your job.
“It is of huge concern and something that is very much in the public interest, that the authorities have seemingly covered up the unlawfulness of the signs. I have had to make Freedom of Information requests to unearth the truth.
“Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin must now intervene to put this situation right and answer questions about how this whole business was conducted. What faith can the public have in the authorities and in being treated fairly, based on what has happened?
“Once the authorities knew about this mistake their concern should have been directed at how this impacted on drivers who had been convicted or issued with points and fines. Shortly after the CPS became aware that the minutes of these meetings were in the possession of the defence they discontinued the cases. I find it hard to believe that the timing of this decision was a coincidence.”
Just Motor Law - www.justmotorlaw.co.uk - is a dedicated team of lawyers who specialise in defending motorists who fall foul of the UK’s road traffic laws, offering free consultation and online advice. Ring 0845 485 1234.
Posted on 14/08/2013
Just Motor Law solicitor Matt Reynolds was interviewed by BBC Radio on 7th August 2013 for his views on the latest drink driving statistics.
Research by the Central Motorway Police Group shows that 8% of drivers stopped on the motorway in the West Midlands area in June 2013 have been found to be over the limit. This new data includes over 550 cars being pulled over and has resulted in 44 arrests.
The research suggests that people don’t realise how dangerous drink driving is at this time of year, as opposed to other times of the year, like Christmas, when the Government use targeted campaigns to raise awareness.
For the full interview click on the audio above.
Clip courtesy of the BBC
Posted on 29/07/2013
A motor law firm is reporting a rise in drink-driving cases as summer eclipses Christmas as the peak season for offenders.
Solicitors from Just Motor Law believe several factors - including the UK’s growing barbecue culture and the boom in live music festivals - are behind the trend which is confirmed by analysis of official Government statistics.
Complacency could also be a factor as motorists believe they are less likely to be stopped by police in summer than Christmas, although many forces now run summer drink drive campaigns.
Lawyer Natali Farrell of Just Motor Law said: “Our caseload and national statistics both suggest a definite and sustained trend emerging whereby motorists, especially younger male drivers, are risking all by taking to the wheel after summer drinking.
“This seasonal hotspot in cases reflects the growing popularity of barbecues, impromptu summer parties, watching sport, live music events as well as attending traditional family gatherings such as weddings, christenings, etc - each of which offers the temptation of drinking alcohol.
“People understandably get in the party mood when the sun shines but the good weather also brings temptation. For instance, half of respondents (48%) in a new AA-Popular Motoring Panel survey said there are more temptations to drink and drive in the summer than the winter.
“The physical risks of drink driving to motorists and others are well established but young drivers do not always appreciate the professional harm they can suffer by damaging their reputation, losing their licence or going to prison if convicted of drink driving. Professional legal advice in these circumstances is crucial.”
Department of Transport statistics indicate that drink driving is now around 20% more common in August than December. During a five-year period from 2006 there were on average 5,790 drink drive related casualties in the month of August compared to 4,780 in December.
Drink driving is responsible for around 15% of UK road deaths. Latest government figures show that 1,754 people died on our roads in 2012, including 61 children. Of these fatalities around 250 are attributed to drink-driving.
Despite the number of drink drive convictions falling since its peak of around 100,000 in the mid-1980s, mainly due to the success of hard-hitting anti drink drive campaigns, around 80,000 people are caught every year.