Drink-drive shake-up

17 Oct, 2012 11:00am Jon Morgan

New rules could see drink and drug-drivers’ cars impounded, Auto Express has learned

Convicted drink and drug- drivers could have their cars seized by the courts under new rules being considered by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Auto Express has got hold of the DfT’s road safety action plan, which lists “forfeiture of vehicles” as a measure to be introduced in 2013. And a DfT spokeswoman has confirmed to us that the new powers would be used specifically for drink and drug- driving offences, and would be dished out by the courts, rather than police officers.

The document also reveals that the new drug-driving law – announced earlier this year – will not come into effect until 2015, and that police won’t get access to roadside ‘drugalysers’ until that date, either.

AA president Edmund King told Auto Express he believed that vehicle seizures could be a good thing – so long as the powers were used sensibly.

“There is a problem with drink-drivers who don’t stop and re-offend and re-offend,” he said. “Some of these drink- drivers have a drink problem rather than a driving problem.

“So you can ban someone from driving for a period of time, but if they get their licence back and still have a drink problem, they are likely to re-offend. If this is targeted at persistent offenders, it’s a good idea.”

But he warned that the courts would need to take into account mitigating circumstances, adding: “I think you have to be careful that you’re not taking away the family car, that it’s not affecting people who aren’t drink-driving.”

The DfT spokeswoman told us she was unable to reveal any further information about how the new penalty would work in practice or what would happen to forfeited cars. But she did say: “A further announcement about this is due to be made shortly.”

It’s likely vehicle seizures will be introduced in April next year to coincide with a raft of other measures.

These include the new careless driving offence – which will give police the powers to issue fixed penalty notices to drivers who tailgate, undertake or cut up other road users – and the withdrawal of the statutory right to a blood test for drivers caught over the drink limit. Traffic offence fines will rise from £60 to £80-£100.

But the document also reveals that the DfT does not expect the new drug-driving law, announced this year, to come into force until 2015, due to red tape.

The DfT’s road safety action plan

Fixed penalty offence for careless driving: April 2013

Police will be able to punish drivers who tailgate, undertake or cut up other drivers with on-the-spot fines, rather than pursuing them through courts.

Penalty fine increase: April 2013

Road traffic fixed penalty fines will increase from £60 to £80-£100. The DfT says that fines have not risen since 2000.

Drink drivers to lose right to a blood test: April 2013

Drivers who fail an evidential breath test by 40 per cent or less will no longer be able to request a blood or urine test.

New drug-driving offence: 2015

A new drug-driving law will remove the need for police to prove impairment. Offenders will face a fine of up to £5,000, six months in prison and a ban.

Roadside evidential breath test kits: 2015

Police will get roadside kits to take breath test samples that can be used in court, removing the chance of drivers sobering up before station tests.

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What! Take people's cars away from them! About time. I have always thought that the law was an ass when it came to dealing with these issues. When these arrogant drivers have their vehicles taken from them perhaps they will realise it's time to obey the law. I also think it would be a good idea to take the offenders licence away altogether, never to have it back, if they offend more than once. As I know some people who have been caught out with a high level of alcohol from the night before still in their bloodstream in the morning. That could be just unfortunate but drivers should know better, in fact, they do, they just play dumb so they have a nice drink or 3 and be sociable. Thing is, they then become very unsociable when they kill or injure someone or do damage due to their need to be sociable. As for drug drivers, just lock them in a manky cell for a week with no chance of leaving the cell until the end of the week. The law needs to be much harder on these idiots as it's the only way they will stop.

The careless driving charge would need to be substantiated with video evidence just in case of driver appealing it but I agree with the rest of the changes. I also think that drink/drug related changes should include a permanent loss of license as well as vehicle seizure

The fine increase is too small, increase it to £250.

Oh dear. Here we go again with that incredibly stupid, knee-jerk idea of impounding cars.

So, the driver of a new-ish BMW gets "fined" £25,000 for drink driving but his neighbour driving an old banger only gets "fined" £250? That's fair.

So, a married man goes out on the booze in his family's cheap little runabout instead of the main, expensive family car? That's fair.

And what happens if I don't have a car, but borrow YOUR car to go out on the booze? Do I get off scot-free? Is YOUR car impounded?

And what about company car drivers? Does the company car get impounded?

And what if I'm driving a hire car?

Let's just stick to fines. And allow the courts to apply them fairly across the whole of society. Somehow, I cannot see the courts deciding that a £25,000 fine is right for one person and a £250 fine is right for someone else.

Our society is unfair enough already.

If you drive a Porsche Cayenne and your car is impounded, your fine is effectively £87,000, not £250.

You say - "When these arrogant drivers have their vehicles taken from them perhaps they will realise it's time to obey the law."

No, they won't. If I were the type of person to drive a £300 old banger, I'd simply shrug my shoulders, buy another old banger and carry on exactly as before.

The problem needs to be tackled by the courts in a structured way, with a combination of fines, bans, prison sentences and driver re-education.

Taking vehicles away is just a silly, knee-jerk reaction that has no part to play.

The simple and fair thing is this - Don't drink and drive.

The way to deal with repeat offenders is to jail them, then their arrogance would shrink to the size of their brains. Also, a minimum 3 year ban for drink driving. Get caught driving during that ban and back to prison again. Fines dont work, as too many people just dodge them.Instead of fines, confiscate property to the value of the fine.Too many idiotic lawless drivers out there forcing us decent motorists to have to pay extra for our insurance etc as it is.

John W is absolutely right - exteme differences in cash penalties purely due to what car happened to be involved.

I would add only that it would be even worse for the driver/owner of a £250,000 Rolls Royce, with 51mg/ml of blood alcohol, compared to £250 banger driver on 150mg/ml.

Remember Blair's "Frog-march the thug to a cashpoint to pay an instant fine" brainwave? And Cameron's "Everyone must be charged the lowest price" nonsense? What have we done to deserve such prats?