Do learner drivers deserve to receive penalty points and fines during lessons?
Earlier this year we wrote about fresh information released by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), revealing that more than 9,000 British drivers had twelve plus penalty points on their licence.
Without receiving a ban at all, that is.
And now, new information has come to light about another 65,000 drivers who’ve got points on their licence, and it makes for fairly uncomfortable reading.
According to further research by the DVLA, some 65,000 current learner drivers have points on their provisional licences. And of those, 1,803 have already clocked up 10 or more points, before they’ve even passed their test.
3 points for nudging over the line
Sounds pretty shocking until you get more of the details. Like, for example, that many of these learners are receiving fines and points for as little as stopping their vehicle just over the line at traffic lights during a professional lesson.
This was the actual reason why 17-year-old learner, Joseph Bell from Nottingham received a fixed-term £100 penalty plus three points on his provisional licence. The fact that he was driving dual-controlled vehicle with an instructor wasn’t taken into account until he eventually took his appeal to court.
Bell did manage to get his penalty overturned, but it was only the fourth time in 40 years that his barrister had witnessed such a discharge for a learner driver.
Where should responsibility lie?
Clearly, there’s great need to uphold the rules of the road and preserve safety as far as possible. But whether there should be greater lenience for learner drivers is hotly debated.
Police Inspector Simon Allen argued that there should be “no mitigation for learner drivers when committing a traffic offence” and that it was up to officers to uphold the law. He continued, “The safety of all road users is paramount, which is why the law holds learner drivers equally accountable and they must ensure that they follow the rules of the road.”
But do cases like Bell’s suggest that penalty points and fines could pose too great a punishment for learners who are just doing their best? The lack of legal aid for these sorts of offences, committed by learner drivers, certainly adds fuel to the fire; if the learners can’t afford to make an appeal, they’ll be forced to accept the punishment regardless of how just it is.
Bell’s barrister Bruce Stuart said, “In my view, if you’re on a lesson with an instructor, there should not be a prosecution – if anyone should be prosecuted it is the driving instructor.”
What do you think?
It goes without saying that learners need to learn, and part of the privilege of driving is taking responsibility for your actions on the road.
But should they be forced to pay fines and receive points for insignificant mistakes made in the process of that learning? Should instructors shoulder any responsibility for the actions of their students?
We’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on the matter – feel free to share them with us at email@example.com!