So drivers across Britain who hog the middle lane or tailgate other drivers can now be punished with a £100 on-the-spot fine and three points. I’m afraid I think this is a cheap vote-grabber. Everyone hates middle-lane hoggers, along with white-van men and mobile phone shouters.So the announcement they'd be fined was received with a huge cheer from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Even the Labour Party is trying to say they thought of it first.
I find it amazing how hot under the collar people get about this – I’ve lost count of the number of radio interviews I’ve done on the subject since it was announced in June (I think it’s 14) and I appeared on BBC News Channel on Friday 16 August, the day it was announced.
I’ve been told all sorts of different people do it the most. Apparently women do it most, ‘people from Luton’ do it most, or the AA’s survey showed that young people do it most, and a frightening number of those surveyed thought the middle lane was ‘the cruising lane’.
Annoying as ML Hogs are, I can think of plenty of other things other people do that I would rather see slapped with a fixed penalty. My main beef with this knee-jerk piece of legislation, however, is that it simply isn't practical.
OK, I can see that it’s good to be able to deal quickly with people who do dangerous things such as using a mobile, ignoring a lane-closed sign, or some of the other ‘crimes’ listed, but I don’t see how enforcing the middle-lane measure will work. It’s too intangible. You either exceeded the speeding limit/answered your phone/dropped litter/left you doggie do on the pavement/called me again about miss-sold PPI – or you didn’t.
The Highway Code says 'If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past'. So if you’re pulled over for middle-lane hogging you could argue: I didn’t feel the space between those two trucks was big enough for me to pull back in safely; there’s another truck ahead I want to overtake in the same manoeuvre; there’s a junction coming up and I wanted to leave space for people pulling on. Or you might rightly complain – I was doing 70mph, all the people complaining about me are breaking the law – why don’t you go and hassle them?
No one has defined the optimum time it takes to pull out, overtake and pull back into again, so how can the police prove you were a hog? Maybe the Highway Code wording needs to change to something like: if you are in an overtaking lane and there’s a car behind you, pull in as soon as its safe.
And another thing, won’t the police need evidence in case you challenge them? A camera snap won’t do it; you’d need video of all the missed opportunities to pull in. Are we really going to have unmarked cars gathering footage for the world’s most boring episode of Police! Camera! Action!? And where are we going to get all these extra police? The AA says the number of traffic officers has sunk to from 7,000 to 3,500.
Of course road safety experts are right that the answer is not a fine, but education. Learners are never taken on a motorway, and it’s a terrifying place to be when you’re an inexperienced driver.
Maybe there should be a two-stage test. The first allows you on other roads unsupervised or on a motorway with an instructor, and you only get to go on the big blue ones when you’ve passed Stage 2. If you already have a licence and get nabbed, a driving course should be compulsory.
Things that deserve a fixed rate openalty more than middle-lane hoggers:
Summary of the new measures
New fixed penalties of £100 for a range of ‘careless driving’ offences were announced in June and came into force Friday 15. Drivers can opt to go on a driving course.
Fixed penalties for a number of offences, including using a mobile phone or not wearing a seatbelt while driving, have also risen from £60 to £100.
More serious driving offences will still go through the courts and could result in much higher fines and penalties.
Police are expected to focus on:
• driving too close to the vehicle in front
• failing to give way at a junction
• overtaking and pushing into a queue of traffic
• being in the wrong lane and pushing into a queue on a roundabout
• hogging the middle or outside lane
• inappropriate speed (that's you, Grandad)
• wheel-spins, handbrake turns and other careless manoeuvres
This blog is by a woman driver, for everyone to read